Friday, March 8, 2019

seven


I’m a coward.

My worn, white high-top vans cushioned my stance as I’d neglected the chair in the heat of the moment in the cool of Ugly Mugs cafĂ©.

You know what, Deb? I’m starting to believe that maybe you are.

These words of hers actually were deeply kind and hit me with the best sort of pain. You see, less than seven months earlier, I’d moved into an empty room in her house and our conversations had moved through the house into me. There were the early days – when I said “mom’s mom” instead of grandma and she had an indicator of some distance and distrust, when we would discuss our ability to share so much without venturing into vulnerability.

Our deep-striking banter crystalized through the enneagram. I have a love hate relationship with personality tests, mainly that I love to hate how much I think they can become a crutch in our lives keeping us from conforming to Christ instead of a tool to help us do just that. But as an eight, she’d challenged me to dive deeper. At first, we thought I was an eight. A flame that burns too intensely. A force with trust troubles and angered strength. But the truth began: my not only fleeing but denial of pain, my constant hunger for new, my love of the laugh. I am a seven, painting hope over piercing pain because I’m afraid. Deeply, deeply afraid.

I’d recognized the tendencies.

Oh, I’m not going to tell him that. Even though I’m also the co-founder of this magazine, he’s older, more experienced. What do I have to offer? I’m sure he sees things more clearly. Yes, I have this idea for this digital marketing campaign, but I’m so new. What do I have to suggest to my college that they haven’t already thought about? Yeah, I’m the vice president of student government, but he knows better. I just probably am wrong. I don’t know what I don’t know, so how can I know that I actually have anything to give?

Insecurity masked as respectful deference.
Fear covered in a silent excuse that I’ll say more when I know more, have done more, have earned more years.

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid if I stand up, I’ll be told that I’m so wrong so shut up.
I’m afraid if I step up, all I’ll be is standing alone, having tried to contribute and failed.

I.

If I, then I. When I, then I. Till I, then I.

Me.

You see, I think it goes back farther than I’d even care to admit. I used to not have a filter. I used to have a much shorter circuit between what’s in my mind and heart to my mouth. I was fire. I’d ride home from the soccer games, words faster than my sprint after the soaring sphere. I’d watch what was happening at youth group, spewing opinion opinion opinion afterwards.

Then, I started going. Going to a new school as a fourth grader. Looking out at all the people and just wanting to have a place to fit. To understand why their parents drove Lexuses and they could buy their lunch in the hot lunch line instead of carrying a brown bag with the sandwiches like I did. To know why they could spend their time thinking about the next movie they were going to see on their cruise vacation while I was thinking about how that movie didn’t make me think about my Christ I told the wide-eyed, worn souled kids about on Wednesday nights.

When I tried to share my words, I saw. People didn’t think like I talked. So, I learned to talk like they think.

Say words that will make them like you.
Learn to understand their world that seems so different than yours.
Figure out this game of how to live their way.
Because their way is right, and you’re wrong.

I didn’t realize that when I learned to figure it all out, I was learning to keep others out.
I didn’t realize that when I learned to hide myself, I was learning how to carry the burdens of my unpursued dreams.
I didn’t realize that what started as a girl’s desire to securely know she was valuable and loved and could trust people enough to share her soul would turn into a woman’s exhausted habit of living with her head and not her heart.

Doubt would become the rule of my days. I’d trade rest for resentment. I would hide, masking her insecurity as a shield of logic.

For being known and rejected might be one of the biggest fears of all.

I am a coward.

I’m afraid that people won’t like me.
I’m afraid that maybe I’m actually not likeable in the first place.

And I’m so afraid of preserving whatever semblance of happy stability and competence I can give myself that I don’t emerge with my whole heart into the word, trapped by my self-deception that it’s better safer happier right inside me. That people aren’t worthy of trust. That people aren’t ready to hear truth because they might not like the truth giver. That no one understands and never will.

But truth.

“Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourself. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

Listen to my own circular thoughts. Deceive myself into believing that the world is a big scary place that is waiting to slaughter me and my dreams. Do nothing.

Maybe it’s as simple as one step after another.
One small courage in the face of fear.
One conversation more ruled by what I think not just how I think they talk.
One day of putting the needs of others in front of the insecurity I hold as my own.
One deep breath and realizing that the world just might need the uninhibited contribution of yes, even me.
One word closer to being from my heart and not just my head.

I am a coward.
And maybe it’s one day at a time of realizing that it’s not about me.

And I cannot even take a step.
I need transformation.
But I know the one who saves.

Courage, dear heart (c.s. lewis).

Monday, February 11, 2019

james


The white-gray space heater was on, only one foot to the right of me. It felt like ice was slicing through the air and stopping an inch from my body, emanating its thick chill onto me.

I was actually shaking. But not just within my body. Much deeper within my heart and mind.

I had to push a name on a phone screen. A name I’d called many times before. A name that had called my phone more. A name that, over two years ago after I texted, I’d fling my phone as far away as possible, so nervous of having communicated and yet so hopeful of having communication back: wanting it and dreading it at the same time. What if I said something wrong? But what if I said something right?

This conversation was going to be different.

I’d sat by a heat source: a fire built by someone who was family. I’d started journaling, the packed-up processing I’d neglected from the past nine months pushing out. Ten pages later, I’d written almost a letter—written for my own processing but now unintentionally for me to process to him.

I edited. Refined. But tried not to edit my heart, not remove it from my words so much anymore as I used to. Struggling to know how much to share, to know how to share, to know what parts to leave quiet and which to expose. Struggling, when my heart wants to finally love but when my mind screams that this is just what brings the most fear, and when the shadow of his answer was already materializing  in my mind.

We texted and were having problems finding a time to talk. I felt nauseous, carrying my words within myself as something spoiling inside. It was time, time to let them out so I could fully heal.

I read my words, recorded them in a voice message, and sent it. Didn’t want to but almost didn’t have a choice anymore. Forty minutes later surrounded by new friends and salmon fishing camp stories in a semi-new city, the waiting began. I was juxtaposed: carrying old pain and anticipation but anticipating the new hope on the flipside of almost deeper than speakable pain, the freedom on the underbelly of costly release.

Five days later, I was by the space heater, pushing call. We talked, for about thirty. It was good. He said thank you, truly thank you for taking the time to share. He said sorry, sorry for the confusion and misactions. He said honesty, honesty that he’d be conflicted too, wavering between wanting and doubt. He said encouragement, encouragement that God is working. He said care, deep care for me. He said closure, closure and locking and a new kind of leaving.

We end capped it with theology and prayer requests, classic us. Three years of knowing him, one year of seeing him for hours almost every day. But now, the end my mind had been crying for but my heart had been fighting against: the door was locked to us ever being more than what we once were, of him becoming family, of me becoming his.

I pushed end, knowing as my finger touched the red that his would likely never hold me again, that our relationship which was more than it sometimes should have been was now finalized as less than it could have been.

But every leaving is a coming.

I was coming, first. Feeling anger slide away as soon as his voice slid in, but now I started sinking into sadness. Anything other. I hate it, despise it, can’t figure it out cleanly and make it go away. Then doubt. I could have, should have done something differently. If I would have changed my words, my thoughts, my appearance, not been so focused on myself, sought the Lord more, prayed more, then this would be different. Pressure. I’m letting my family down. All those who commented on how they saw this working. It must be my fault. Fear. You don’t know how to let people in, you wanted this but you always talked yourself out of wanting it but loved even though you doubted and still doubt doubt doubt, you may never find someone, he isn’t the right one but maybe he could have been or maybe he was and you’re wrong, who is going to know you as much as he did but you didn’t let him know you as much as you could and that is the problem, you are always the problem.

To every thought, a counter-thought. To every belief, a disbelief. To every hope, a shadow. To every confidence, a certain uncertainty. And pain. Soul-deep pain blanked with suffocating sadness, worsened by the compression of swirling change of the past six months, months when I uprooted my life and unbared my soul.

But every leaving is a coming.

I was coming, second. I stood by the deep mahogany cabinet, the amber yellow lamp casting a small glow as we turned out the rest of the lights in my parents’ home. I’d been talking some, sharing.

“It’s like I’m holding on. There’s this orb of so much piled high, and I’m clinging to the edge, dangling. Dangling and afraid to let go. Dangling, afraid to let my expectations go and go where He’s taking me.”

Trust. James had hit the core of it. A year before, I’d been writing a Greek paper, sitting in the deep red chairs of the library. The song had blazed through the ear buds:

“What if you could let your guard down? What if you could trust me somehow? I swear that I won’t let you go. I won’t let you go.”

I trust God with my life, but I hold onto my control of my days. Know He’s working it all out in the end but worrying about my messing it all up from the beginning.

James had let me go, but maybe he’d really shown me that I need to let go. To let go to this fear of people leaving and it always being my fault, to let go not only of the expectations people have of me but also those I bear upon myself, to let go of my fixation on perfectly pleasing God and to come, to come as a sinner in need of a Savior, a girl balancing belief and brokenness, a wide-eyed daughter who is learning to guard but not hide her heart, a woman afraid to trust, a human who is weak but can chose to seek: to lay down her dreams and desires when it actually costs, to come to the feet of Jesus with all of her and say five simple words: I can’t. But, I come.

Every leaving is a coming.
And maybe coming to a pain-dripping end of myself leaves me in the best place possible: surrendered.

Lord, have Your way in me.

“What if you could let your guard down? What if you could trust me somehow? I swear that I won’t let you go. I won’t let you go.”

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Book(s) in Review: My Listening Journey


Read 23 books in 5 months? That sounds a little ridiculous, but isn’t that the case with some of the most fun things in life?

August 1 – December 31 may go down for me, personally, as some of the hardest months of my life (so far). But, they’ll go down as more than that. They’re also when I did just that: read more books than the number of years I’ve walked on this earth.

I say read loosely because Audible has truly changed my life. One-hour commute time and life’s dish washing, laundry-putting-away reality means a whole lot of time for having things read to you.

Here’s my roundup of some of the books I read in case you’re looking for some good reads (or listens):

Marketing
·       Building a Storybrand (Donald Miller)
·       How Brands Grow (Byron Sharp)
·       Story Wars (Jonah Stauch)
·       Content: The Atomic Principle of Marketing (Lieb and Szymanski)

Theology
·       The Weight of Glory (C.S. Lewis)
·       Basic Christianity (John Stott)
·       On the Mortification of Sin in Believers (John Owen)
·       Adorned: Living out the Beauty of the Gospel (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth)
·       Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer (J Oswald Sanders)
·       Letters to the Church (Francis Chan)

Personal Development
·       The Invaluable Laws of Growth (John Maxwell)
·       Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity (Tim Challies)
·       The Road Back to You (Cron and Stabile)
·       Uninvited: Living Loved when You Feel Less Than, Left out, Lonley (Lysa Terkeurst)
·       Leadership and the Five-Minute Manager (Blachard and Johnson)
·       The First Ninety Days (Michael Watkins)

Other
·       The Pastor’s Kid (Barnabas Piper)
·       Daring to Hope (Katie Davis)
·       Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo)
·       Missional Motherhood (Gloria Furman)


And brace yourself for 2019 because this year's reading goal? It's 50. 

Friday, February 1, 2019

reach


I know. Maybe one day it’ll actually reach me.

It was almost my last night at my parents’ home for a while, and I was standing on the reed-tanned floors, wrapped in a red blanket as the sleek white snow illuminated by the Christmas lights seemed to seep into my cold bones.

My dad had told me he loved me, and that he hoped I knew how deeply and unchangingly. I appreciate that. And as much as my father is so, so human, I knew I was blessed to know that he meant it. Because know it? I did.

Yes Dad, I do know. Maybe one day it’ll actually reach me.

Earlier, I’d been perched on the edge of the hotel room’s 80s lime green armchair. It was past 10 PM, and both him and my mom were there. We’d come—come from me taking a final walk across my college campus with my sister as she now graduated and we were both alum, a walk that symbolized much more than just the diploma she carried. Then after that walk to a table talking with relatives, some who hadn’t actually talked to me in over seven years. All the while, I was coming to terms with the goodbyes and endings—to friends, to someone who soon would be no longer would be the couple everyone made us out to be, to a life I could have had.

I was coming to terms.

Dad, I’m distanced.

I had gone camping two months before this hotel conversation. I was about four miles up a Smoky Mountain. Asthma making my lungs feel like they needed to be stretched for they were cramping and compressing, a nose and eyes watering from the pollen, my mind could see more clearly: that—striding across a literal mountain—I was strolling through a mountain inside myself. Lights flicked on inside, and I later called my mom: it’s like I have this box. This big, white box is in front of me. I stuff things inside of it. Feel something that I don’t like? Stuff it in the box, keep moving on. It’s great, sometimes. But the box is ravenous, taking the joy and the pain. It’s always there, and it’s thick, and I can’t get around it, even when I want to. It’s three feet deep, separating me from anyone. I see people, but they’re at arms’ distance, just out of reach.

Maybe one day it’ll actually reach me.

It came out twice again. I had driven with her to soccer, to play on a team that I had signed up for but had now checked-out of my own life to such a degree that I couldn’t do more than stand on the sidelines. Maybe, it really was a metaphor to how I feel that I am on the sidelines of my own life, something I’m supposed to be participating in but I stubbornly am standing by, arms crossed feet planted, unmoving. On the way back, she asked me questions.

Deborah, tell me when you think you actually did something “good enough”?

I couldn’t.

Every crazy circumstance she had to remind me which others reacted with “Deborah, you did what?!” I always had a counter to. Yes, but people didn’t know this. Yeah, they thought it was great, but people just set the bar way too low. Sure, people said I surpassed their expectation, but they don’t know what it could have been like if I just would have gotten it together a little more.

She said it, then, near the end, after my frantic stream of consciousness that I hardly had ever let anyone in on to know that fully before.

Deb, I’m not even going to say that you’re too hard on yourself anymore. It’s more than that. You don’t know what your worth.

And I put it in the box.
Shut, door, lock, key, chains, seven layers back inside my head. I had to do math. When something strikes a chord, deep down hard, I do math. I add 2 + 2. It’s 4, and 4 + 4 is 8. I did this in the bathroom stall one day at work, and I got to over 2,000. This is what happens when I’m at the breaking point about to lose control, and I do it to reel it back in. To keep from having to go that deep. To keep the tears that so often just can’t seem to come from emerging.

We talked again, last night. I’d let a pretty major thing about my past just drop, and it didn’t get tossed around and come out in a better place like usually happens in our conversations. It dropped. And landed. Heavy. She’d left soon after, and I was left knowing something was up. She brought it back up later that night, and I sat, white and grey blanket up to my chin, hair up in a bun. We talked of real trust and directness, of fear and failure. I’d read her something, at the end, something deeply steeped in still-yet-processing.

Deb, you’re really good at writing.

I stared back at her, and then said the words I’d trained myself to know should come after such a statement, even when they are not in my mind or heart.

Thank you. And this time, with her, I let myself add it, a little sliver closer to the truth. Maybe one day I’ll believe it.

I love you. Maybe one day it’ll reach me.
You’re worth something. Maybe one day it’ll reach me.
You’re good at this. Maybe one day it’ll reach me.

I think maybe, now, all I can reach is this: that in order to reach true, free life, I have to be reached by the One who exists far beyond me. And maybe realize He’s always been reaching for me.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

truly


I want to live a life that’s truly incredible.

I wrote those encapsulating words at the top of the leather brown, white page journal, carried across the countries by my sister to bring it from Ecuador to me. I was now sitting in a place I’d come to strangely adore, the swing outside the pool house outside the celebrity mansion (not even kidding) my uncle had rented for the side of the family I still wasn’t used to seeing.

The swing faced the river, pulsing and rushing. Just as my thoughts.

We’d rushed through a movie the night before. The sounds, sights, and energy of The Greatest Showman seems to get me. He pursues a dream. He realizes a dream. He lives. He finds talent. He develops the people. He lives a life that truly incredible. And he sings and dances.

I’m likely far too easily inspired and flipside discouraged; propelled and doubting; amazed and jealous; convicted and self-condemned.

I found the Olympics so inspiring when I was a wide-eyed, still wonder-filled and constantly wondering girl. It made me, in my creaky brown chair surrounded by Oregon trail maps in my sixth-grade history classroom-project my “your future: a timeline” assignment to include four Olympic games, all resulting in gold medals (in a sport I left tbd).

I was drawn to the power of the truly incredible.

And it didn’t stop. I’d see Shawn Johnson plastered on coke cans, and I wanted to plaster my life with the thrill of hard work and pursuit I saw in her. I’d walk by a Monet in the Art Institute of Chicago, and I’d want to stare into its depths and draw deep within to create. I’d see the movements of dancing and want to go train for the ballet. I’d hear the piercing solo and decide that the opera was the best place to be. I’d hear and see and watch and listen to the stories of overcoming, the visions of creating, the tales of those who dared enough to try and do, and I’d vow that the truly incredible life was among their numbers.

I was drawn to the power of the truly incredible.

But it was clear to me that my life wasn’t there yet. I’d ride my bike down the only first coated asphalt roads with the gravel from the yet unfished driveways leading up to the not yet built houses. Pedals pumping, my mind raced faster than even my eleven-year-old feet, and once I made it home I made my way right to a piece of notebook paper from a half-started and half-fished, magazine collaged notebook. I titled this fine piece: get motivated. And I wrote a diatribe of how we are made for so much more, how we need to realize the amazing possibilities ahead of us, how we needed to step into the game, fight the fight, take up the chase. Live the exceptional life.

I was drawn to the power of the truly incredible.

Yet I didn’t realize that longing for this type of this big-picture life had incredible power over my small-picture days.

For the days added to days added to days and days, and standing back, six years later, I’d begun to see what truly incredible hadn’t brought me. At seventeen, I was leaving my parent’s house, never to move permanently back in again. And in those moments of change, I realized much of what hadn’t changed: my constant dissatisfaction with the way my life was in the incessant push for more.

College then meant I bore burdens of not meeting my own expectations for truly incredible and lerned to bury the hope for it and instead be buried by unsettledness and restlessness. I started to do some things that were truly incredible, in other ways: forgetting that family is a lifeblood, that friends are meant for support, that loving with my life was a risk but which left untaken resulted in a living death.

But now freshman year of real life is bringing me back, helping me to finally put words to it, this truly incredible restless drive that’s been as an undercurrent silently championing my days.

I was sitting next to her at a faded, light pink, slightly sticky four-top table, my chips drowning in salsa even as her plate seemed to be drowning in salad leaves. She was asking how it was to have my sister now moved in with me as I was now still slightly surprised, walking into my home and seeing her face once more, my old world and new world colliding.

You know, it’s crazy. Having her here is reminding me of how selfish I am. I am rude to her in a way that I’m just not to everyone else. Things she does that shouldn’t bug me totally do. I shouldn’t care that she thinks to ask if my friends have food allergies, what day the garbage comes on, and at what time the dog eats. But I do! And it drives me crazy.

And it echoed in my heart, later: what if you learned to love her, actually?

I’d been standing by the TV as a friend opened up about the anxiety that had started to creep back into her nights again, getting hit with the pain and wishing violently that I could take it away. I’d sat next to her on the denim blue couch and did what I knew to do best, sometimes: bring laughter.

And it echoed in my heart, later: what if you learned to trust her, actually?

I’d been scrolling through pages and pages of the latest release I was working on for work. It was approximately 11:38 PM, and the five hours of sleep per night this week were making me feel like I was back in college again and then like I suddenly had aged a decade cause I couldn’t comprehend how my sprightly self had pulled that off for so long. But the words were becoming more than a part of my job and becoming something the Holy Spirit was working through. That the gospel doesn’t just start our walk with the Lord, it’s the pool we swim in (Greear). That it’s not the way according to which we’re supposed to live; it is the storyline of our very life.

And it echoed in my heart, later: what if you learned to believe it, actually?

I’d never seen Hercules. When his friend Meg appeared on the screen as I appeared through the door back from work, I’d scoffed. Manipulative, girly white women. On the top of my list of things I can’t stand that I can’t stand. But the minutes kept ticking, and Meg grew on me even as Hercules genuine goodness baffled me. Him, passing his test, glowing yellow-gold, being embraced by his family, sees Meg walking away and pulls her in and the words “For a true hero isn’t measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.”

And it echoed in my heart, later: what if you learned to live with your heart, actually?

For, I’ve always been drawn to the power of the truly incredible.

But, I’m learning that maybe it’s truly incredible that I’ve been so incredibly blind to the truth. Maybe it’s not so much that our life is a chasing after achieving the magnificent, but it’s opening our eyes to the reality that life is magnificent.

Love, actually.
Trust, actually.
Belief, actually.
Life, actually.

That we love because we are loved. That we trust because we have an unshakable trust. That we believe because we have hope. That we have life because we chose to remember His death.

That it’s truly incredible we’ve been entrusted to bear his image in all the ways He imagines our days. In the way we get to be faithful to remembering to delight in Him in the now. In the way we get to hold our relationships even as He holds our futures.

That He, end game, is the power of the truly incredible, and our hearts are so restless until they find rest in Him (Aristotle). And we, end game, are chosen to be His.

What truly incredible power.
 

dear high school me: comparison



It's been almost a year now.

Almost a year since I saw an idea come full form. One of my majors was Interdisciplinary Studies for Digital Communications and Media, and this meant I got to create a final, 160-hour project for "capstone." And I wanted to go hard.

So, what's something deepest in my heart? 1) Communicating about Christ 2) High school girls 3) Interviewing 4) Capturing stories creatively 5) Talking about things that matter.

This means I dived into a project: to interview nineteen college girls--freshman to seniors--and ask some questions centered around the idea of "If you could go back and tell your high school self one thing, what would it be?"

The result? Over 5 hours of interview footage, which doesn't count any of the b-roll or narrative portions. A spreadsheet with time codes and snippets of all video content. Hours of fuzzy socks and winter parka walks to an editing studio. Three St. Paul and Minneapolis locations. Gazillions of scheduling Facebook messages. Pages of notes. Hours of reading. A recycling-can rigged mic stand. A script written in a semi-backwards order (long story). Because the process was to hear and then to compile. To see what these college students wanted to say and then to find the themes and then create a documentary-styled narrative around the topics.

That result's result? Two seven-minute videos and one nine-minute one. Topics: Identity, comparison, and God's plan.

Welcome to the "Dear Chloe Collective."

And here's the first of the three videos.*

Because this is a conversation I'm passionate about. This is what I want to spend my life doing: investing, pouring out to pour into others, to meet needs, to proclaim Christ's goodness and glory. This was one of my first shots at this doing so in this creative way, and I deeply pray it will not be the last.

A huge thank you to each of the nineteen who shared their story and their wisdom with me. You all left me speechless and in awe of God's beautiful design for sisters in Christ beyond what I can express.

*A caviet, I am not an expert at running a camera or at audio, the later of which you will tell pretty clearly. Even though video was a portion of my studies in school, I seemed to always end up writing the scripts, directing, and being in front of the camera. The technicalities of audio engineering + editing + color corrections + frame rates I wish I would have spent more time mastering. But, for this project, I forced myself to not recruit experts but to do as much solo as possible, to learn. And learn? I did. So, please forgive the myriad of imperfections. (Also, tip, change the YouTube "quality" settings to HD 1080p in the lower right hand corner).

If the above link is unresponsive, try the link here.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

All of Me


We'd sat perpendicular against the floor to ceiling windows. They let light enter. Later, dark would beam through their thick glass as the sun set.

I could barley look at her. She'd journeyed over four hundred miles to see me, miles I knew came at a cost: financially, emotionally, physically, and just of plain ole time. The night before her flight flew in, I'd told my roommate.

I don't want her to come, not now anymore.

Not because I didn't love her. Not because she is the one human who shares flesh and bone and DNA of the same two parental humans as I do.

I wanted her to come when I felt stable. When it could finally be about her and not about me floundering in the process. When we could celebrate her. When she wouldn't have to bear me again as a burden.

Over-exaggerating? Yes, I was. But I was meaning this from a place deeper within me than I had realized.

Become a burden. Someone, say no, say this wouldn't be me.

We had sat by the tall windows at work, and I'd barley been able to look at her. Nights before, I'd written a sentence: I feel like almost everything in my life right now is robbing me of my energy, and I have so very little left to take.

She let me let down. Just her presence took away my pretense. I knew I couldn't convince her I was absolutely thriving even as I realize I had been saying "it's fine" a little too much to myself, denying the reality of my current pain and struggle, my reality that I was really trying to convince myself I was loving (when I really wasn't, just yet).

She didn't say the words till a few days later.

Deborah, I looked across at you and thought "where did my sister go?"

That should have scared the sense straight into me. What scared me was that it didn't scare me nearly as much as it should have.

Truly, no one here can see it as clearly as she can. They never knew the full Deborah that most people meet, even if they may have had glimpses of her. The one full of joy, incredible energy, cataclysmic confidence, enthusiastic ideas, deep strength, and articulate and fast mind, a witty sense of humor, and a care for people that actually is contagious.

Instead, they've been unknowingly underwhelmed by a girl who sits, quieter. Who is so self-critical she's even critical or her criticalness. Doubting, sitting back and holding back, overstimulated and underwhelmed, zapped of strength to even think of how to come back to the surface. Deeper still, of someone who feels separated from the capacity to love because pain is the flipside of connection, living with the sting of separation still too close to memory. Baseline, who doesn't want to want to go and yet also just can't seem to want to want to stay.

Fast forward to that same night, and I was trying to let her and my roommate go to bed, books and phone and computer in hand, heading to my room. But they kept asking me questions. And much emerged, truth hidden from even my admittance. Security and certainty. Boredom and burdens. The reality that I'd been running from because it was... painful. And I didn't realize how intensely I'd been flinging all my might at avoiding that for much longer than I wanted to admit.

I think I'm much, much closer than I thought. Things can't stay this way. I'm close, closer to the edge of falling into a deep blackness and, this time, not being able to get out.

This sounds terribly dramatic, and I'm sorry for that. Really, I promise that it's all not that bad and moody, and you probably would have little idea if you met me. In fact, I've actually had multiple people tell me that already.

But that's part of the problem.

I hide it, not even intentionally. I decide that I always just need to put my head down and just get her done, that I have to dig in and figure out my life and make it all better. So that, one day I stop hurting the people around me and can actually show up and be me and contribute to society like I'm supposed to. But I never am good enough, never show up enough, always could do it better, need to be doing more, should have already done more, never am wholehearted, and so much in my life is waiting until I finally get it all figured out and pull myself together.

Forward movement is not an option, I get it. It's a necessity. But it cannot become a crutch, a crutch I lean on instead of leaning into the work that the Lord is doing deep within me. I need to dig into some things the Lord is bringing to the surface.

When my sister and my roommate held me captive till 3 am in some ways, I realized in a new way that I can't.

I can't get out myself. I can't see it all clearly myself. I can't come to the other side myself.

We can't fix it for you Deborah. We can't carry it for you. But, we can carry you.

The support. The dependence. The carrying.

Later, it would be mirrored. I had texted for prayer, and then I didn't respond to their response to know more, that night or the next morning. This meant my best friend called my mom and talked for an hour and then proceeded to call my sister and talk for more, just to be sure I was okay. Another friend, still in step-down from treatment for an eating disorder, texted me to say she was praying for me. Another newcomer had cared back during my hour and a half conversation, shouldering the pain and struggle of the necessary but difficult season of growth. Another, small group hands in prayer on knees, saying specific words of thanks. Another, standing in the blue-green kitchen of an early Christmas party, and laughing even with almost tear-rimmed eyes about transitions and tendencies for isolation and trust and temptation.

We can't fix it for you, Deborah. We can't carry it for you. But, we can carry you.

Carry me.

Oh, the intermingling of dependency and vulnerability, needing to be fixed but needing to come to the Fixer, needing healing but realizing that the One who heals has given us human hands around, humans who He calls to carry each other's burdens.

And sometimes, that burden feels like all of me.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

beautiful, finally


I cried myself to sleep two nights ago.

The darkness around me didn't seem black but grey, grey even as my now coverless duvet was white on my new mattress that replaced the air mattress I'd used for ninety days. The air mattress was almost symbolic. A symbol of how I'd viewed this time as transitory: a place to stay, to sleep that will work for quite a while, but not something that smelt of commitment, of semi-serious settling.

My translucent tears, to me, seemed as wet, heavy droplets landing on my cheeks, illuminating the grey around me.

I'm not really a crier. I know this doesn't make it seem so, but it seemed that the past six months had seen more of my tears than potentially all the years before. When God is working deep growth in your life, it can bring so much new life and fruit. But, sometimes in the meantime, we are left in the pain.

I'd cried pain-tears. So, so many of them.

Pain that my life wasn't like what I thought it would be. I'm in a state foreign to my Midwest heart. I'm hundreds of miles from the places and people I love.
Pain that I didn't have some things in my life I thought I would. I'd been walking with someone, and he decided we were walking separate ways, and I didn't realize how deep I'd gone. Plus I hadn't written the book or chased the big dreams or started a company like I thought I should have. 
Pain that I didn't let people in like I needed to. I'd let phone calls go uncalled. I'd let phone messages climb over sixty daily.
Pain that I wasn't the fully-sanctified person I am ultimately unable to be here on earth. I was more aware of battles that I'd be called to fight against my flesh till my flesh did I part.

But I wasn't feeling the black hopelessness. Just a grey, almost neutral numbing like a medical procedure you know is necessary but which does not seem to have an end.

When I was eight, I had two racks of sharp points pushed into my back. My bare skin flinched against the cool, sleek nails the doctor called needles. I'd bit my lip and squeezed my mom's hand. I knew the procedure was going to make me feel better in the end. The rack would go to my back. It would show reactions on my skin. Then they could treat the allergies, and I could go free and be happily frolicking all my live-long days. In the meantime, I was helpless. Out of control, surrendered to the doctor's work. Enduring the pain. Enduring the reactions. Enduing the pressure points that lingered. Working towards healing, a healing I couldn't picture.

And here we are again.

The master surgeon is working. He's exposing things inside me through exposing me to new things around me. But the waiting is hard. My impatience is real. I want to know where we are going and when we will get there. And I want to have done all in my power to be there yesterday, because that would have been better (no best), right?

I called my parents the next day. I was floundering. Frustrated that I was getting caught in the details of a job and feeling like I'd pinned myself down prematurely. They talked me down. I'd danced it out. I'd kick-boxed my way through it (not even kidding. Y passes unlock a whole new world).

But it'd taken days, and it's taking days. Days to learn what dependence really means. Days to wait through the growing pains of what God's doing. Days to lean into what it truly means to follow Jesus when it doesn't seem like the following is bringing you what you thought, and instead, it seems like you're wallowing an awful lot.

But today I woke up. I woke up, and a song.

"Where will you run, my soul? Where will you go when wells run dry? When the wind starts to blow? How you gonna keep this flame alive? In the fading night when light is breaking, I know you will always be waiting. You'll always be there. I'm running to the secret place, where you are, where you are. I'll sing to you of all the ways you stole my heart, stole my heart. Better is a moment that I spend with you than a million other days away. I'm running. I'm running. I'm running to the secret place."

And I'd smiled. Not just on my skin but in my soul.
It was a smile of surrender.

Yes, I'd surrendered my life years ago, but apparently I still am very much a sin-sick soul in need of a Savior who is learning to surrender her days.

Thankful.

I'd been trying to start the first hour of the day with prayer and Bible for the past few months. Today, in the prayer all I did was thank. Thanking Him for the truth, goodness, and beauty that was all around. Thanking Him for the constancy of Him and the simplicity of that, praying to be caught up in eyes of wonder.

Sitting in the cubicle, later, surrounded by sharipes and notebook paper, I found myself viewing photos in backwards order of the past few months, my time here in this new city and state. Thankful. It hadn't left, and I was struck.

Who am I not to see how beautiful my life is?

And I ran to repentance, inside.

Yes, it might be grey around me, a lot these days. It might be grey and feeling like I have to fight it everyday. But He is faithful. He is good. He is holy, and who am I to fret and fight when the grey isn't gone immediately? Who am I to have a heart cry of anything more than thy will be done, even as I pray pray pray that life would settle, I'd have things I'm asking for, I'd feel established once again?

Who am I not to see how beautiful my life is?

My life is beautiful, with all of its impatient complexities because this is the life that He's seen fit for me to lead. No, more than that, this is the life that He's seen fit to give me to live with Him.

Thankful.

For I will not be lost in the grey, but I will surrender to a life of wonder at His greatness.

Thy will be done.

© 2018 Deborah  Spooner
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