I am so desperately lonely here that the loneliness is palpable. Lord Jesus I need you. Jesus Jesus Jesus. Help me.
It has been 2900 days since my Mom passed away. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately, and I guess it’s the season and missing her and needing her advice more than ever that make me miss her so.
So much has changed in my life over the last year, and even more over the last two years and I have missed her every step of the way. The hurt caused by the hole she left isn’t nearly as sharp as it once was, and almost eight years later, I’m still healing a little bit each day. I’m so thankful for the continued healing! I have a life to live and trying to stay put, where I was, isn’t going to bring her back. For a long time, I was afraid that I would forget her, but I know now that that is impossible. I’ll never forget her! She was my mother, for heaven’s sake! She’s a part of my daily life just as if she were still alive, except it’s through memories and her legacy (I hate that word, but it kind of fits).
This day isn’t technically any different than yesterday was or tomorrow will be, as far as missing my Mom goes; it just happened to be a nice round number to stop and take stock.
I’m thankful for my Mom. I’m more thankful to God for making her mine!
So, I’m forty. 40. It feels strange to be this age when I don’t really feel different on the outside. Well, except for a nagging backache because I lost my footing on some stairs last Friday….
I look around at my life and I’m utterly speechless at how much my life has changed in two years! The changes are good, but man, my life has a totally different landscape than it used to have.
I love being married. Being with Scott every day after being apart for the entirety of our courtship is so, so good. I love being with him! Certainly, all of this togetherness does not come without some challenges, but being married is good. Being married is both easier and harder than I thought it would be. It is, well and truly, about giving. It is about putting the other person’s needs before your own, and making choices to walk alongside that person. Many of these choices are easy ones, but they are ones that I didn’t have to make when I was single. Being a stepmother is even more of the same. As much as I love my husband and want to help him do what he needs to do and be who God created him to be, I think being a stepmother requires more of me. Having said that, I get along very well with M and we are getting to know each other and creating our own relationship, separate and apart from my relationship with her dad. It’s hard to explain, other than one day I didn’t have a child, and now I do. And she’s a teenager. I feel unworthy of this job many days (most days) but I also feel sent here. I know that these people are my people. I love them and how God is using them to refine me. I love how God reveals himself in my family. I love how God is faithful to help me in learning how to be a wife and a mother. As I said, I feel so unworthy of this job, but I’m positive that this role is mine to fulfill.
Over the next year, I’ll begin and maybe complete my internship and hopefully I’ll finish my degree by next fall. I would love to begin working (like, for actual money!) in the spring of 2015. That seems so far away, but really, it’s less time than I’ve known Scott! I have so much to do between now and then but it’ll all get done. Who would have thought this time last year that I’d have moved twice, planned a wedding, quit my beloved job, honeymooned and settled into life in rural Tennessee?? I mean, who saw that coming? I should not ever doubt the changes a year can bring.
My life is good. It’s different than I thought married life would be in that it’s sweeter and harder and more rewarding. I love my life because it and everyone and everything in it is a blessing from God. His love is beyond compare. I pray that I am a worthy steward of this time he’s blessed me with.
On days like today, I always think of my Mom. She’s the one who did all of the work on my actual birthday…I just sort of showed up. I miss her so much. It doesn’t hurt like it did right after she died, but oh man, do I miss that woman. I wish I could call her up at least once a day, and sometimes it’s twice or more. She always knew what to say, even if what she had to say wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I pray that I am a wise parent and that I stay the course. There are a million distractions to take me away from being a wife and a mother, and I’m guilty of giving in to those from time to time. I’m still learning how to best love my family and I so wish I could ask her for guidance.
Over the next year, I’d like to get serious about the serious things (my faith, my health, my work, my family) and let all of the other things go. I’m a rulesy kind of girl, but living according to a bunch of rules is exhausting and crazy-making. I need no additional help with the crazy! I take the wrong things to heart and make myself unhappy in the process. Why would I do that to myself? Short answer: I shouldn’t. So I won’t.
Birthdays are a great time to look back and to look forward and I’m excited about what’s ahead. God has been so good to me and I want to live like it! I have so much to be thankful for, today and every day.
It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Today is my wedding day!
I never thought I’d type those words when applied to me, but it’s true! I’ll get married this afternoon and will become a wife and a stepmom, a niece and a cousin-by-marriage and a sister-in-law to many folks I haven’t met yet (I’ve met the two who’ll make me a wife and stepmom…that part’s covered!). I am so excited! I can’t quite sleep tonight because I want to savor this experience and drink it all in. I never knew God would fulfill my desire for a husband to love, but I’m so much more blessed by his provision than I ever thought possible. S is a perfect match for me in so many ways, but ultimately, he points me to the Lord. Through my relationship with him, I have grown closer to the Lord than ever before, and that is what God wants from/for us!
I’m so thankful that S not only a: generally sees me in the most charitable light, he b: believes the good stuff to be true. It sounds simple, but he is the only person I’ve dated for whom both statements are true. Because he believes in me, it helps for the good stuff to be more than aspirational, it becomes descriptive. In other words, S believes I’m kind, so I begin to see myself as kind, act accordingly, and suddenly, I’m kind! I love that he does that for me. I pray I can have a similar impact on him!
The hour is late and it’s time for me to get some sleep. I am so thankful to God for bringing S and me together. He is the man of my dreams and I love him. I can’t wait to marry him and to be his wife.
Let’s do this!
I kicked statistics in the teeth.
I learned a little bit more about surrender…what it is and what it is not.
I learned that anxiety has no place in the life of a Christian (again).
I was challenged in my faith.
I was buoyed by the support of my family, friends and coworkers.
I cried through a sunday school lesson…that I was teaching. Twice.
I’ve come to grips with the fact that it’s impossible to use the phrase, “I don’t mean to brag…” without doing exactly that.
I was set free.
I learned to delegate.
I lost, then gained, and am losing again, twelve pounds. Sigh.
I am learning to face my jealousy/envy issues head on.
I have considered the blessings in my life and can only marvel at God’s bountiful, lavish love.
I made it through the Old Testament.
I went to Israel!
I let go of some of my own rules. As it turns out, there’s freedom beyond those boundaries!
I went to eastern Tennessee: Knoxville, Wartburg, Oak Ridge and Gatlinburg.
I fell deeply, wildly in love.
I considered motherhood.
I made new friends.
I said goodbye to others.
I cried with friends.
I drove a muscle car.
I pushed myself.
I acknowledged my limits.
I failed, but I also had some successes.
I let fear win less often.
This last year has been a fantastic odyssey in learning about God, my family, my friends, my work and the goals I have for myself. I have made mistakes in my life, with my time/energy/talents, and I can burn a lot more energy being sad and stressed out about that, but I’ve come to realize—and I’m a little late to this party, so pardon me—that it matters more what I do next with what I now know. Aha!
I think that great change is coming in the next year and I’m excited. Let’s go!
There are less than 48 hours until I’m reunited with my loves in eastern Tennessee…I can’t wait to see them! When we started talking about this trip, the end of summer seemed like it was at least a hundred years in the future, and truthfully, he hadn’t even been here yet, and in the back of my mind, I was wondering if there was ever going to be a time when I’d really visit him. I mean, really, what were the chances that it was going to work out? Way back then, I thought that there’d be some deal breaker along the way (there always has been…what makes this different?), but so far, so (very) good. Everything is different.
This whole experience truly deserves its own entry (or two, or three) but for now, I am simply anticipating Thursday’s reunion. I should be working on my schoolwork so that we can fully enjoy our visit without the shadow of an unwritten paper hanging over us, so I’m going to do exactly that.
When we were in Israel this spring, we had the opportunity to tour a dozen or more small (and sometimes large) churches that all claimed to have a special place in the narrative of Israel. We saw the Church of the Nativity, the Church of the Annunciation, the Church of St. Joseph, churches in Cana, Nazareth, Bethlehem and so many churches in Jerusalem it’s not even funny. So many beautiful churches! Though a few were quite simple in their adornment, many were very elaborately decorated with scenes of Jewish history, and there were also pictures of the disciples, starry skies, sunsets…and all of these images were made from mosaic tiles. Even detailed pictures were composed of small, carefully laid tile instead of paint. I’m not so current on my knowledge of paints, but we did see mosaic tile floors and walls that dated back to the time of Jesus, so it would seem that tile is a more permanent application.
As I tried to snap enough pictures that would remind me later of how beautiful these walls, ceilings and floors were, I couldn’t stop thinking about the hands that laid those tiles. It must have taken weeks and months, and maybe even years in some cases, to complete those masterpieces. I thought about those craftsmen going to work, day after day, to make a mental picture become a real-life picture. I am so thankful they were so faithful! I’ve never done any mosaic crafting, but I have seen many a DIY segment on the subject and the television hosts always make it seem so easy! (I suppose that’s their job!)
Since I’ve been home, I’ve transitioned from thinking about the tile workers to the tiles themselves. Of course, the tiles are inanimate objects without cognition or preference or feelings, each one is critical to the overall look of the finished piece. Missing or mislaid tiles would create a feeling of chaos in an otherwise completed design. Each one is critical.
It’s easy for me to make the transition to apply the idea of a mosaic to the church and the idea that each person is critical for the work of the church to proceed as it should. Missing tiles, in the form of church members who are inactive and disengaged, were never part of the design.
God also reminded me that my life is a mosaic and that no single experience can or should define the picture my life makes. Relationships? Yes. Experiences? No, they are all a part of the mosaic and don’t mean much without being relative to something else. I tend to dissect single experiences and give them far more gravity than is warranted and virtually every time I have done so it has cheated me out of experiencing something else (because I was too busy obsessing over something old to experience something new).
The other night I decided to swap wallets and I pulled out a wallet that’s been kicking around in my closet for the last several years. I could tell by its weight that I hadn’t fully emptied it the last time I moved out of it, so I opened it up to find a snapshot of my life from when I last carried that wallet (2005-2006). I found ATM receipts (I DO NOT MISS the once per month payday!), old business cards of mine, appointment cards from my psychiatrist’s office, and even a hand written phone number (how quaint!). As I sorted through these items, along with many (many!) frequent shopper cards from various retailers, I distinctly remember the decision to keep these items. It’s weird. I looked through these items, keeping only the business cards, thankful that I was no longer stuck in that place, obsessing over those items and, if I’m completely honest, the person to whom that phone number belonged. I realize that not everything in everyone’s wallet is meaningful, but for me, it was a picture of who I was, the things I cared about and how I saw myself. What’s more personal than that? The 2006 mosaic tells a different story than the 2012 mosaic. And it should. Praise the Lamb!
In the last couple of years, God has blessed me with a great job, a chance to get plugged into my church home, deeper and richer friendships than I deserve, the chance to take a trip of a lifetime with my family, the opportunity to go back to school, and in the last few months, an amazing, kind, funny, smart, Godly boyfriend. Every experience that I have had, those that brought me joy and those that brought me to my knees, has prepared me for the life I have now. I can see experiences from childhood and college working together with relationships from work life and church life to help me to be the woman God has created me to be. I am overjoyed with the opportunities I have had and, especially so, those that are still ahead. I pray that I’m a faithful steward of this time in my life so that when my days come to an end and my mosaic is complete (prayerfully, that is many, many years from now!), there are no missing or mislaid tiles. I want the picture of my life to please the God who is writing my story and for it to reflect his intentions for me.
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.
Sooo…tomorrow is Mother’s Day. Without having a living mother or children of my own, I’d honestly rather just skip it altogether. If I could, I’d stay home from church and watch it online, order a pizza and hang out in my pajamas all day. I was talking with my friend S. earlier this evening and shared that sentiment with him and he challenged my wish to check out on mother’s day, saying that my mom would not have wanted that. He is right, of course. He never even met my mom and he is right. (Don’t tell him I said so!) I know mother’s day is not about those of us that aren’t mothers, it’s about those that are! It’s not about me at all, so I should be thankful for my mom and the awesome years I had with her. Though I thought I’d have her around for many more decades, I am thankful for the years I did have with my awesome mom. I am acutely aware that I have had some excellent motherin’. I had the chance to write about her in our church’s Worship Folder (aka: the bulletin) and it was nice to write a little bit about her to people who didn’t know her. What I wrote feels very personal for that kind of wide distribution, but I wrote it because I sensed the Lord telling me to write it. After having thought about it for a few days, I don’t necessarily think that the article was for other people…I think I had to write it for me. I need to reframe my thoughts about my mom to focus on her life and not on her death. To focus on her death cheats her legacy, and her life is worth celebrating! Sure, her death completely sucked, but there was a lot of fantasticness about her life that I should remember and be joyful about.
I also have reason to celebrate because I feel like I’ve been set free from the worst of the crushing grief I have been carrying with me over the last 6 1/2 years. That is reason to celebrate for sure! I have been blessed by time spent with friends, old and new, and am so thankful for the people who make my life richer and better. I can see how God is shaping and forming me, healing and restoring me, and that is humbling and exciting. I sense there is great change ahead and that’s also very exciting. I know God is preparing me for what’s next, and that’s the most exciting thing of all. How can I serve him? How can I use the gifts he’s given me to show him to others? What a joy!
So even though writing the article below felt like it was overly personal for the Worship Folder, it feels just about right for my blog, even if the tone is quite formal. I post this here as a reminder that the stuff that has happened in my life isn’t really my story, it’s God’s story and my life is a tiny piece of the mosaic he is creating.
My sister and I had the privilege of being raised in a loving, Christian home. Our parents did everything they could to see that we had the opportunity to be involved with our local church, and as a result, we had the chance to go on mission trips, attend summer camps and participate in all kinds of youth group activities. Some of my best memories from childhood and adolescence involve my friends at church and learning about how to apply God’s principles for living to our lives, even from a very young age. While our church did a great job teaching us about God’s word, it was the lessons my sister I learned at home that made the biggest impression.
Though I had good relationships with both of my parents, I had a special bond with my mother. When I was growing up and even into adulthood, I thought my mom was invincible in the way that kids often think their parents are. When people asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I didn’t always have a ready answer as related to a profession, but I knew I wanted to be like my mom. She demonstrated the fruit of the Spirit as a way of life, and I realized that if I learned to be like Jesus, I would also look a lot like my mom.
Whenever I was faced with some kind of dilemma, my mother always had a word of godly wisdom for me. Though it was not always what I wanted to hear, it was always what I needed to hear. She so frequently quoted Scripture that I became familiar with the practical truths of James, the encouragement from the Psalms and the wisdom of Proverbs through her words. What a treasure to discover that the insight she’d been sharing for years was truth from God’s word! She demonstrated her love of God and His word by making it a part of her life.
My mother also exhibited selflessness in her service to others. During the holidays, particularly Thanksgiving, my mom loved to host people who didn’t have family nearby and might otherwise have been alone. She and my dad always opened our home and our table to friends, old and new. I can’t remember a Thanksgiving with just my mom, dad, sister and me; Thanksgiving was her very favorite holiday, and she experienced joy by providing food and fellowship for others on the day we specifically set aside to give thanks.
Moving in a way that only God can, my mom passed away unexpectedly on Thanksgiving Day a few years ago. Even in the midst of grief over her death, it always seemed fitting that the Lord would call her home on her favorite day – she feasted with the Father that day, and every day since. We still miss her, especially on days like Mother’s Day, but I am so thankful for the godly heritage she left behind. Her love of Scripture and her faithful service are just a few reminders of the powerful legacy of a Christ-like mother.
So. We went to Israel on a tour last month. Our family – my father, sister, my father’s wife, my father’s first wife Alice [to whom he was married before he married my mother], and my sister Tracey [Alice's and my dad’s daughter] – along with 9 others spent nine days traveling to and fro throughout that ancient land, exploring the gorgeousness that is modern Israel. This trip was surprising in a million different ways, but unsurprisingly, it has changed the way I read the Bible. I read things differently now that I have spent time in some of the places mentioned in the pages of Scripture. It is awesome! I know I’ll process this trip for many months, if not years, to come.
Since we’ve been home from the trip, I have been trying to articulate how I want to chronicle my trip, and while I took a lot of pictures (for me, anyway) I knew that that was only a part of the memory-keeping that followed the memory-making. Writing about it here seems less than ideal, too, if for no other reasons than a: it appears as if I abandoned my blog ages ago, and b: where to begin?? I read an article just today that said that talking about special memories makes them less special, a conclusion at which I’d already arrived long ago. I’ve written about it privately and will continue to do so.
So that doesn’t help much, but know that we went, that it was life changing and that you should go, too. Seriously, if you ever get the chance to go to Israel and/or other parts of the Holy Land, then you should go. I think I’ll go again at some point, and I’m looking forward to it.
On a different note, and since I’m not going to bore you with my travelogue, I will say this:
I feel like I am coming back to life.
You know how your foot falls asleep and it doesn’t have any sensation at all? You look at it and know it’s there, but it doesn’t seem attached to your body because you can’t feel it? Okay. Now that you have that mental image, let’s take it one step further and imagine how it feels once it’s fully woken up. That’s where I am. I didn’t even realize how unfeeling I’ve been, but now that things are starting to happen and I can feel again, it’s marvelous. I have springtime in my soul. Wheee!!!
There are many different reasons for it, but ultimately it all comes down to the healing power of the Holy Spirit. God has been relentlessly pursuing me, restoring me, redeeming me and I am more fully aware than I have ever been of the power of our living God. He lives in me! He has brought me from death to life, for the first time at the moment of my salvation, and lately, again. I am alive in him. Life is sweeter than it has ever been. The more alive I feel, the greater my awareness is of how far I have come, how much time I spent wasted trying to fix my own life.
God is teaching me new lessons about fear and about the role my faith should play in every aspect of my life. He is teaching me to take great leaps of faith and he sustains me and takes me new places as a result. He is answering prayers in specific and tangible ways, beyond what I could ask or imagine. It is exciting! It is humbling. Why should he love me so? I am overwhelmed by God’s lavish love for me and it makes me want to shout! Hallelujah! Praise the lamb! He is good.
I wish I could tell you all of the ways that God has used seemingly disparate events over the last years to fulfill the deepest of my heart’s desires, but now is not the right time. I will say this: God never wastes a single thing. Not one tear, not one moment of suffering, not one disappointment. Friends, if we trust him with our tears, our suffering, our disappointments, our hopes, he will take them and redeem them for something far grander than we can imagine. If you’ve been a part of a church or Christian culture for a while, you have probably heard that before, and maybe you’re even tired of hearing about nebulous promises being fulfilled by a God you can’t see. Maybe you’re even angry with God. Oh friend, trust me when I say that God doesn’t just meet our need, he rewrites it bigger than the sky and then arranges our circumstances in just such a way so as to bless us the most. Our gain for his glory.
For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high on a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:5-6, 14.
My enemies of anger, jealousy and fear have been defeated and if I walk in that victory, given to me at Calvary, I don’t have to fight them. All of that work has been done. Tetelestai. It is finished.
EDIT: It’s possible that the end of this post makes it seem like I’m coasting through life until I hit the grave. Not so! Nothing could be farther from the truth, actually! I have been freed from some things so that I can pursue other (new, better, awesomer) things. I likely haven’t had my last battle with anger, jealousy and fear, but I understand those things in a new light now: those things have been exposed as the joy-thieves they are and I don’t have to wrestle with them any longer, nor do I have to carry them around and try to pretend they don’t exist. When I use the phrase “it is finished” I mean that the battle for me has been decided and Christ is the victor. Those other things are tools of the enemy. Why would I use his tools when I don’t fight for his army?
When I went to Virginia last January, my professor told the class, “Some of you are in graduate school because you think it’s cheaper than therapy, but if that is your reason for enrolling, this is not the program for you.” In my typical self-righteous way, I thought that she was talking about someone else, some other student who was terribly misguided and lacked self-awareness.
She might have been talking to me.
I didn’t enroll in the Professional Counseling program just so that I could sort out my own issues, although I will freely confess that when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The more I learn about various ways personality and circumstance can combine to form a perfect storm of maladaptive psychological tendencies, the more I see faults in myself. While it’s interesting to know how the status quo came to be, it’s honestly more useful to know how help people get better.
I haven’t taken those classes yet.
So I have this big list of things that I think are Wrong With Me, but I haven’t yet gained the self-awareness or knowledge of how to fix them. It’s kind of a drag, to be honest with you.
I just returned from another week in Lynchburg and again, it was fantastic. There’s a not-small part of me that wants to move to Lynchburg so that I can be a full-time student, involved in classroom discussions and grading papers and living in a college town. I am fully confident that that is not the right thing for me at this point, no matter how much I like being there. I’m sure part of the reason why I like being there so much is precisely because I don’t actually live there. Being there is like vacation, but with classes and credit hours. (Honestly, that sounds like a completely bitchin’ vacation. And it was. Plus! I got to drive a muscle car.)
So I’m settling back into Real Life, and I realize I don’t really have anywhere to put these feelings of discontentment that going to Liberty seems to bring to the surface for me…also kind of a drag.
I’ve been wrestling with the idea of switching from the 48-hour program to the 60-hour program for several months and I definitely decided to make the leap to the longer program while I was there. The decision was made for several reasons, but what it boils down to is two things: the longer, more comprehensive program gives me more options when I finish. There are only a few states that require a 48-hour degree, with the majority requiring 60 hours of coursework. Texas currently requires 48 hours, but honestly, and don’t tell anyone I said this, I don’t know if I’ll live in Texas forever. I might live someplace else someday and I’d rather get whatever coursework I need while I’m still in school. Yes, it’ll delay my graduation by two semesters, but at this point, what are four more classes? Okay, technically it’s five, but who’s counting?
The second reason for the longer program is completely self-serving: I love being a student. I will complain about the textbooks and the discussion board posts and I might grumble about professors who take their sweet, precious time getting grades back to students, but I love the learning process. The opportunity to take more classes so as to be a better prepared counselor? Yes, please.
As long as I’m writing my inaugural post of Twenty Dozen (thank you Justin and Kirt for that fantastic phrase!) I have to admit that I’m having a bit of an existential crisis (loosely defined: a state of anxiety related to the state of being) about the whole school thing. I have long said that being in this program is like having a second job, and last semester, that really felt true. There were things that I did not get to do because I had school obligations. I know that this is all about making choices, giving up something now for something I want more, later; it still kind of stinks. I wonder if all of this sacrifice will have been worth it. Will I be able to find a job? Will said job support me? I feel sort of confident (so maybe not very confident after all) that I could always keep my current job until…until whenever. I am not saying that as a bad thing. Indeed, it is a very good thing. I love my job. I have an awesome boss who supports me and helps me to be a better employee/servant/church member/person. It is a fantastic situation, and ordinarily, I would be happy to be in this job until the cows come home. I just feel like God has placed something else on my heart. How to reconcile the need to make a living while still working in a field quickly becoming oversaturated with new graduates (hey, classmates!)? The whole topic gives me waves of nausea. Yep, one just washed over me. See? Oh, there goes another one.
I often say to people, “Either you trust God or you don’t. He’s not partially sovereign. Either you believe he is who he says he is or you don’t. The Bible is not partially true. It is true or it isn’t.” I should be less glib with those words! Even though I am still two years away from job-seeking, I am having, right at this moment, a full-on panic attack thinking about job searching, finding a position where I can work as an intern, the whole nine yards.
I should not do this. I should instead focus on my reading for this week, the paper I have to write for the class I took last week, and the papers I will have to write for the class I’m currently taking (would you believe my current class is Career Counseling? God is funny.)
So here I am, back to the beginning, wondering a) if I’m suited for counseling, given the gaggle-pack of insecurities and imperfections I have; b) if the sacrifices I’m making for this program will prove to be worthwhile ones in the end; and c) if ultimately, can I make this work? Do I have the resources to pull this off?
My answers so far: a) Yes, despite the insecurities and imperfections. Perfection is boring. b) Yes, nothing worth having comes easily. c) No, I don’t have the resources, but God does. He will supply all of my needs according to his riches in glory. He will supply what I need regarding wisdom (James 1:5!) as well as the other things I’ll need to do this.
I am overwhelmed and feeling a little unsettled. I love situations where the solution is obvious and tied up with a bow. That is decidedly not what I have here.
I suppose this is one of those faith-making moments.