Thursday, December 18, 2014

pieces

I had stopped at a cute display of wine-themed gifts when it happened. As I stared at the mustache-shaped drink marker, I felt it. The pieces all tumbled out from my core and landed on the floor. They scattered all around me.

I made a fist with my left hand and pressed it up against the hole that was left in my chest, and tears gathered at my bottom lids, then quietly and carefully dropped onto my cheeks.

I felt my shoulders rise and fall, with deep breaths attached. Not again, I whispered to myself. I actually began to wonder how there was any way I still had tears left.

I looked down at all the pieces, unsure of what to do.

They lay there, to my left. My shopping cart to the right. I gently leaned over and began to scoop them up. A woman stepped around me. “Excuse me,” she said, and I barely glanced up as the shame overcame me and the tears continued to fall.

I stood up and wondered where I was supposed to put the pieces I had gathered, and  realized these pieces weren’t what you might expect from a heart. These were grey, beaten-up looking.

Almost like they were dead.

I’ve had a broken heart before. This one feels different.

Grief comes in the ebb and flow of life, just like the waves obeying the moon. One crashed over me last night as I pulled my car into the garage when Cherry Blossoms came on and I heard In my soul I'm aching to grow/Longing for a love I've never known.

It happened this morning when I read momastery’s blog right when the words I was trying to un-break broken things entered my heart.

They came last night when I was on the phone with my counterbalance and while I don’t remember what was said, (something about not being punished) I just remember lots and lots of tears. And then daggers to my heart.

Two nights ago when my oldest friend and I were talking, the tears came when he made me laugh about Oreos. I know.

But as I stood in the middle of World Market holding these pieces, I couldn’t figure out where to put them. They wouldn’t fit into my purse. My cart had Christmas presents in it. My pockets didn’t seem very practical.

I left the store and I honestly don’t know where they ended up. But I do know that when I turned into my neighborhood, I said to myself, I have to get over it.

But I also need a safe place to fall apart, to grieve the loss of this love, maybe just lose it all and then cry this pain completely out of my body. The problem is I don’t want to do it alone. But not anyone will do.

The one with the daggers, the one whose chest I want to beat on even while my eyes are spent with weeping. The one I want, but not the one I need, to be this safe place. But I am too proud to let this happen yet at the same time can't imagine anyone else understanding.

I’m still wondering where those pieces ended up.

Monday, December 15, 2014

prepare


 It seems as though all we do this time of year is prepare.

For me, I have to prepare everything ahead of the rest of the world, it seems. My family lives several states away, so that means shopping early and preparing the gifts to ship in time for when Christmas actually starts.

I usually take off time to go see them, so that means preparing weeks in advance for all the volunteers and teachers at the church, making sure they have everything they need for when I’m gone.

I prepare my house, trying to make it all feel festive by putting up a tree and pulling out all my favorite decorations.

This year, my heart is heavy. Well, it’s pretty much been heavy all year I guess. But this Christmas is particularly painful. Which I guess is fitting for Advent, right?

[Did you know that if you google the word “advent" right now, the headline “Kris Jenner, 59, Flashes Her Ample Cleavage, Shakes It With a Candy Cane for Love's Latest Advent Calendar Video” comes up as fourth? Keep it classy, Kardashians.]

Most who know about Advent understand that it is about waiting and preparing. And most people in the world don’t even “celebrate” it anyway. This time of Advent is seen as Christmas... and it comes as soon as Thanksgiving is over for the diehards who hold out. Others start celebrating in August when the stores first put out their Christmas decorations. But they celebrate Christmas. Not Advent.

The duality of Advent hurts my heart.

The waiting to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, who came to rescue me. [Joy]

The waiting for him to return and makes all things right. [Hope]

Joy in salvation.

Hope in what seems like will never come.

My heart hurts.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Prepare him room.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

when I think about leaving


I think about the time I had you over to watch a movie with a bunch of others and you inspected my bookcase just to make sure we could be friends.

I think about that time I was at your house until 3am playing “Your Best Life Now” and you fell off your chair laughing.

I think about the time we sat at a table at a church potluck together and suddenly I thought it might actually work to stay.

I think about the time you showed up at my door with two other friends, with me expecting the two of us to go have breakfast, but instead you all plowed your way into my home with donuts and a puzzle.

I think about the time we sat for hours while I crocheted and you sewed something and we sang to The Sound of Music at the top of our lungs. (And I recorded it on my phone to use for blackmail later.)

I think about the time you collapsed onto my sofa and declared you were moving in because it was so much better than yours.

I think about the time you paid your son to take credit for one of your moments of, ahem, “flatulence” and we never laughed so hard together.

I think about the time you walked me to my car after watching that movie at Harkins, and we talked about life and culture and movies and Jesus. And you hugged me for the first time and I knew I loved you.

I think about that time I got a friend request from you and we hadn’t even met yet.

I think about the first time I told you I wanted to punch someone in the throat and somehow, that didn’t scare you. (Well, maybe it did a little.)

I think about wrestling with 2 Corinthians 5 together, with our bibles open and our assumptions set.

I think about that time when you called me because you saw something I posted on Instagram and you made me cry. I don't like to cry in front of you.

I think about the time you licked the knee of a fellow small group member and they still haven’t recovered because of their germ phobia.

I think about the time you taught me how to make fondant from marshmallows and my hands turned pink.

I think about when you and I cried together over a loss and we were never the same after that.

I think about the first time you texted me a gif and our communication was altered forever. Still not sure if that's a good thing, though.

I think about the first I had a martini at Bedillons and we all gathered together in the back room and celebrated being together.

I think about the time I gave you bacon and you hung it on your tree.

I think about the time you looked me in the eye and knew what I was feeling and all we could do was just hug and know that our hearts were very old friends.

I think about painting polka dots and chai tea.

I think about that time sitting on your back porch when it rained, while your dog snuggled up next to me and we ate frosted cinnamon rolls and drank coffee.

I think about that Christmas gift I gave you that I knew you would be the only one to get it. Because us.

I think about getting pedicures with hot stone treatments and giggling.

I think about Trump’s lips and Jesus take the wheel.

I think about hundreds of mini muffins and you with a timer.

I think about the white buffalo. I think about music.

I think about phone calls... so many phone calls... and coffee and blankets and pillows and backyards and sweeping and laughter. So much laughter.

When I think about leaving I think of all this. I think about you. And I think about how I don’t want to go.

Monday, December 08, 2014

the hush of advent

On the Meyer’s Briggs personality test, I am an INFJ. When I first tested for this in seminary, I was borderline N/S and F/T. Then when I had to do my family genogram (http://www.genopro.com/genogram/) for my Marriage and Family Counseling class, I discovered something very interesting. I had my immediate family all take the Meyers Briggs and the rest of my family all tested as S’s and as T’s. My counseling professor (Dr. Zink) told me this is why I am on the borderline of both N and F, saying that I was probably naturally an N and F, but my environment (i.e. family) forced me into acting more like an S and a T. (Then, of course, I recall how Dr. Zink told me those were the two that are the hardest to be different from your family. Story of my life – once a black sheep, always a black sheep.)

What does this have to do with Advent? Weirdly enough, snow.

Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while know the love affair I have with snow. It’s God’s cruel joke that he called me to a church in southern Arizona, because of how much I love snow. I love that after the beautiful fall colors fade to brown, snow blankets the earth with sparkly white jewels than shine in the sun. Snow settles the earth down, because people don’t like to drive in the snow (it’s dangerous). They don’t go outside (because it’s too cold). Snow makes the word stop. So it should be with my heart and Advent.

I think there is some beauty with Advent being the start of the church calendar and it’s a season of waiting. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;” – Ps. 37:7

We are called to wait for the revealing of God’s will in our everyday life. The season of Advent is about celebrating the second coming of Jesus, which hasn’t come yet. So we wait. Advent is not part of Christmas. It’s preparation for Christmas. It’s preparation for his arrival. Because I’m introverted, I prepare in a “put my head down” kind of way. I’d much rather be in my head, think it all through, then carefully work through it outside myself. I don’t always get that luxury, but that is my preferred way of functioning.

This is where I am making the connection – the “S” side of me (the sensing side, which prefers experience over intuition, the concrete over the subjective.) In other words, the things which use our 5 senses: touch, smell, site, hear, taste. For me, seeing snow sends me inside… it makes me quit and reflective. Snow does, in many ways, represent a kind of death for me. The bugs die, the plants die, the grass dies. My environment of snow is a way the sensing side of me triggered my heart and mind to become reflective. Snow is a way the world is hushed.

But here in Arizona, the season of Advent is when you go outside. It’s 70 and beautiful. The sun shines, it’s finally comfortable weather after 6 months of 100 degree temps. This is not the time southern Arizona calms down. This is the time it comes alive. Winter visitors come in droves, traffic picks up, tons of bicyclists hit the road. This is not a quiet time for Arizona. And my brain, after years of living in the snow in December, is wired to shut down this time of year. And I realized this is always helped me celebrate Advent properly.

This particular season of Advent is very much about unrest. Which should point me to hope. And, unfortunately, all it's doing is helping me see just how big my lack of trust in Him is in the midst of this unrest. This time of waiting in about hope... and right now it's hard for me to have hope. Which directly correlates to my lack of trust.

Needing a prayer for this season of Advent, that I would be strengthened in my ability to trust in him.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So I Was Nominated...


I'm honored to have received a nomination for the Liebster Award by Karen Brown over at Stooping for Manna. Karen is a dear person in my life, who God only placed into my life for a season, but our connection has long passed the time we had together in the same city and the same church. I am grateful for her encouragement and her amazing spirit and what it has brought to my life.

Here is her shout out: "Stephanie has a way of slowing down moments and inviting her readers into them- so that you must feel, think, and experience as a reader. She is an honest and brave writer, and beautiful friend." Um... yeah. Speechless.

Liebster is a German word that encompasses the following meanings: dearest, sweetest, kindest, lovely, and valued. That's a great word to name an award after.

Nominating someone for the Leibster is like giving credit to someone who has a blog that you would like to bring attention to. It's a way that we, small-fry bloggers, can cheer each other on.

The rules are that I must give five fun facts about myself, answer the five questions posed to me by Karen, then... I get to nominate five others.

So here goes...

Five Fun Facts About Stephanie:

1. I knew God called me to lifelong ministry while in a van riding through the mountains of Colorado, with a friend's feet in my lap, and Mere Christianity in my hand. 

2. I got lost on the Metro in Paris when I was 19. It would have been terrifying if I wasn't with three other girls who made me laugh during the whole experience.

3. One of the major events that changed my life involved a needing a locksmith, freezing cold weather and a neighbor who didn't own a phone book. But seriously, who needed one anyway, with Al Gore's internet invention?

4. Six months after I picked up the guitar, for my dad’s birthday present, I surprised him by playing a guitar solo for the first time during a communion service. I played his favorite song "Amazing Grace" and he cried. I won’t ever play that song for anyone else.

5. One of my favorite things is snow. I don’t enjoy driving in it, obviously. But I love how it takes a brown and dead and barren land and makes it shimmer and look beautiful again. I haven’t seen snow in two years. :(

Questions (nominees, answer these as well):

1. Why do you blog?

Because I don’t know what I think and feel until I write it.

2. What are your spiritual gifts?

In a generic spiritual gift test, teaching, wisdom and leadership are my top three. My motivational spiritual gift is mercy. (i.e., my motivation for all other gifts is based in compassion for others.)

3. What was your favorite class in college? 

Since seminary was more recent for me, I’m going to pick a class from that instead of college. And my favorite class was on the book of Joshua. Not because the book of Joshua is all that fascinating or that I loved the professor, but because it was there that I learned how to exegete a passage of scripture, which is an amazing skill to have been taught. It also opened up my eyes to both and beauty and the destruction of the Old Testament, God’s character, and human nature.

4. From where does your inspiration for your writing come?

My answer is identical to Karen’s: That's easy. It comes from life. From what I read, what I experience, who I meet, and what I'm feeling. Organizing life into words on a page truly helps me process and make sense of it all.

5. If you had a warning label to wear, what would yours say?

“Warning: emotional baggage attached. This one is intense and serious. But if you can get past it, she’s not so bad.” (I think.)

And now it's time for my own nominations. But first, here are the rules (if you can):

      · post the award on your blog
      · offer thanks and a link back to the blog/blogger who nominated you
      · share five random facts about yourself
      · nominate five other bloggers who you believe deserve the award and have less than 500 followers
      · answer the questions and ask five of your own

I went through the list of bloggers I read on a regular bases, but all have more than 500 followers. So, sadly, I cannot fulfill all of the rules… Sorry!

Monday, November 24, 2014

leave

I find myself checking my phone a lot lately.

My email. My phone log, my text messages. Every few minutes. Just in case I missed it.

I have a hard time leaving those I love. I even tend to hang on and stay long past the expiration date. It’s funny, though, but I generally don’t see myself as a hopeful person. But hope is the only thing that keeps me from leaving.

Hope is holding me captive.

This seems like this should be a good thing, no?

Not if it’s false hope. Then my heart will just continue to break and I will waste my time, energy and most of, my love… on this “hope.”

Walking away is hard. Because when someone has crawled into your heart (and in my case, they normally fight like hell to get there) it's very near impossible to let them go. There are very few people in my life who I consider close friends, and even fewer I count as those who get me. I don't have the emotional energy to spend on frivolous small talk, because I seek deeper connections because that is what makes sense to me. I am picky with whom I invest my time, because I prefer to reserve my time for those who reflect sincerity and authenticity...

and who are not afraid of mine.

Do you have any idea how rare that is to come by? And it takes me a long time to trust others, so if you've made it this far with me it's for a very intentional reason. 

That's why it's so hard for me to leave. Because I don't want to. 

But sometimes I have to.

*this post was inspired by an old Five Minute Friday prompt word that I never got around to writing about.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

notice



Say something I’m giving up on you.

Because I am. I tried to hang on. Short of showing up on your doorstep in tears, I gave you more than enough opportunities to notice. To notice what I was going through. To notice how much I need you.

Anywhere I would’ve followed you

Actually, no. I didn’t just give you opportunities to notice. I straight up said, “I need you.” This wasn’t just some expectation I had for you to “notice.”

I’m still learning to love.

I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect. And neither of us has to be. It’s also a lovely reminder than we are both starting from the same place.

Say something I’m giving up on you.

It’s not my nature to give up. I’m a fighter. Always have been. When I know someone who wants to can be better and it matters, I fight to see them become better. I walk beside them, challenge them, love them through it.

But when they don’t notice either you or what you’re doing… Or notice you and what you are needed from them, it is time to stop the fight and walk away.

I’m sorry that I didn’t get to you.

Walking away, giving up, not getting to you… will you notice? Why do I hate myself for caring if you don’t?

I’m saying goodbye.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

still

 I’ve missed a lot of prompt words from FMF lately, which is too bad because I know how powerful those posts can be for me to write. But my life is just not in a place where I’m willing to be aware of enough that I remember to think,“Oh, it’s Friday. That’s means blogging.” Especially since I can’t seen to get FB to show the reminder post on my newsfeed. "Out of sight, out of mind" is how most things have been going for me lately, unless you’re a significant person in my life.

So I’m doing my own version. Not for 5 minutes. Because BAHAHAHAHA. But I still find so much value in the inspiration words. This last week’s prompt word was “Still.”



It’s 4:30am. AGAIN. I roll over and sigh, because HELLO, it’s 4:30 am and once again, I woke up and my mind is now officially racing and I’m composing an email in my head and thinking about that last phone conversation I had with friend X and wondering if I remembered to confirm my haircut appointment on Friday and asking myself, “Do I ever text X back to let them know when I could do lunch?” and remembering that there are now two bulbs burned out in the ceiling fan light in my living room and oh, that’s right, I need to go buy a new sprayer for my backyard hose at Home Depot.

Breathe.

AndthenireallywantthenewchestnutpralinelattefromstarbucksbecauseitremindsmeofbakingcookiesatchristmastimewithDaleandirememberthathenevertextedmebackandnowithinkheisprobablymadatmeandwhatdididothistimebecauseallididwasaskhimathoughtprovokingquestion

STOP. Breathe.

My favorite verse in the Old Testament is in the book of Exodus. Only a nerd like me would have that answer when everyone else says Jeremiah 29:11 or Ezekiel 36:26 or Isaiah 41:10. (Though mine very narrowly beats out Isaiah 53:5) But I love it. I hold it close to my heart.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I think what I like about the verse is that although it reminds me to be still, it also reminds me there IS a fight going on. Whether it’s a fight for my soul when it comes to sin, a fight for an idol that needs to be crushed in my life, a fight that involves the health of my father, a fight that requires taking a stand for truth…. There always seems to be a fight in life. Maybe not in a “I’ve got my dukes up” or an “I’m gonna take the hill with a pop gun” kind of fight, but a fight for my ever-constant divided heart. A fight that reminds me of why I get up in the morning and why I breathe in and out every day. A fight that reminds me why my mind won’t stop racing at 4:30 in the morning.

It’s a fight because I care.

Is being still in a fight of this kind just as simple as the cliché of stepping back and trusting him?

Or is it more?

Or is this stillness a resolve? A surety?

(That word always reminds me of that old William Gadsby song, made gorgeous by Sandra McCracken: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWAXkaWS8o0)

As I’ve been studying through the like of Moses this Fall, one of the greatest takeaways has been how we often focus on our circumstances rather than on God. But I struggle to reconcile this when our circumstances are a result of God working… and so I must focus on God when it comes to obeying him, not focusing on the fear of “what if?” within that obedience. That's what it means to not get hung up on our circumstance... and get hung up on him.

Most of the times, this doesn't feel like a stillness. Because we also learn from the many times Israel obeyed (or disobeyed, which happened an awful lot, too) the Lord, there was anything but stillness around them.

Maybe for me, a stillness comes in knowing that what I am doing, where I am going, and who I am is all a direct result of who God is and that while chaos abounds, my soul will rest in him. 

[Even that sentence makes me a little tired.]

Maybe it means being tired at the end of a long ministry day, but not exhausted. Maybe it means waking up at 4:30 several mornings in a row with a million things on my mind that will not shut up. But then again, maybe it doesn’t.

I don’t sound very still, do I?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

loss


Loss.

It’s a word that provokes a lot of emotion. The loss can progress over time, but can also decrease over time. What kind of crazy-ass supernatural kind of emotion does that?

Loss does.

Sometimes loss is inevitable. Sometimes we’ve seen the writing on the wall for a while; perhaps the roller-coaster of the experience hardly made the loss a surprise.

But you’re still riding on that roller coaster. This means there are ups and downs, terrifying moments of scream-filled terror and also let-go kind of joy-filled moments that set you free.

Loss does this. It’s CRAZY.

I’m facing a few losses right now. But there is a pretty big one in the midst of several tiny ones and I normally would be absolutely wrecked about this. But I am not.

(And it’s freaking me out. Hahaha. The humor is not lost on me.)

Part of me hopes my calm demeanor over this loss is simply God’s graciousness to me. Oh, please, let that be the case.

But another part of me is wondering if I’m simply numbed myself to the emotion because I saw the writing on the wall a long time ago.

I pray it’s the first. But I worry that my human nature means it’s the second.

I’ve written a bit here about family, http://neverbeenherebefore.blogspot.com/2013/10/being-tethered.html  and about how being so far away from mine has been difficult. More difficult than I ever thought it would be. It’s a different kind of difficult. It’s beyond a loneliness, but a palpable feeling of always being left out… of not belonging anywhere. I mean, when you end up spending too many Thanksgivings and Easters alone because your family lives 22 hours away and no one here thought to invite you over, that hurts. I’m not going to lie. It kills me inside each passing year.

So I’m in a situation right now where my friends are my family. And that is hard, because being the weirdo I am, friends just don’t come easy to me. They are hard work. Not just for me, but for them.  No one gets me. I’m a mess. I’m complicated. I’m a pain. So I’m grateful for those who stick around and love me when I’m unlovable. So when I lose a friend it’s like losing a member of my family. And for me, who loves her family with every inch of her soul, that? Devastating.

But this recent loss of friendship that’s left me calm has been devastating in a different way. Because I put myself out there, was honest about how I was feeling. I didn't ask for anything in return, though I certainly wanted one, because I value and love the person. But I didn't demand anything. I just shared my hurt.

Crickets.

Nada. Nothing from them.

Ouch.

BUT - maybe three or five or ten years ago this would have killed me. But today it doesn’t. It’s hard… but it hasn’t broken me. Maybe it’s because this friend never occupied that much space in my heart. *she says with hopeful vengeance in her heart*  Maybe it’s because God is being incredibly kind to me, because my heart can only take so much. Or maybe it’s that I am growing up and realizing that I did nothing wrong. And they did. And I can rest easy in that, where as other times I’ve gone over and over everything in my mind, combing over memories looking for things I screwed up. This time I’ve also given them the opportunity to hear how I felt with complete honesty. No games. No “what ifs” or “I could have been clearer” or “I should have” moments. There was no veil with me. This is a big damn deal. And you what? It didn’t kill me like I really thought it would.

Don’t misunderstand me. I miss my friend. I am grieving this loss. But there is no self-doubt here, and this is my breakthrough. I put myself out there, I was rejected, and it’s ok. I don’t want to go through this. I don’t want this loss. But I am also sure it’s not my fault I am going through this.

I've been completely honest and authentic with this friend and this time instead dwelling and looking at things from every angle of how I could have screwed up, I am realizing that I finally was true to myself, take it or leave it, and that my friend is the one who messed this up. Not me. There were no games played here. I was me, and this brokenness in our friendship is not a result of me playing a game or being unclear or having unrealistic expectations. For once, I’m not agonizing over whether it’s not my fault. Because it’s I know it’s not.

I’m sorry. But this is SERIOUS breakthrough material.

Whew. Why do I always feel like I need a glass of wine after I post something here?

Monday, October 06, 2014

new


I have been spending some time in the book of Exodus lately, learning about how the Israelites acted when they were living in slavery.

Discouragement is the one word that kept standing out to me this week.

Then I remembered a conversation I had with a friend about 4 years ago, when he had just moved to a new state, had a new job and started his life over. He was recalling our time together in the town we’ve both moved on from and he called it, “my time in the desert”

Maybe that’s my time here, right now. While I am actually in the desert, so the irony is not lost, I am wandering. I am lost. I am trying so hard to trust God when I just don’t feel him in this. Or maybe it’s that I feel so much of him and I don’t know which “feel” to listen to right now.

Wandering the desert makes me feel dry, dusty, gross and dirty.

When all I want is to be made new.

One of my favorite verses in running through my head right now (I need to write a song about it.) “He makes all things new” and I long for a time to be refreshed and not discouraged by it all. I long for a time when I can see God working in my life and it isn’t so damn hard.


I know that being made new doesn’t really happen – our wounds and scars remain long after they are healed. I’m ok with that. But being new is also about moving on and all I feel right now is stuck. Stuck in the dirt. Stuck in the mess. And right now, stuck with used tissues covering my desk as I think about discouragement.