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?

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In the Midst of it All

I so often find myself sinking into what I like to call the “now what” trap. I sit down and think about my life (what’s happened, where I’m at now, etc.)  and then I turn around to God and say “ok buddy (we’re tight) – I see all this stuff we’ve done but….now what are we doing? Where are we going? I’ve done all these things and come this far – what do I do NOW?”

I keep expecting that because I follow God I will be led onto new things or have new opportunities on a regular basis or that my life in general will have this divine direction given to it (which, I know, sounds pretty silly as I type it). I find myself constantly shocked that I’m still in the exact same place as I was a few months ago (talk about a short time frame). I know that part of why I feel like this is because I am a goal oriented person – I really like to know where I’m going and why I’m doing what I’m doing. I can do pretty much any menial task over and over again as long as I can see where it’s getting me. (In fact, I LOVE “chipper” workouts – the obscenely long ones where you just “chip away” at it until you’re done).

However, I’ve come to realize that when I’m impatiently asking the “now what?” question, I’m really saying “Hey God, I don’t think you’re doing anything in my life and I’m kinda feeling like you forgot about me so….if you could like, do something cool that would be great. Even better, if you could do this thing that I think should be the next thing to work out in my life that would be super great.” I am constantly wanting another new thing, another sign, another step. I don’t believe that he could possibly want me to stay here longer – haven’t I done enough, yet? Haven’t I given enough yet? Don’t I deserve a new vision yet?

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
– Psalm 13:1-2a

Fortunately, God doesn’t get swayed by my (probably super annoying) questions because he doesn’t really work that way. In fact, he did a complete 180 last time I was asking these questions (more on that later). I think that instead of being focussed on what we think of as the “next steps” or what we think qualifies as the “next thing” we are supposed to be doing (i.e. all those big things we expect from people’s lives – getting engaged/married, buying a house, having a kid, getting your masters, buying another house, moving, having another kid, renovating, going on a big trip, retiring, etc.), God is focussed on the next piece of us that needs transforming. That could be through one of those things I mentioned, but that can also be through sleepless nights, a stressful job, living at home, staying single, not having a kid yet, etc. He waits for the perfect timing for these things because his end goal isn’t that we have huge things-oriented monumental lives – he wants us to be further shaped into Christ-likeness.

If we could only see what we’re becoming
To the Dreamers, For King & Country

In the summer I consistently expressed to people (and I even wrote about it on my church’s blog) that I felt like I was just sitting around waiting – as if I was dangling on the precipice of my life’s next step but something was holding me back from moving on. It felt like there were loose ends in my life everywhere I looked, but none of them seemed to be being tied up or even wiggled around a bit. I was desperately asking God what was next – and could he just hurry up about it? I would have accepted pretty much ANYTHING other than “wait” (which was all I kept getting, ironically).

The tail end of 2017 was not the best time of my life. I ended up overcommitted, stressed out in my personal life, and overwhelmed on so many levels – I felt (and still do feel, in a way) broken and incomplete and confused and less than – and for so much of the time I felt like God had just abandoned me because I failed some sort of test. That my failure to do what he wanted/be who he wanted meant that I was suddenly unworthy of his presence and the fact that I was having difficulty understanding and grasping the Bible passages I was reading in my personal studying

I’m a huge journal-er, and one of the things I really like to do (when I’m not so overcommitted that I have time to actually do it properly) is bullet journal. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it’s basically a journal/planner hybrid system. One of the key things you do, number all the pages to create an index – something I carried over into my actual journal. (Yes, I have multiple journals I carry around on a regular basis. I don’t I have a problem…) While I love the index system, sometimes I forgot to fill in the index after I write. And then I put off filling it in for 2 weeks (or um….3 months) and then I have to go back and fill in the index so my future self can find what I’m looking for later.

As I read back through the last four months (oops) of entries to fill in my index, do you know what I found? I found a woman who was falling apart in many ways. I found a skeptic. I found tears. I found confusion. I found frustration. I found some really hard questions. But through every entry and the Bible passages I was struggling through I started to see a story. My prayer for so long had been that as I wandered and drifted and tried to figure things out that God would never let me go – literally had written the words “hold on to me”.

And in the midst of turmoil and heartbreak and feelings of worthlessness and being overwhelmed and a lot more heartbreak…I saw in the pages of my journal the continual presence of God. In a song lyric I jotted down or a story I reflected on or in poetry as I processed my feelings, there were glimmers of a God guiding me and holding my hand, trying to show me something. And he did. Not only did he remind me that he has never once let me go, he reminded me of who I am.

Part of me wonders if all of this was for a reason – if I had to go through all of this to become the person he wanted me to be. I had been so focussed on the what and the why that I had forgotten the who. As in the “Who does God want me to be?” question – in fact I think I lost myself being so wrapped up in everything else!

I don’t know who I will end up being, but I do know that the person I am now is different than the person I was a year ago, or even 4 months ago. And I am filled with hope that even though the what and the why and the where aren’t being answered quite as timely as I would like, in the midst of it all God is still working and shaping me into who he wants me to be. Trusting that as I am formed he will put me where he wants me to be.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
– Ephesians 2:10

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…

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!

Centre-Filled Life

Do you know those songs you sing in church about Jesus being the centre of your life/it all/be the centre/all that other stuff about having everything in your life revolve around him? They usually have a some really pretty melody that you feel like you butcher when you try and sing it because you aren’t anything like Darlene Zschech (or maybe that’s just every song…). And they also usually are accompanied by words like “surrender” and “all of me” and other big abstract concepts like that.

What I’ve been considering lately, especially as I go into this last year of school (the number of times I’ve said “7 months” in the last week is beyond ridiculous), is what it really actually LOOKS like to do that. Especially at a time where I have a last-chance to develop habits and routines that will (hopefully) follow me into that scary world of being a “real adult”. What does it mean if I choose to live out Jesus being the centre of everything – the centre of my life. Surrendering everything I have to him, and trusting that He’s got it all planned out and he’ll never leave my side? What does that really truly look like?

I don’t know

 

Yep. I don’t. I’m still learning – so far from perfect (SO FAR). But I have learned a few things…and one of the mind-blowingly simple things I’ve been reminded of is that to have your life revolving around Christ at the centre, you need to have him in the centre, and the only way to do THAT is to choose to focus on him and let him fill you (you know – that other cliche saying we have about filling up on Christ so you can pour out to others!). The first step to having Jesus be the centre of my life, is by allowing him to be the centre of my 8:00-8:30 morning break time. It isn’t my life, but starting to cut out time allows him to fill up a little part of me. And the more that I allow myself to fill up on Christ, the more the little bits start to overflow into the rest of my life. It’s choosing him over whatever I’m doing – throwing my phone across the room when doing devos so there are no distractions, stopping mid-thought process and turning back to praise.

BRINGING IT FULL CIRCLE…that hypothetical chair we’ve got at the centre of our lives – do we let Jesus fill it? Actually let him sit on the chair without trying to push hi off or sit on the corner. And then do we let him being there permeate the rest of our life or put up some walls around the chair to protect other parts?

So…I think that living a “Jesus-centred life” and being “filled with Jesus” go hand in hand. And when we let him fill the centre spot we have in our life, and start trying to align each individual decision, each thought every day, towards what he wants. Asking for a renewed heart daily (I know for one, my heart needs renewing multiple times a day). It is then that Jesus fills the centre of our life, and we have a centre-filled life.

By all means, I am NOT perfect. I still like to centre my life around myself or section off parts of my life that I don’t want God to touch. But I’m learning. Learning to let go. Learning to be filled. Learning to let him be the centre. Learning to be centre-filled and not centre-empty.

So many illustrations overlapping – hope that all made sense. Thank you for reading my thoughts~

Walk, Talk, Struggle (Acts 27-28)

WOOOOO! LAST ACTS ONE! I AM MAKING HEADWAY. moving on.

Paul continues to rest in knowing that God will protect him as he goes to Rome. He plods along though life looking for the moments he can share the love of Christ instead of worry or fear at what is coming. God used Paul’s life to do a lot of amazing things. Paul is a great example because he walked the walk, talked the talk, and still struggled with things (as we read in some of his letters). 

I think it’s encouraging to know he still struggled. It is ok for us to struggle with things and process stuff, but we must continue to go out and live for Christ. It is really hard sometimes to do so, but in the end it is completely worth it all.

What Twilight Actually Taught Me

Just to clear the air a little for you, this is not a sarcastic post. I’m 100% serious.

So I started reading the Twilight saga when I was in 10th grade. And truth be told, I totally fell for the “ERMAGOODNESSIWANNABEAVAMPIREEEE” thing for a little bit. This probably comes as a surprise to most people who think I have “better taste” in books, but there was something about the story that made me finish. Yea, I could do without book 2, thats a little to angsty for me, but i can still enjoy the other three (books) four (movies). Which brings me to the point of why I’m writing this.

This weekend, everything about Twilight will come to an end (unless Meyer goes and writes those books in Edward’s point of view. I can still dream, right?).  So, obviously, I’m going to go see it. But as I was thinking about Twilight and hearing about it and seeing it pop up everywhere etc. etc. etc. I realized that there are 2 things I’ve learned from Twilight – or rather that it inspires in me. They are inter-related, but here they are.

1. Marriage is a partnership

One of the most striking lines in Breaking Dawn Pt 1 (coincidentally,my other favourite line is in the next point) is when Edward is talking to Bella after they find out she’s probably going to die while delivering their child. He’s ticked, and that’s not surprising. He doesn’t want to lose his wife – and he has no choice because “she decided all on her own.” They were supposed to be a partnership (which means you decide things together). They clearly didn’t here. If you know the story, you know Edward isn’t a saint here either, but the point is … lack of communication = failure of marriage. You don’t just coexist, you are walking together. You don’t just walk around with your significant other. You (quite often in today’s society) hold hands. You talk to each other. You don’t just walk for 5 miles silently ignoring them (unless its a prayer walk … or you’re REALLY angry). The partnership created through marriage is two people becoming one. Not two people becoming two people who exist slightly closer together.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Gen 2:24, ESV)

Comprendez-vous? Going in thinking its all about you is not going to work. Ever. And hey – thats not easy! But look at that, Bella and Edward prove it isn’t.

Granted, most of us don’t have a vampire trying to exact vengeance by killing us, but we still have problems. The problem arises when we assume that because something is going wrong, we clearly weren’t meant to be together. Life isn’t handed to us on a silver platter. Neither is it in Twilight. Relationships take work – hard work. They require constant nurturing and growth – which only comes when time and energy is invested in it. Being in a partnership means that when your partner is in danger, you protect them. It means that they are celebrating, you celebrate with them. It means that when they have a vampire growing inside of them and they want to carry it to term, you do everything you can to help them (ok, that last comment was a little sarcastic).

2. No one is perfect – and that means no Fairy Tale Endings

And so we move to my other favourite quote (also said by Edward)

“Its an extraordinary thing to meet someone who you can bare yourself to; who will accept you for what you are. I’ve been waiting for what seems like for a very long time to get beyond what I am – and with Bella I feel I could finally begin. So I’d like to propose a toast to my beautiful bride: ‘No measure of time with you would be long enough, but why don’t we start with forever.'”

I feel like all too often we are searching for the perfect person.We want the perfect fairy tale ending. We literally want to have the Cinderella/Ariel/Belle/Mulan/Jasmine/Bella ending. And we think that culmination of our lives is finding this person and being with them forever. But we forget that no one EVER is going to be our perfect person. Sort of like Scarlet O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind”. Man was she obsessed with Ashley – or rather the thought of who Ashley was. And then at the end she realizes that she “loved something that didn’t exist”. Nice job Scarlet.

But back to the point, I think that all too often we get caught up in the fairy tale ending, and constantly search for something that will just be perfect in our lives. But that is completely unrealistic. Bella’s life isn’t perfect. She’s a vampire for heaven’s sake. Plus, she didn’t just have it handed to her on a silver platter. Sure, Bella is immortal, with Edward forever, has a baby, has a best friend (who is coincidentally in love with her baby…), and gets to stay in contact with her dad. Sounds like she’s got it made, right? Uhm, did you forget she had a mom? Oh, and she ALSO had to make it through 4 books to get there? While Twilight is steeped in happy endings and “perfection”, there are still things that go wrong.

Even Twilight doesn’t have a perfect ending.

Yes, I understand how so much of Twilight and any other Tween/Teen/Adult Romance novel/book/movie makes it seem like life is perfect once you find your perfect match person … but I’d just like to point out that we usually ignore the two hours of screen play before that ending.

Do I still hope that I’ll find someone I’ll marry one day? Uh, yes. But hey – I know better than to expect my life will end up like these perfect princess stories. I also know with fair certainty I’m not turning into a vampire any time soon. But anyway,  herein lies my rant on Twilight’s redeeming qualities. Not too many, but enough to remind me of what I’m waiting for.