Friday, March 25, 2016

of sorrow and joy [good friday hurts]


There are many reasons Good Friday is a sad day for me.

It’s the day I lost my grandfather when I was 14 years old.

It’s the day my Savior died.

It’s the last day I spoke to one of my best friends.

So… not my favorite day.

The sorrow of the day is only compounded by my tradition of watching The Passion of the Christ. Why do I torture myself when the day is already sad? Because I believe that in order to fully experience the joy of Sunday I must enter into sorrow of Good Friday.

We need Good Friday, or Easter Sunday just becomes a day of eggs hunts and dressing up in our Sunday best. We need Good Friday because of our sin, not just our salvation. (We simply can’t have one without the other.) We need Good Friday because God’s wrath is fully expressed on this day, so his mercy means all the more in the days following.

We need Good Friday because we needed a Savior.

And God gave us one.

I wish this day didn’t have so many painful memories attached to it. They distract from the true meaning of God’s sacrifice for me. But I also realize these painful memories speak loudly the pain of this life. Death and loss are realities of this world, because of sin. And one man entered into that mess and came to redeem.

The tragedy of this day is no longer just about Jesus for me. It’s about the brokenness in the world around me, the people around me, the brokenness in me. It’s because of me he died. It’s because of me that I lost a friend. The weight of that is simply… massive.

I suppose that’s why this day I feel all the feels. I cry all the tears. I reflect on my sin. I think about His sacrifice. I mourn my loss. I miss my friend. I just…

hurt.

I guess I understand why they call it Good Friday. It is a good day. It doesn’t feel good this year.

But Sunday is coming. I will rejoice.

Monday, January 11, 2016

on moving, goodbyes, and community

I went through those double doors for the last time, and briefly paused as I heard the glass door rattle behind me as they latched. From what seemed out of nowhere, my heart filled with sadness and tears threatened to brim over as I realized the chapter I was closing in my life.

For the last two and half years, this place was my Monday night home. I would go there for over two hours and wrestle with God’s word. And I got to do it with women who were wrestling just like me. This had become a sweet community, and especially in the last year, the community I desperately  needed to get through some extremely tough times. And this community that was a large part of why I chose to stay in Arizona when faced with that choice last summer.

But now this is all coming to a close.

I don’t know why the Lord wanted me in Tucson for the last 6 months. I don’t know why, when faced with the choice of Tucson or Kansas, that I felt like God wanted me to stay. But now I can tell you, that whatever the reason, healing was done in this time. It was done through the wise and challenging counsel of a pastor leading blessed and tiny church on Overton Rd. It was done through phone conversations (and one face to face meeting) with a Memphis counselor who understood painful ministry transitions. And understood Tucson. It was done through mountain views and long commutes to work and friends who became my family when they took me in. 

It was also done through this community of Monday night women who knew me, loved me, and for some reason thought I was awesome.

Before I left the church tonight, one of the BSF leaders held me tight, in a full-on hug, and prayed for my transition and thanked the Lord she got to know me. How humbling. I don’t deserve that.

Whatever God’s specific plan was for these last six months, all I know is the result was me finally able to move on and say, “Arizona, I’m done with you. You’ve both blessed and hurt me these last five and half years. And while I’m thankful for so many things you gave me, I believe we’re finished. I’m not only ready but excited to move on.”

If you’ve been reading my blog for a few years, you may recall how, when I drove away from St. Louis to come here, I just didn’t feel done with that town yet. And maybe I’m not. But I’m done here. The Lord knew that I wasn’t ready to go last summer, and perhaps these six months were simply his grace to me. I do know that I learned so much about myself. I saw my failures and my pain in a totally different light. I was able to see I cannot control where amends are refused. I learned what more of my deal breakers are. I learned how grief alters you. I learned what real friendship looks like, and how in ministry, those friends don’t always stay (and this truth really hurts). I learned how easy it is to be a bad friend when you are self-absorbed. I learned that sometimes all it takes is one mistake and the refusal to forgive to ruin a beautiful thing (this also really hurts).

…and so much more. In six months. It was awful. But still I learned, and that is never a waste.

I am thankful for the last few years of BSF and the women I grew to love and somehow grew to love me back. I am thankful for this community. Thank you, Jesus, for knowing what I needed and providing. I am undeserving.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

no longer and not yet


The last six months have been about the space between the “no longer” and the “not yet” for me. Have I honored that space? Not hardly. I screwed a lot of things up. Perhaps I handled it as best as I could have expected to handle it, without ignoring what I was going through completely. I could have compartmentalized it, moved on without grieving and just pulled myself up by my boot straps and plowed forward.

But I didn’t.

I think I fell somewhere in between honoring it and ignoring it. I was very aware of the place, and I tried on some level to grieve. The hard part for me was that life still had to go on, and things still happened around me. And I was not in any kind of emotional place to deal with them well. I sought counseling from a few places and people. I tried to be aware of my emotions and my pain without trying to give them more attention then they needed. The last thing I wanted was to become a martyr. The counseling helped… but time ultimately was the most effective thing in helping me through the grief.

There were a lot of layers to my emotions and what I went through. And as life continued to happen around me, more layers were added. I didn’t deal with things as myself, because I simply wasn’t myself. I was a new version of myself, almost a hollow version of who I had become, beaten down by so many things that caused me pain.

One day in the car, I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by everything I had to deal with and I remember having this image of me sitting on a chair in the middle of a tornado.  I felt like everything was happening around me, and everything was happening to me. I was not in control of a single thing – things were just happening to me. It was all I could do to merely react to this tornado, rather than act with any kind of intentionality.

And that’s what it was like. For months, all I did was react. There was an overwhelming amount of change in my life – and only about two things in my life were stable. When your life is in an uproar like this, acting doesn’t feel possible. For me, reacting was all I was emotionally capable of. As things ended: a job, a home, a friendship… as those thing become the “no longer” in my life, I am still looking ahead to what is “not yet,” hoping it will be better than what no longer is. Because honestly, going through all of that was really awful. It was a lot of loss that I had to go through alone.

I am moving on to another season in my life. I am looking forward to this one, and may I be ever mindful of the space between where I just was and what is to come.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

the "INFJ Door Slam"












One thing that INFJs tend to do is read a lot about their personality type. Because we are rare, that also means we are difficult to figure out. So reading to try and understand ourselves simply goes with the territory.  Today I was reading about the “INFJ Door Slam”. Here is part of what I read:

There’s this thing called the “INFJ Door Slam.”  People talk about it.  Other personality types trash it, but few people try to explain it in simple terms.  It’s different for everyone, no doubt, but in simple terms…
The INFJ door slam is what happens when we are burned out by unresolved emotions, so we resolve the issue by deciding that the relationship is over.
INFJs are deeply emotional creatures.  We don’t feel as much as it looks like we do (that’s mirroring, which is a whole other topic), but when we feel…we feel deeply and fully.  That means that we burn out.  If we are emotionally toyed with, abused, or overloaded, and there is no end to the emotional assault in sight, we have to do something.  Unlike some other types, we cannot simply live with or ignore that emotional onslaught.  We crave resolution.  If we cannot get it - whether it is denied or the situation is just ignored - we resolve it ourselves.  Frequently, we resolve it by ending the emotional ties that overloaded us in the first place.  The INFJ door slam is not some abusive act of anger.  It is not an act of revenge.  It is an act of self-preservation, and once those emotional ties are severed, it is almost impossible to re-attach them.  If your INFJ is angry or crying, things can be repaired.  If they’re coolly friendly and ambivalent…you may have a door slam problem. 

I’m not one to burn bridges. I find that idea lacking grace – and I don’t see that in the gospel. So the attitude of this door slam, almost a “you are dead to me” mentality is part of my personality type I don’t particularly identify with. Most of this is because I find it difficult to connect with people, so when I do connect I don’t want to let that go easily. I have a small amount of friends I am close with, not a large amount of friends I share everything with. I invest in that small number of people, and to slam the door to them after investing all that emotional energy seems like a terrible thing to do, to them and to myself.

However, if you read between the lines of this short description, you will see that the door slam is about resolution. I really zeroed in on this today, because when there is something in my life that is open-ended, it feels like torture (for a first world basic white girl, anyway). There have been times in my life where there is no resolution and it actually feels like tiny bugs are crawling under my skin when I think about it: this lack of knowing – this lack of understanding. It’s emotionally painful for me when something isn’t resolved, and especially when I can do nothing to resolve it myself.

So in a way, forcing a resolution is like a door slam for me. I did this a few months ago, hoping for very different results than I got. It wasn’t intended to be a door slam – it was actually an act of reaching out, meant to reassure but also to elicit a reaction when nothing I’d done up to then had garnered one. This type of reaching out was extreme for me, but I was desperate. The tiny little bugs of an unresolved friendship were crawling and crawling and one night I just couldn’t take it anymore. The other person held all the control and I was frustrated that I was being held in limbo, when the last words said to me were, “I just need some time to figure this out.”

I was in a holding pattern for a long time, and I honored that request for time for months. And then my INFJ door slam came in the form of a forced resolution, which resulted in a lot of misunderstanding. But when a person refuses to communicate and I, the over-communicator, is communicating too much, I felt I had one last choice. So I resorted to it.

I regret it, because it hurt the other person, and they are refusing to allow me to make it right. But on the other hand, I was so relieved when it was all over. I finally had an answer I’d been waiting for months to get… and a 1,000 pound weight lifted from my shoulders. 

I still don’t believe in burning bridges. I believe in grace, and I am still learning what it looks like to extend it the same way Jesus does to me every day. But I’ve learned the unfairness of making someone live in limbo, and so in a way, the door slam is still about grace. For myself.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

i was wrong [portrait of an apology]

It’s hard to be remembered for something you did wrong. I’m sure a lot of people in the public eye feel this way… presidents, artists, CEOs. When you’ve filled your life with a lot of rights (and a lot of wrongs) it’s hard to think that you’ll always be remembered for the wrong… And not the rights.

_________
I was wrong. I am sorry. (I’ll be honest, I just can’t say the third part of this statement right now.)  I could say a lot of things to try to explain myself and defend myself, but what would the point of that be? It matters not what my intent was, what the misunderstanding was, what the miscommunication was. What matters is that I undid a heart. That’s never ok.

I will never get the chance to make this right. That bothered me at first, but it’s settled (if somewhat uneasily) in my mind now. Because that is a measure of control you wish to have over the situation. I completely understand that. I wish it didn’t mean you remembering me for the wrong I did. But I can’t do anything about that. I can only pray that the hurt I caused will fade in your heart someday.

I wish I could say that I never meant to hurt you. But I think maybe I did. I was hurt, and trying to be kind and gracious didn’t work for a very long time. So I tried another tactic. It got a response, just not the one I wanted. What was meant to reassure ended up in despair. I can never take that back.

There is a lot I’m still confused by. But none of that matters, because I am not confused about how I made you feel. I will never forgive myself for that.

They say that when a person goes through a trauma the way they behave is significantly altered. I wish I could just blame the trauma, but the fact remains is that my choices are still my choices. While I used to be an Elinor, I suddenly became a Marianne. What I did made you never want me in your life ever again. While that has not been hard to accept - it felt like it was a long time coming - it has been heartbreaking to know that reconciliation is the heart of the gospel, yet I will never be able to reconcile with you or redeem what I did.

 _________

It’s hard being remembered for what you did wrong. It’s also hard to live a life without grace. I pray for grace to penetrate our hearts…  For us to learn how to offer it to ourselves, more than anything. We have never been very good at that, have we? But grace stands at the heart of the gospel. So I pray for grace.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

waiting


Since moving to Arizona, the holidays have always had a tinge of sadness for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not “home”, because there isn’t snow to get me in the spirit, because 70 degree weather doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. (Because I love those freezing cold nights with hot chocolate, a fire going, me covered blankets galore with a great books.)  Or maybe the sadness is something else altogether.

I’m fond of the lament. I guess because it feels more real to me than… well, not lamenting. I know people who force a positive attitude on themselves and others, and while I appreciate the idea that if we act happy, perhaps we will become happy… I believe there is a time for sadness. For lament. (There is a whole book in the Bible about it, so I'm thinking I can't be the only one who feels this way.)

I’ve had a tough couple of years. For a variety of reasons. I’m no Job, but I’ve been through a lot in ’14 and ’15 and I’m about to go through a lot more in 2016. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve hurt others a lot. I’ve been hurt a lot. Anyone who’s brave and out there living has probably gone through similar things. I’ve taken some risks I’ve never would’ve taken before. I’ve tried really hard not to numb the bad feelings so that the good ones would feel all the more sweet. I’ve loved and lost. It’s been really hard.

So while the rest of the world is getting caught up in the joy of Christmas right now, spending time putting up their trees and baking cookies and belting out Christmas songs, I’m not. I’m holding out a little this year. I’m choosing to honor advent. Waiting. Anticipation. And with this, both hope and sadness are realities. The tension is created because we hope… but we are uncertain. We are thankful for Jesus, but we don’t know when he is returning to make it all right. 

We long to glimpse the beauty of what it will be like when he makes all things new. We live in the brokenness all around us… In us. We feel the weight of this “not yet”, this imperfection. It makes us long for and hope for something better.

And so… we wait.



I never thought I would like the chipmunks song more than I already do. but this version is how I think it was meant to be sung.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

the haunting of imperfection

Women spend most of our lives worrying that we are not good enough. It’s possible men do too, but I have no firsthand knowledge of this, so I am wiring from my own experience today. This disease of not being good enough has another name: perfectionism. This idea we get in our heads of what we are supposed to be can be debilitating, painful, and relentless. It also robs us of all our joy.

I have made a lot of mistakes in the last few months. I feel like it’s a lot more than I normally do, but the reality is that I have probably always made this many mistakes. It’s just that now one major thing in my life has shifted: I am in a season of complete and total raw emotion, so those mistakes are magnified by the woundedness of my own heart.

But here’s the thing: making the mistake isn’t really all that painful. It’s the haunting the mistake does to you afterwards that is torture. Because you can’t go back and change what you did or what you said. You can’t go back and take it all away. It’s out there, for the entire world to see, and your imperfection is broadcasting in Times Square, just to make sure no one missed it. 

[I may be exaggerating here, but that’s what I tend to do around here if you haven’t noticed.]

But the screw up really does feel like Times Square. It feels big and loud and noticeable. And relentless in its “Notice me! Notice me!” persona. And when your mistakes hurt others, it might as well be shown on a loop across the moon. Because it feels that big and important. And that just kills me inside.

Imperfection is like sandpaper to a wounded heart. Because when our hearts are wounded, part of the process (at least, my process) is continually asking ourselves what we could have done, what we should have done… and thinking about what you can’t believe you did. And all that pain rubs up against an already open and gaping wound, making the pain all the more vibrant. And because the haunting of the mistake is a constant revisit of what you did, the wound can’t heal. The reminder of what you did just keeps rubbing and rubbing against the wound.

I want to avoid this haunting. Because it hurts, and this haunting preventing the healing. And very little is in our control after we’ve made the mistake. We can repent, we can ask for forgiveness, but if the person we hurt won’t or doesn’t respond, we can’t do anything about that. And the haunting gets worse… because we can’t fix or repair it. And revisiting what we did is just an unhealthy manifestation of our desire to control. We can’t control anything else, so our minds and hearts just run it over and over in our mind… perhaps even hoping it will turn out differently.

What will it take for me to live in the reality of Jesus’ perfection for me and God’s grace offered to me? This isn’t God haunting me with all my past sins, if I’ve repented. (Becuase certainly the Holy Spirit is at work in that.) I am already cloaked in the righteousness of Christ. But I berate and berate myself because I screwed up and whoever I hurt won’t forgive me. I am unable to let go and rest in the knowledge that I have done all I can.


Satan loves the haunting. And God’s grace feels too easy, so I punish myself. I may not love the haunting, but I fear I believe that I deserve it. 

#deathtoperfectionism

Sunday, September 27, 2015

heartbreak and the example of Christ

My new place of employment has a unofficial tag line. "No drama... no avoidance." Things are dealt with honestly and directly, and any drama is not tolerated.

It's taken me awhile to adjust to this kind of environment. And I suspect it will take me a bit longer to find my footing in this. Hopefully not because I thrive on drama, but because I am just not used to things being dealt with directly and without avoidance.

I don't know anyone who likes confrontation. That would make me question if they understand what confrontation means, or perhaps would make me question their sanity. But there are some people who at least understand that while confrontation is hard and challenging, it's also an opportunity. And it's healthy, certainly more so than the alternative.

There's the phenomenon I learned about it one of my classes in seminary: triangulation. Triangulation is when a third party somehow gets involved in the brokenness between two people. It's such an easy trap to fall into, and I've sadly been party to it myself, as well as had a third person get involved in something (in my life) that had nothing to do with them, in their attempts to repair and deal with an issue. (Obviously, it didn’t end well. It rarely does.) This is just an unhealthy as avoidance, though the heart is usually in the right place. This makes it all the more deceiving.

For the last few weeks I’ve had this song in my head:


There is certainly a double meaning in this song when you listen to the lyrics. These in particular struck me tonight:

You're a lovely magician, and I've fallen under your spell
You discern every moment as one who knows how this will end
It's as if you see through me, as if I'm unknown to myself
Your eye finds the aquifer, the static reserve of my tears
So I need a well to my heart, I trust you to break the ground

When Jesus walked on this earth, he was not free from emotion or heartbreak. He was angry when it was right to be angry. He wept when it was appropriate to weep. His example of dealing with everyday life was done perfectly, and we are given that “template” by the example of his life for how we are to deal with everyday life. He didn’t avoid. He didn’t suppress strong emotion. He spoke when he needed to and was quiet when he needed to be. He confronted, and said and did hard things.

Oh how I fall short of this every single day.

[I need a well to my heart and I trust no one but Jesus to break the ground.]

I need this example of Jesus every single day, because the reality is that I am living in a broken world and I know it wasn’t meant to be this way. And so I lash out when shalom is broken and I rage against the injustice and the unfairness of it all. Then the tears come and I say and do stupid things. Jesus gave me his example, but I fail to heed it. I disregard his restraint and his passion, because I am stubborn and going through my own stuff and somehow I think that supersedes what is actually right, and do instead what I feel is right.

I am the reason his grace exists.


“When we have months of erratic emotions, we can go to him and know that he understands. He knows what the right emotions are and he can guide us and help us, and all the while justifies us... Gives us what we need as we stand before the Father forever, whether we are experiencing emotions appropriate or not. What a comfort that is.” – Derek Webb, audio commentary on “Your Heart Breaks in All the Right Places”


A light on the water, like sounds bouncing off every wall
You give me my heading and guide me through dangers unknown
You weep with the weeping and dance when the music incites
You do it for me and I wish now to do it for you
Like salt in the drops from your eyes, it restores and it preserves

I am so glad that God doesn't see the wreck of the person I am and sees Jesus instead. May I learn to see others this same way. Because when I hurt God over and over again, he still sees Jesus, but I seriously doubt my ability to see Jesus in those who’ve hurt me…who’ve avoided me… who’ve done the triangulation dance.

Jesus’ heart breaks in all the right places. I need this to happen to me, too.




Wednesday, September 09, 2015

crisis and transition




Yesterday, someone said this to me:

“The first time we sat down and had a long conversation, shortly after we met, I had a sense of who you were and what you’d been through. Then I called you three weeks later, and you were a completely different person. It was after you’d been with your friends in St. Louis and and were currently with your family in Nebraska. You were a different person because you were in a place where you felt supported and cared for, with people that made you feel loved."

This was new information for me, because I suppose I don’t see what I’ve been through as something that altered who I was, but something I just had to live through and come out on the other side of. All this transition stuff, moving, new job, leaving my old life completely behind… the life stuff, the tasks…  they had overshadowed how my soul has been altered.

I don’t say that last phrase lightly. But it’s true. My soul has been altered. 

There are wounds still fresh. Some scars will start to appear. Make no mistake, I have been emotionally altered forever by this most recent season of my life.

My reply to this person was, “I am looking forward to being myself again someday.” But I really don’t believe that will truly happen. Just like the white towel soaked in mud for hours can never been fully white and the same again (no matter how much bleach) what happened has changed the lens with which I view the world and myself and ministry from this point on.

Now, I could go on with the rest of this post and write about the importance of owning our stories and how they define who we are, but it’s what we do with our stories that make the true impact. And that would be true. Our past has defined who we are, but it does not determine our action or our future.

But it does alter them, because we have been altered. And I need to process this alteration. 

I spent July doing some intentional healing through different methods. I was glad for rest and probably could’ve used more, because even just today, I was reminded in the smallest of ways about what I came from and suddenly I’m right back there, and my heart starts to pound faster. And if I have to talk about it, the lump in the throat forms and I realize… I’m still working through it. Because it’s still so difficult to speak about it and not cry. So I’m not over it. And I’m angry I’m not over it. Since this is officially a trauma, I suppose it will be awhile before this anger will be gone.

These reminders that flash me back to things are the touchstones of how I’ve been altered. Of my scars. I am not willing to label these painful reminders as being part of my story, because I don’t believe they deserve that. Only the really important people and the really important things deserve that label. But these reminders are part of my crises. My trauma. 

When a person goes through a transition, the crises seem to be more present. More sharp. More raw. So you don’t act and react like yourself. And you can make some bad decisions, you hurt some people, and hurt yourself. These are things you would normally never do, because that isn’t who you are. Because things in your heart are skewed from what they normally are, and so you process information differently. Experience the world differently. Even talk and act differently (as proven by the above conversation I had.) I find this somewhat shocking and unfair. That the core of who you are can be shaken so much by something that it alters you forever.

But of course this is true, because it’s no doubt that all of you have experienced it. Maybe in small ways, maybe big ones. And I know I have before this season of my life. But for some reason this one hurts a little bit more, and I feel altered a little bit more. There are lots of reasons this could be - the nature of what I went through, the context, perhaps even how much the people meant to me that are part of the hurt. It could also be my age, my isolation from family geographically, or, as the conversation above implied, that I was in a place without love and support when it all happened. (To clarify, there was one family who supported me wholeheartedly during my darkest season from April to the present. They provided many things for me, in particular many physical needs, like a place to live and help with moving and packing. But my emotional needs were/are HUGE. I had support. But unfortunately I needed more, and a different kind.)

I’m only now seeing the true damage that was done to my heart because I didn’t have the support I needed. I went a very long time feeling unloved, abandoned, alone, and angry. This led to feeling of martyrdom, despair, and depression. That’s (excuse the crass language) a crap-load to overcome. But I’m working on it. I’m just messing up a lot in the midst of it all. I'm a different person now, doing and saying things that are unlike me. I don't know when some normalcy will return, but it's my prayer that even if it isn't soon that the body count I leave in my wake will be kept to a minimum.






Wednesday, September 02, 2015

trauma and grace



Trauma is an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster. Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives. Psychologists can help these individuals find constructive ways of managing their emotions.



It’s recently been acknowledged to me that what I’ve been through in the last few months is an actual trauma. I didn’t go through a terrible event, but rather a series of challenges that added up to a trauma, according to my counselor.

So basically, for me, this just means that I’ve been screwing up a lot lately. It has not been a good time for me to make decisions or deal with the stress of transition and job change and moving. Plus so much more. I mean, let's go down the list. Unpredictable emotions? Check. Flashbacks? Everyday. Strained relationships? Several. Physical symptoms? Quite a bit. Difficulty moving on? Hell yes.

I could use the excuse that this behavior is all about my response to my situation. And there may even be some truth in that. But I also make my choices. It’s important that I own what I have messed up. That I ask for forgiveness where I need and that I work toward reconciliation with those I’ve hurt. My response is all I have control over, and my response must be repairing what’s been broken.

To be honest, I’m just so tired of feeling sad. I’m tired of keeping record of wrongs (clearly my own sin), thinking about how many hours I spent with people listening and supporting them through their hard times and now when things got bad in my life and needed someone they weren’t there for me. This is part of my trauma. It’s no sprained ankle, my counselor said. This is a car crash will multiple broken bones. So to some extent, my choices are at the mercy of my trauma and how my emotions are handling this trauma.

I guess what I’ve found to be most thankful for in this whole process is the grace of Jesus Christ. When I don’t offer grace to myself and others don’t offer grace to me, I always know that Jesus is extending his.  To be honest, it’s all that is getting me through.