The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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It’s been a month since I published my last blog post.

A hot, smokey, crazy-busy month.

Still no excuse.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m just NOT a summer person. It’s not the heat. I revel in a trip to Mexico and love soaking up the rays on a beach.

I think it’s the lack of structure.

Yep. Fall, for me. is the most wonderful time of the year. Anyone else agree?

I never got the whole New Year’s resolutions thing – January? Nah. September seems to be the best time to make a change. I have a few changes I want to implement in the next (best!) season.

Be gentler with myself. Now, I don’t mean be weak or undisciplined. I mean, own up and recognize that beating myself up over things isn’t going to improve matters. Walk softly into the next season. Be at rest. Believe that the person God made me is enough.

Be healthy. I’ve spent over 30 years on a diet. I’m not kidding. And let me tell you, it’s not about discipline or protein or fat or eating grapefruit every day of your life. I’m tired. Really, really tired. And what I want isn’t to be “thin” – meaning the societal image of what I should be. Rather I want to be healthy. I want to go on long walks and breathtaking hikes. I want to swim until my legs and my arms can’t go another lap. I want to eat colourful food. I want to cook beautiful meals. I want to share those meals with people I love. I want to be messy and create things. I want to glow and be a walking example of God’s gorgeous creation.

Be love (and be loved). I’ve wanted love for most of my life. Romantic or platonic. I’ve wanted to be accepted for who I am. Yet, God reminds me from time to time that love needs to come from within. I need to love myself. Just as I am. Flaws and fat and crinkly little lines around my eyes. When I’m angry and depressed or shaking with anxiety. I am still fearfully and wonderfully made. And in turn, I desire to love. Love with abandon. Generously. Even recklessly. To be a beacon to those who believe love has passed them by or rejected them. Love completely. All.

Lofty goals? Perhaps, but I can embrace these deeper than concrete rules for success – not that there’s anything wrong with them – but for me, sensitive, silly me? I’ve learned to walk a bit more softly through this world. Knowing I’m sinful and often broken and alway, always learning.

So, onward to autumn. Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling me into His deepest grace.

 

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Quiet Sacredness

I can talk a lot. A lot, a lot. And often my talk veers towards the non-sensible. I can go off on tangents and loose focus and babble unceasingly.

I am saying nothing.

Yet, I am saying everything.

Where my words can be incessant chatter, my heart is crying out, “Please listen to me!” Listen to the cry of my heart to be heard. To be validated. That I am, despite all my failures, enough. My talk is communicating the deep cry within – my soul desperate to break free of shame.

My precious mom has said this to me for years: I am not portraying myself when I talk so much. When I strive and fight for acceptance. When I attempt to show my worth through words and intelligence and learnedness. I’m not the “me” she knows. Don’t get me wrong I can talk joyfully for hours about something that excites me, but when it’s about being seen as enough? It shows.

I am soon walking into my 48th year. And I am tired. Tired of trying to measure up. To be enough. Or to use the shame language of Dr. Brown, shadowed by the cultural expectation of a woman to be – Thin. Pretty. Un-opinionated. It’s not me. However, being  bullish and chatty isn’t me either.

Instead I’ve decided to embrace who God made me to be. Not thin, but curved and vibrant. Not pretty, per se, but sometimes plain, sometimes gorgeous. Rarely not opinionated, but always graceful. Listening. Thoughtful. Passionate.

And to embrace quiet. To grow comfortable with waiting for others to share. To be less anxious about sharing my opinions than hearing the ideas of others. To still myself. Live into thoughtful response. To be, finally, who God has created me to be.

The sacred mess transformed into a quiet sacredness.

I’d appreciate your prayers.
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The Bad Girl

 

 

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Do me a favour.

Take your thumb and place it right in the middle of your sternum. Below the heart. Above the diaphragm.

Are you doing it?

Okay.

Now press.

Hard.

I want you to imagine that spot. Right where you pressed your thumb to flesh. I want you to imagine a dark, oppressive pain. Not a mortal wound, but a chronic ache, a daily reminder of its existence.

This is my pain. Right in the middle of my chest. Most days? Hardly noticeable. Somedays? Impossible to ignore.

When I was a baby girl – just a toddler – I had a poisoning incident. Up until age two, I was a normal, happy, bubbly, little girl. But when I escaped from my bath and toddled out the back door and saw the can of BBQ fluid which looked so much like a can of soda – something changed. I went from robust health to critically ill in a moment. Because that fluid didn’t just enter my stomach. It’s trickled down into my lungs. A delicate system further compromised by toxic chemical.

After nights of touch and go, I was declared a miracle.  Sure, I needed some aggressive chest pounding therapy. Yet, healed. Physically. Except the lingering dark spots on my lungs. But healing.

However spiritually? I remained critical.

Although I recovered in body, my spirit took on lifelong damage. While healing my body, my tiny soul embarked on a new fight. A fight to belong. A fight to be accepted. That delicate time of childhood crushed by pain. A pain taken personally. You see, a child under five can’t reason the difference between physical pain or emotional pain. And somehow, little me translated excruciating physical pain into punishment. That I must have deserved the pain. I was a bad girl.

Physically I recuperated, but emotionally and spiritually I remained damaged. The damage to my lungs slowly healed, yet that dark, black spot remained imbedded in my chest.

The black spot has followed me throughout my life. When pain happens, an arrow hits me square in the ribs. And rejection. And disappointment. And failure. A reminder. An ache – heart broken, but I deserve it. I have been a bad girl.

My experience with the “bad girl” curse means shame and anger still linger. In any good, I still expect the bad to follow.  I’d like to tell you I’m all better now. But that would be a lie. The truth is some days it’s worse than ever. As time marches on and my circumstances don’t change and I make the same mistakes and I am alone and lonely and desperate and depressed – that damn spot is a reminder that I don’t warrant the good stuff. I’ve been a bad girl.

The question is: how do I rid myself of that spot? If it were as easy as a simple prayer, I would have been freed years ago. Maybe, like Paul, it’s my thorn in the flesh?

I don’t know.

I question: do I merit hope? It’s taken such a beating lately. It seems easier to tuck it away and accept that life is not abundant. Should I live without expectations? It’s impossible to not compare yourself to others and ask: “why not me?”  And when the answer is “no,” always “no,” – where do you go? What do you believe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosted

Have you ever been ghosted?

For those who aren’t familiar with the term “ghosted” is when someone you are in a friendship or relationship with abruptly stops contact with no explanation.

I’ve been ghosted. And it was the worst.

Ten years ago I made morning trips to the local dog park. My dog, a golden doodle was still a puppy and needed a lot of exercise. If you don’t frequent dog parks, you should know you meet a lot of different people there. In fact, I met “The Amazing Kate” there – still a good friend to this day.

One day I met “Matt” – not his real name for obvious reasons. Matt was a sports reporter from out east. He had a rambunctious dog, who loved my pup, so we often met up at the park and walk laps. I admit, I did entertain the idea of romance with Matt – he was super funny, quirky handsome, tall and well-employed. However, his spiritual life was not what I was looking for in a potential boyfriend and I was happy to remain his friend.  I introduced him to some of my friends, continued our chats about life and basically grew into buddies.

Then one day I get a phone call. It was Matt. Could I meet him at the corner of such-and-such and pick up the dog and take her to the dog park with me. You see, Matt had gotten into a car accident and the dog was in the car with him. She was stressed and needed a good run. Of course, I could. I picked her up, gave Matt a supportive hug and went off to the park.

After a good run, I took the dog back to his place, along with a cup of comfort coffee. He was stressed too. When I got to the house Matt wasn’t alone. The ex-girlfriend was there. The ex-girlfriend which he shared ownership of the dog with. A quick exchange and thanks for the coffee and a door shut in my face.

Okay then.

The next day I went to the dog park as usual. Matt was there, along with the other regular dog park folks. I went up to ask how he was doing and he didn’t reply. I asked again – maybe he didn’t hear me? This time he turned around and walked away.

Huh.

Obviously something was up, so I gave him space. Later on I texted him. I received a reply, “Leave me alone.”

Um, what?

From then on Matt did his best to avoid me at the park. And although we weren’t dating, I was a bit heartbroken. I had made a friend and for some reason unbeknownst to me, I lost one.

Ghosted.

At this point, I didn’t want to continue a friendship with Matt, but I felt I deserved an explanation. I knew one wasn’t coming. I suspected, at the time, it had something to do with the ex, but who knows?

And wow, did this hurt. I would say it hurt worse than several of my romantic breakups. Why? Because of cowardice. I had thought well of a person and they disappointed me. They took the easy way out and left me high and dry.

Oh don’t worry. I got over it.

Yet, still, it challenges me to be brave. I would never want to hurt someone in this way. Be direct. Be honest. Chances are saying “no” – to relationship, a job, an opportunity – is going  to hurt anyway. But at least show them why.

But what if you are on the other side? If you are being ghosted?

Place that relationship in a jar and put the jar up high up on a shelf. Let it gain some dust. Let it rest. Maybe, one day, it will be taken down from the shelf, dusted off and opened up. But for the time being, put it away.

Then straighten up. Hold your chin high. Walk on.

You, my love, are beautiful and worthy. It’s not about deserving. It’s about self-respect.

Walk on.

 

 

The Confession: Part Two

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The Wall.

Let me be honest about what this “wall” really is: a shame-based separation of myself from any type of suffering. A deep-set belief of unworthiness.

As a young girl, I recall experiencing several painful and uncomfortable health issues. My mother remembers me asking her why God didn’t answer my prayers and take away the pain. In my wee little girl brain, I began to believe God wouldn’t answer my prayers because I was a “bad girl.” Even at two years old I believed I was less than others. If I were just “good” enough God would remove my suffering.

As I grew the unworthiness embedded itself into my soul. Every disappointment re-instilled the belief that I was flawed and undeserving of love or relationship or blessing…

I won’t say my early physical trauma created a separation between God and myself, however I’m sure it contributed to it. I became distrustful of God and His relentless pursuit of me. I became content to stay on the sidelines of spiritual life. Safe, but never experiencing true joy. I made attempts to break free, but one small setback would send me scurrying back to my safe spot in the corner.

Almost five years ago, things began to change. I was immensely disappointed with how my life was playing out and I was ready to move on from seeking relationship with God. I was giving Him one last chance. I challenged God: show up now, or this relationship is going to stay where it is until I die. (I completely OWN that challenging God is not the wisest of ideas. But I was desperate.)

I laid down the challenge and He took me up on it in an unexpected, gentle way. He invited me to see Him in a different light.

Not in the storm, or the fire or the earthquake.

But in the whisper of a breeze He passed by.

In a few short months, I went from little involvement in church to attending a discipleship group and seeking God fully. In that time, I experienced, not one, but two job layoffs. In times past this development would have crushed me. Yet this time it didn’t. This time, regardless of the layoffs and financial insecurity, I had a new experience: Trust.

For the first time in my life (yes, I really mean that!) I understood what it meant to trust in God. To let Him take over and let go of the burdens. More importantly, I began to believe in who He created me to be. Not the “bad girl” filled with shame, rather a unique individual with immense potential to be pursued and used by God.

By trusting in Him, I let Him woo me. I allowed Him to take over control of my life. Willingly.

There’s far more to this story than I will share now, but know I have been living in trust for five years and what a joy it has been. When awkward times arrive, I am still tempted to rush ahead and fix things, but I am learning to slow it down and allow God to do His work.

Does that “wall” still exist? Sure. It probably will until the end of my life here on earth. I still have fears: justified or not. But now I have God standing in front of me. His grace and love is an impenetrable fortress and it will choose it over the other every time.

Not The Same

We’ve all had our share of stresses: good and bad.  I’m grateful when they spread themselves out and give us room to breathe, however, life doesn’t always behave so kindly.

For me, this past week alone consisted of: parental health concerns, a 911 call, a career opportunity much hoped for falling through, family visits x2, a reconnection with an old friend, two job interviews and two coffee dates – one cancelled. Not to mention work, setting up a new software system for a client, whilst applying for new positions and networking for potential new business.

I give myself such a hard time because I’m not handling all this more gracefully. I suffer under the impression that others would cope and thrive with this much going on. I shame myself into thinking I can do better.

But can I? Or rather, should I?

The past four years have been about owning who I am and living it out, yet I am amazed at the self-criticism and shame I hold on to. There remains something intrinsically flawed in my beliefs:

Action/Doing = Useful/Value

Rest/Being = Useless/Insignificance

 

Yet God is reminding me of another way:

BE

WITH

ENOUGH

“Be. Stop trying to earn your value in commitments, duties and accomplishments.”

“With. You can’t do it alone. You’re not meant to do it alone. I created you for relationship.”

“Enough. All that you are is all I made you to be. In this moment, you are enough. There are no conditions on my love for you.”

 

We are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” – but not the same. Never the same. Our uniqueness means we all experience and react differently when faced with adversity. Some take physical action; they work it out. Others have solutions and ideas. Some comfort. Some observe. The point I’m beginning to accept is that none of these are wrong – it’s how we were created.

Diverse.

Beautiful.

Enough.

Thoughts?

(Yes, Bev! There is a comment section on the top!)

 

As Good As It Gets

Remember the 1997 movie, “As Good As It Gets”? Jack Nicholson plays famous writer, Melvin Udall, who suffers with debilitating OCD – and makes those around him suffer right along with him. In one scene, Melvin marches into his psychiatrist’s office demanding to see the doctor. Of course, his demand is denied by the front desk nurse. In his frustration, Melvin turns to the waiting room full of depressed patients and says:

“What if this is as good as it gets?”

What if this is as good as it gets, I wonder.

Now, the “good Christian girl” inside immediately replies, “Of course it isn’t! We are children of God! The best is yet to come!”

Hmm.

Lately, that “good Christian girl” has been on vacation. Instead of responding with positivity and joy, my response is tired and my heart a little bit broken.

I’ve been facing an inordinate amount of disappointment lately. Disappointment is a part of life, but this year it seems to be one thing after another. Plainly speaking, I’m struggling.

And I’m wondering, what if this IS as good as it gets. I mean, we are, after all, living in a fallen world. Our hopes and expectations are bound to be out of our reach, right?

Nothing is utterly tragic – rather little pokes of sadness and disillusionment. Tiny things. Career uncertainty. Struggling with singleness and loneliness. Mild depression.

The nagging thought that this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

And there is truth in that – this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.

How it’s supposed to be is not about me, rather all about Him.

Earlier this summer, during my regular prayer time, I felt God challenging me to lay down my prayers for myself and instead grow my intercession for others. Specifically, wait on God to lead me to pray for three people daily. This is not to say God wasn’t interested in my needs/desires. He knows my heart. He was instead, showing me how to become more selfless and concerned with the lives of others.

I’d like to say this experience has been a rousing success and I’ve been so changed by the practice.

But I can’t.

I’m not.

Yet.

If I’ve learned anything in my spiritual life in the past few years’ it’s God’s demand on my obedience.

I came across this golden truth today:

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And I do. Love Him. And right now the only hope I can access is found in this belief. That I can’t come close to imagining His plan.

So for right now, that’s going to have to be enough.

(Please feel free to comment or if you’re local you can always ply me with coffee and comment face to face. 😉 )