Saturday, May 26, 2018

new



“…cultivate self-compassion…I could never do that” she said with a wry and honest smile. Her response a glimpse of her heart.  She sighed in reflection, wondering how to even begin—without seeing this as another expectation.  Compassion, having grace, letting yourself be where you are to get where you want to be, the pause is purposeful. But how do you learn to be gentle withyourself, to preach grace where criticism abounds, to give yourself time to grow when it’s yesterday’s mistakes you can’t get over?

In a frustrated sigh she slammed her journal shut, “just another attribute” she surmised.

 As she looked out the window, leaves dancing with the morning breeze, her thoughts began to soften, maybe there really is another way. Maybe I am my harshest critic. Maybe, just maybe, there’s hope.
Maybe I start by being okay with where I am. Owning my self-depricating “haha” sentence enders. 

Maybe I start there. 
Maybe, I can start today.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

When Orpah leaves



  No, I didn’t misspell Oprah’s name.
 I’m talking about a character in the Bible. Orpah and Ruth were sister-in-laws who left their homes in Moab with their mother-in-law, Naomi, after all three were widowed and there was a famine. Desolate much? 
At one point Naomi tells her daughter-in-laws to go back home, go back to their families, and leave her.At that moment they both had a choice, and Orpah turned back while Ruth refused to leave Naomi. Up until that point, their paths had converged, who knows how many memories they shared in the decades married to their husbands, the time cooking, sharing holidays, countless memories of a life lived together. When Orpah left, she didn't just leave them in the present, it also changed their ideas of the future. It could be easy to give Orpah a bad wrap, but we all deal with loss and stress and life-change differently. some reach out, others retreat in. And one life change can effect so many others. 

While most of the story focuses on Ruth and Naomi and the loss of their husbands, tonight I was struck by the loss of Orpah—Ruth and Naomi lost her in choosing to moving forward. They lost another dear family member who had been a part of their lives for decades, and the loss stung in a new way because it involved choice and the loss of a living person. Break ups are devastating in their own way, because one or both decide to leave, choosing to sever a relationship. C.S. lewis rightly articulated that in grief we don’t just lose the person, we lose the way they impacted our lives in a million little ways. The silence can be deafening when the phone no longer lights up with messages, and the calendar is full of everything but time with that person.

Naomi and Ruth lost that closeness with Orpah when they each chose a different path. Over the last few years, I’ve had to learn to keep walking forward when friendships are walked away from, sometimes I've been Orpah, other times I've been Ruth and Naomi--surprised and saddened by another's choice to walk away. It is so bittersweet to say goodbye, but at the same time, when I'm grieving the death of what a friendship was, the blossoming of new friendships has encouraged me.

 It may be morbid to say that people will always leave you—but I think in accepting that there is actually more freedom to enjoy and savor the way people impact your life. This also frees you to let go of people, and to invite them into your story in a healthy way. It’s not a lack of commitment, its more about perspective. We all need a tribe---no one can go alone--Orpah returned to those she new from her past, and Ruth and Naomi walked forward together into a future with new community and family.
 When I remember that friendships can change in a blink of an eye, it helps me to appreciate them in the moment—embracing the blessing of the laughter and camaraderie today, knowing that my future and acceptance is secure even if this friendship doesn’t last. While I may lose an Orpah, God has always been faithful to provide the next Naomi—someone who will be pivotal for the next steps of my journey.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

On Purpose In Peace--1/3 of the way through

I can't believe April is almost over,  we're a third of the way through 2018. My words for this year were "on purpose, in peace" and instead of just doing an annual recap, I'm compelled to reflect more often on how these words are shaping this year. So far, there have been several themes.

On purpose with my time-- One thing i've become more intentional about is a regular rhythm of rest in my days- from sitting down and praying before I leave the house each day (some times for 5 minutes, but most of the time for 30 seconds) has been so grounding no matter what I face each day.  Scheduling out regular exercise and time with friends has also been an important part of my weeks.

On purpose with my habits--from what I eat and drink, to how I exercise -- especially taking time to be outdoors. Regular rhythms of writing and reading also help clear my mind and appreciate what's around me.

On purpose with my thoughts--this has been such a growth for me this year--taking time to reflect on how my past decisions or past experiences have shaped how I look at the world today has been tremendously healing... some books that have helped
"Unglued" and "Univited- lysa Terkeurst
Half the Church- by Carolyn Curtis James
"The Body Keeps the Score"- by Bessel Van der Kolk

On purpose with my friendships-- This year so far has been one of loss and gain. I have been intentional with my boundaries, able to be more honest, and have grown in my acceptance of having alone time--seeing it as a gift instead of a curse. IT has been so freeing to accept where relationships are at--and to appreciate each stage, instead of banking on unrealistic expectations.

Each of these have already facilitated approaching this year "In peace". I can walk in peace when there is balance and perspective and rhythms of my week
I can have peace when people walk away, and I can have peace in my own decisions to move on.
I can have peace to let someone new in--appreciating the relationship for what it is, instead of wishing it was something its not.
I can have peace to approach diet and exercise as a journey--really examining what and why (oh goodness that why is so important) I'm eating what I am or moving or resting.

I can have peace as I walk on purpose.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Glimpses of Providence



It’s the last few hours of my long weekend, and I can’t help but look back in gratitude and joy. This weekend was one of renewal- in so many ways. For me, travel is such a reset- there’s something about getting away that gets me back to myself. It recharges me to change my surroundings. We all have our “thing” that reminds us of what is important and helps us refocus or think about problems in a new way.
As I reflect, thinking about the conversations I had this weekend—I can’t help but be reminded of C.S. Lewis’ remarks in “the Four Loves”:
“In friendship...we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years' difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another...the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting--any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you," can truly say to every group of Christian friends, "Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another." The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.”

Over the last few days I was able to spend time with several people that embody this quote—friends from University, my time in Kenya, past churches—and I was overcome with the attention to detail.  If any one decision had been different, we may not have met. There’s no way to know just how many things in each of our lives had to come together for the relationships to happen—choices our parents made, arriving to our dorms at the same time and meeting in the elevator, being placed in the same dorm, conversations over studying, living close enough to be in the same church small group, been in Kenya at a different time—significance from daily decisions. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and encouraged to hope for the future—for these past few days were decades in the making. There’s no way I could have known how those first meetings would play out—how those people would be so encouraging years later after a rough week. That I would be inspired to write again, spurned on by encouraging words, and equipped with confidence from community that has been timid at best the last couple of years.

Sure, some people call all this coincidence, would rather overlook meaning and intentionality—but I cannot help but see the hand prints of God on this weekend. Yes, I would probably be saying this if I HAD gone to a different university, church, or traveled to a different country in Africa—those hypothetical people would have been just as important, sure. But those theoretical people are not the ones that impacted my life this weekend, and I don’t want to miss out on gratitude for what is in front of me because “another would have been just as (whatever adjective)”. I’d rather see meaning and intentionality in my life than brush the circumstances of my days off as coincidence. We all want to have companionship and meaning—and if anything this weekend reminded me that no one person can “be everything” to you—we all need our tribe—the people around us that draw out and help refine different parts of our lives. Tonight, I am thankful for the glimpses of providence this weekend—may they equip me to walk forward in courage and confidence.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Your right now matters- in peace, on purpose.



Two months into “on purpose, in peace”, my words for 2018.
What I’ve been reminded of multiple times, not always joyfully, is that my right now matters. A couple weeks ago I found an old journal from my college days somewhere around 2009, and it was so perspective-giving to look back almost a decade (THAT can’t be right) ago—reliving college woes and triumphs, remembering the initial pangs of hearing loss adjustment, and smiling that I still write out book quotes that inspire me and client remarks that were perfectly timed, in journals, today.
But what really stuck out, was the way I hoped and prayed for things like going to grad school, going to Kenya, dreaming of what life would be like after college, what the rest of my 20’s would hold. I poured out my heart—asking for direction and clarity—and so wanting to be on the right path. I had a lot of purpose, not a lot of peace (but what college student does?).
Today, I look back at HOW those dreams happened- Kenya in 2012, Graduate school in 2013/2014. In looking at the past I had renewed peace for today—right now used to be a dream-the things I have and have done felt like miles away in 2009. But that right now, back then, mattered. It taught me patience, and perseverance—the very attributes I needed for grad school and Kenya.
This right now, matters. Not only for tomorrow’s dreams, but also because it’s the result of so many yesterdays. Who you are today is not an accident—it is the compilation of daily choices and opportunities. I can live today on purpose and in peace when I remember that I don’t have to have the dreams realized to be successful or have the man beside me to be loved. My life matters because my Savior purposed it—he plants dreams and brings them at the best time. Look back to look ahead in peace and to live today on purpose.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The blessings of brokenness-- a life's example


You’re happy with the life you have, aren’t you? My dad remarked with a smile as I sank into familiar chair. His affirmation caught me off guard, as I looked up he continued “I can see it in your countenance, and the way you talk about your work and your friends. I know there’s things you still want in life, but I can see a new acceptance and joy”.

His acknowledgment of a reality I hadn’t yet spoken aloud, freed me to write these words with confidence. The things that I went through in 2016-leaving a spiritually abusive church system, moving on my own, starting at a new job—sure felt like the end of a lot of things for me. And in many ways, that was true. I did lose familiarity and years of friendships, I lost an erroneous confidence and complacency, and a legalistic view of God and the church. In being lost, I was found.

Just last night I was reminded of the impact one life of faith can have. I didn’t remember parts of her story, ones that occurred well before our lives intersected, but as her husband eulogized her life, I couldn’t help but smile through my tears that it was her brokenness that led to her most profound impact. What we sometimes think is the end of our journey—the loss of a relationship, our health, our old views—can actually be our greatest message and the avenue by which we reach the world. This woman’s life didn’t impact others because she was perfect, always said the right thing, or was in top physical health. Her life’s impact was in her perseverance and acceptance of what was before her—ever growing faith in the midst of worsening health. She gave us permission to accept brokenness as an opportunity to be put back together in the ways that matter.


I may not currently be facing the obstacles that Dollie did, but my own story is also made beautiful through, not in spite of my brokenness. At the onset of our trials-when a diagnosis or a unilateral decision rips you from familiarity- that seems damn near impossible.  Beauty?!from THIS? We certainly think our circumstances are the exception. But, like Winston Churchill bluntly admonished “if you’re going through hell, keep going”. In the middle of our journey’s it can be hard to see the beauty in our brokenness. When everything is shattered hope seems far off and near impossible. It is in retrospect we see the beauty. Dollie’s life is an example of that; for it is in perseverance we regain strength and hope. And as we take one feeble step after another, gaining ground and strength, we too, will be able to look back in contentment at the blessings of brokenness.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Ten Years Out- Reflections on Hearing Loss


Ten years ago today, after my mother gently dragged me to a local ENT doctor, my life changed when he told me I had bilateral degenerative hearing loss. I was terrified, in shock, unbelieving-not me, disabled? At 2o?!  who will love me now? How can I finish college? What will my life look like now?—ran through my mind as the kind, yet ignorant-of-my-situation nurse who took my blood test told me “not to cry, it’s just a shot”, if only she knew.
But now, a decade later, I can’t help but reflect on how many of those questions and fears have drifted away—I finished college and went back. Disability in one area doesn’t mean you don’t have strong abilities in others. We are each more than a single label or diagnosis.

If I could go back, I would tell my twenty-year-old-self—I know you can’t see past this now. It seems to mar your life, to irrevocably screw up your plans, your dreams.  It seems to shatter every truth you knew about who you are and what you’re capable of. Later that afternoon, as you sit on the beach, pen in hand, pages rippling in the forceful wind—you will make a pivotal choice—to turn to, not away from Jesus in this day of pain and fear. You chose not to get bitter, cynical, or self-pittying—and by His grace you live that out. Sure, you have moments of agony and deep fear—but your roots are strong—to him be the glory.

Ten years from now you will be thankful for this day—you won’t wish it away, dread waking up and putting your aids in, live in constant fear of losing the rest of your hearing or not having batteries for your aids. You won’t hide your aids under your hair—you’ll again experience the freedom of wearing your hair up—exposing those ears, knowing that the people who can’t see past them don’t deserve your energy anyway. Ten years out, you will be so grateful for loss—for you have gained so much-perspective, empathy, compassion for the hurting—that far outweighs any loss of your physical hearing. You’ll smile to think how this was made for you—chosen in love to strengthen, EQUIP—not hinder, the life you live. Your eyes will glimmer as your mind fills with pictures of how this loss is gain—from relating to many scared parents with a fresh Autism diagnosis, to the way your niece gently pulls back your hair and in awe and joy exclaims “you got my ears too!”


Ten years from now you will read scriptures like “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126) and your heart will smile with an understanding and joy—fulfilling this verse and knowing its truth. Ten years from now, the once overwhelmingly painful anniversary will have faded to one of bittersweet gratitude—for now you have those sheaves—the harvest of suffering that reminds you pain in this life is birth pains. Trembling 20-year-old-self—this diagnosis you think is ending your life—is actually the greatest beginning.