Friday, April 20, 2018

Big News!

The other day a song came on when I was at work. It was one I had heard for the first time when I was in the depths of my sorrow. The song begins with the words "It feels like an ocean of sorrow is under my skin. Even the ocean eventually meets with the sand. Sorrow on sorrow I'm waiting, heavy I'm anticipating, trusting the current will carry me." 

It brought tears to my eyes because in an instant I was back there. As if watching a playback of the last ten months, I saw myself in the depth of my pain. My heart broke for the girl whose world had fallen apart, who would sob hopelessly into the phone, in the bathroom, in the car. I couldn't get out of bed for weeks, and it was months before I was able to go outside of the house for more than an hour. It felt like an ocean of sorrow was welling up within me and I was certain it would never end. When I read back on the journal I kept I want to hold tight the me who felt so hollow, so empty, so ready for darkness to envelop what little life she had left. 

During the hard times I clung to music to get me through, and to my friends who always answered my calls, always listened, and never pushed. They let me process. They held me up when I had no fight left in me. I feel like for a while I was just a wisp in the wind, so close to disappearing, so ungrounded. But my people held me down (goodness the thought gives me tears!). They refused to let me disappear, to be overcome, to give up. They cried with me and held me tight.

I truly believe that it is the beautiful people in my life, even those that just sent a message of encouragement, that kept me from disappearing from the world completely. And now, amazing things are happening in my life. 

You know, a man I once loved used to tell me that I would never get a job with my degree. My passion for working with underprivileged youth was unfortunately never going to amount to much of a career and accordingly, his suggestion was that I go into a different field. 

Well, as a woman who now has gumption and perseverance, I am pleased to announce that based on my experience and education, I have accepted a paying job as the Program Director for an after-school program for at-risk youth in Dallas, Texas. 

The journey to this position has been quick, unexpected, and to me, divinely influenced. After 10 months of healing from my sorrows, I feel that God has given me the go-ahead to return to that which He has called me. With the support of my family and friends, I head back into the work that God has prepared me for, the work that He has placed as the utmost passion in my soul. 

This is a big step for me in a lot of ways. I have been staying with family since leaving Arizona and I will now branch into this next chapter of my life on my own (with Gidget the dog in tow of course). After months of waiting and questioning, surrounded by moving boxes I never unpacked, I will begin my life again. 

I will unpack. I will settle down. 

I will be challenged, yes. I will have unsteady steps, rocky moments, and a gamete of emotions. It won't be easy, but it will be the end of the valley. It will be sunshine. It will be steady ground. 

It is a beautiful thing to be at this juncture. It is a beautiful thing to step into the next chapter. And I do not take for granted the fact that no matter what I am not alone. 

I told my mom the other day that when I was in the midst of my sorrow I felt that my body was built out of toothpicks instead of bones, like the bridges we had to build in physics class. With just the slightest touch I was certain I would collapse. I had been so unsteady, so fragile. She asked me what I felt my bones were built of now. 

Without hesitation I answered one word: 


Friday, April 13, 2018

Finding Freedom at the End of my Twenties

The other day I celebrated a birthday. Here I am, another year older, in the final year of my 20s. My friends and I have talked extensively about what it feels like to be almost thirty. The truth is we like it. 

We feel more confident in who we are, more settled in some ways, definitely more sophisticated and healthier. In our twenties we have had different jobs, gone back to school, had relationships that blossomed and relationships that failed, and we have grown into woman that we like and that we want to be friends with. 

Yet, as much as I feel like a confident and sophisticated 29-year-old woman, I have to admit that I still sometimes struggle with really owning who I am. Dating kind of makes you realize how confident (or not confident) you are in who you are. I have found myself often worried that I am “too Christian” or “too divorced” or “too tall.” I get nervous that I will be defined by something that in and of itself I am not ashamed of, but that perhaps other people would like me to be less of. I begin to hide these pieces of myself that define me, out of shame or fear of rejection. 

I will go on a date or talk to a new friend and automatically be preoccupied with the thought that they will find this blog and never speak to again. It's crazy, I know, but it is the story I tell myself. I believe that my honesty about my story via this blog is vital because it tells the hurting people in the world that they are not alone, that I have felt it too, and that there is a light ahead. It is something I do not because it is fun, but because I hope that my vulnerability will be a light of hope that so many are desperately and quietly grasping for. But when I go on a date, I secretly hope that my blog won't show up when they search for me on Google. Haha :) 

I worry, sometimes, that I will be judged harshly for my story. Often I feel like a part of my story, which has impacted me but perhaps given me more positive characteristics than negative, is a piece of the story that I always have to try and hide. When I am dating I leave it out. When I am in a professional setting I worry that it influences how capable people think I will be at my job.

And I hate that. I hate that this one thing that happened to me sticks a little voice in my ear that tells me lies about what other people think of me. The lies say that people will assume that I am broken or irreparably damaged, that they will think I have too much baggage.

But the truth is that all of the people that truly know my story don't think of me that way. 

They know that my story is not one of brokenness, but of the utmost resilience. The truth is that this part of my story is what makes me brave and strong. That experience is part of what makes me confident in who I am and compassionate to those in hard times. It gives me perspective on the pain of the world and the greatest hope and positivity, for I have seen the pit and I know that there is a future beyond it. That part of my story gives me depth, and I shouldn't have to hide it. 

would be lying if I did not say that I wish my divorce had never happened, but I think I would be remiss if I hide that part of my story in a corner with my head hung in shame. My experiences have made me a better, stronger, more solid and happy individual. And that is a beautiful thing.

As I walk through the first few days of my 29th year, I hope that I can learn to throw away shame and hold my head high as I talk about about my deep love for the Lord and His goodness in the best and worst times. Perhaps some boys won’t want to call me back afterwards, but that’s ok. This is a beautiful story of overcoming and I am proud of the woman that it has made me to be. 

You know, all of the good books have highs and lows, characters who are equal parts fierce and afraid. Complexity is what makes us human. Sharing our complexity is what connects us. And I would much rather be full of depth and complexity than a boring silly girl on a date. 

So here is to 29. May it be full of beauty and honesty, complexity and joy. 

And perhaps a boy that thinks my story is part of what makes me great. :) 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Return of Pure Happiness

This post can be summed up in three beautiful words that give me the greatest peace and joy to say:

I am happy. 

For so long it seemed like I would never again get to this point, that I would be dreary, sad, and angry forever. And yet, here I am, able to say that I have crossed the mountain that was before me. I am on the other side, and yes, as I predicted I am happier and stronger than I have ever been.

The circumstances of the past year of my life cannot be erased and I will always walk with that experience shaping who I have become, but now I find myself walking on a path looking back at the mountain I have climbed and descended. It is behind me. I am free. And I am moving forward.

The past few weeks have been filled with beauty. I spent a weekend by the river and the mountains of Chattanooga with some of the most amazing and fun women I have ever met (here is your shout out Mikella!). It was a weekend that made me feel sophisticated and proud of who we are as women in our late twenties. Everyone that spent the weekend together was so different and yet so strong in their own way. It was beautiful and a weekend I will always cherish.

And this past week I went on dates! I explored Atlanta, met new people, ate fantastic pizza, and put myself out there. Dating is so good for me because it builds my confidence and helps me to remember that I am worth something and that I am awesome. Many people hate having to date in their late 20s. I absolutely love it. I have met some really kind, fun, and interesting men and I am grateful for the experience. Plus getting to try new restaurants and breweries is always a plus!

Then, last night I celebrated the beautiful wedding of my friend Amanda to her true love Mark. Yes, I cried. But in a good way. I know true love when I see it, and I know how precious it is to find the one to whom your heart connects.

Mark and Amanda are wonderful together, and they throw a damn good party. It was a night full of joy and as I laughed and sang and danced I was reminded once again of what this past week has made clear:

I am so happy. I am so in love with where my life is right now. I am so grateful for the person the experience of this past year has made me. I am so excited to see where the future goes.

It feels good to be on the other side of that mountain. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Tragedy Far Greater Than Mine

We tend to think of tragedy as those awful moments by which we can chart our lives. Thankfully, for most of us, those moments are few and far between- a one to five occurrence at most. But for a lot of "my" kids who live on the White Mountain Apache reservation, tragedy is commonplace. It comes knocking so often that eventually they just leave the door open. It becomes an expectation rather than a fear. It is always around the corner.

Death, tragedy's best friend, strikes young and hard on the reservation I love. It isn't a thing reserved for grandparents or the occasional accident. It happens monthly. It affects people weekly.

Young people on the reservation die in numbers that are unacceptable. The youth suicide rate on the reservation I love is 13x higher than the national average. That is beyond heartbreaking. In my four years working there 3 girls in their teens were brutally murdered. One woman was killed just a few yards down from our youth center while we were hosting a movie night. It wasn't an accident. And those were just the murders I was somehow connected to.

Death and tragedy happen so often on the reservation and it breaks us down, those of us who love, or live in, that beautiful land. Just a few weeks ago a teenage girl died by suicide. This morning I received the devastating news that one of the first girls I knew on the rez died in a car accident. She was in her early twenties.

I have a picture taped to my desk at work of that first group of kids I worked with in the summer that changed my life. These were the kids who introduced me to their culture, their traditions, their heartbreak, and their joys. They were the kids I traveled to Missouri with for a conference, and the kids I spent the summer getting to know better. I looked down at it this afternoon, lost in thought and heartbreak, to see her smiling back at me. She was one of ours. And she is gone too soon.

I hate that death is a thing. I hate that it happens so often on the reservation that I love. Sometimes I feel that my heart will jump out of my skin when I think of the rez that adopted me. I miss it every day. I feel guilty being so far away when there are so many amazing young people that need a reminder of hope in this continuous onslaught of tragedy. I feel helpless not being able to hug my kids and tell them their worth.

I am returning in May to celebrate a bunch of "my" kids who are graduating high school. It will be one of the proudest moments of my life watching them walk across that stage. Those kids have survived and they have thrived. In the face of adversity and hardship, unexpected trials and heartbreak, they have refused to give up. They have pushed forward. They have become leaders. They are my pride and joy. If my whole life's purpose was just the years I spent working with them, then my life was worth it. They are the best kids I know.

Beyond that trip in May I don't know what my work with the reservation is going to look like.

But I do know one thing.

It isn't over yet. 

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Unexpected Normalcy of Living

There is this thing that happens when life changes suddenly. For a while everything is chaos. All you think about is where you have been and how you got here, and every present moment just seems to be a moment of transition. Your life past isn't here, but your life future is still to come. The mindset of transition colors every idea, thought, and emotion. 

There is this thing that happens when life changes suddenly. 

It turns out that it is hard to get used to peace when you have lived in chaos. 

I lived in chaos. The lives of the kids I cared for were chaotic. My significant other was chaotic. Our life together was chaotic. And when everything blew up, the chaos seemed to reverberate in my eardrums and my vision became jarred with flashbacks. Because I was still stuck in the chaos. 

Even in peace, I didn't know what it looked like to live without the constant barrage of everything constantly being one tiny step from completely falling apart.

But eventually, all of a sudden, as you are doing something normal like buying olive oil at the grocery store or getting dressed for work, you realize that you aren't actually in transition anymore after that sudden life changing event. You realize, almost as if you can see yourself from somewhere else, that what you are doing every day isn't waiting. 

Its living. 

The job you have, the place you live, the life you lead, it isn't "the meantime," its life.  Without even recognizing it, you somehow came into your new normal and stopped living in the transition. 

It feels a little weird when you realize it. Shouldn't there have been some big book that slammed closed? Shouldn't there have been a fork in the road and the physical movement of turning in a different direction? Shouldn't I have stood at the top of a mountain and raised a flag for the new era? 

I think for a long while I was consumed by timelines- timelines of how long it had been, or when I moved, or when I got a job- and I thought I was waiting for something. But instead it turns out that my life has been moving and I have been living my life as it is and will be.

As I consider this I realize something. 

I want to be joyful with the life I have. I want to live it fully. I want to be present and stop waiting for whatever I think this is supposed to lead me to. 

My life is in my hands. 
I am living it day in and day out. 

And honestly, it isn't half bad. 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Stuff that Sucks

Things can be hard, ya'll. I wish I could say that 7 months after my husband left and 1 exact month of being for real divorced, I am a fully functioning, emotionally stable being who is over it because God is still good and blah blah blah. But that wouldn't be true.

I will admit that I'm doing a decent job at being a functioning human being. A majority of people who have met me in the last few months have no clue that my life was stomped all over with a boot covered in dog poo. And certainly, I will be the first to tell you that God is still good.

But this sort of hurt, the stuff I have been through- it doesn't just go away. 

And that sucks. It sucks because there are no quick fixes or magic potions. There is no amount of will power that can keep me from going ice cold at the thought of running into him one day. There is currently not enough truth in my head to keep me from doubting myself.

In this unknown territory, on this road I never thought I would have to walk, I have tried to give insane amounts of extra grace and love and kindness. And the Lord Himself knows that I have failed in many ways. I was not a perfect wife and I will not claim to be. I am a broken human. I tried my best to give all I could with what I had.

Yet, the lies and doubts in my head still creep up to tell me that it was not enough. That if I just hadn't been depressed, that if I could have done this or that, I wouldn't be where I am now.

But those aren't truths. I was not left because of something I did. I took the blame for so long but this was not my fault.

Many times in the Psalms, David praises God and in the same breath asks Him to murder his enemies. I get that. It is really hard to watch someone who harmed you seem to prosper. It brings up all the ugly feelings you try not to have and then it makes you feel guilty for having the ugly feelings.

Thank goodness for the truths.

That God has grace for us no matter what comes out of our mouths.
That He holds us tight even when our anger exceeds our compassion.

This past week was a tough one. It was one of those weeks that makes you feel like you took ten steps backwards. But thankfully, as I try to be still with God in this season, I am reminded by the beautiful people who shower me with truth, that grief comes in waves. When it hits again it is not a step back. It is just another opportunity to dig in, to question, to grow, and to process.

I hate it sometimes. I hate the process, the waiting, the questioning. But I also am grateful. I am grateful that God doesn't mind me wrestling with Him to understand what life looks like now, what my relationship with Him means now.

And I am grateful, that when this battle continues to rage on, He fights for us.

I may not be "over it," but I am slowly learning what it means to grow from it.

And that, I suppose, does not suck.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The weirdest 24 hours in online dating

Ahh 2018. The sound of a new year. The sound of new opportunities. The sound of trying to figure out how dating has drastically changed since I was last looking for a potential person to date.

The world is not like it was in college, my friends.

They say that kind, single men in their thirties exist. But I don't believe them. So I decide to see what the fuss is all about. After all, there are plenty of online dating success stories. It worked in You've Got Mail. So why not try to find my own Tom Hanks in a chat room?

With the click of a few buttons (and a lot of google searches to figure out how it worked) I created a profile on a dating app.

I must say, it was weird.

First of all, its so judgey! You get six pictures and a few words to not sound awkward, not accidentally make any sexual innuendos, and convince someone that based on photos and the wit of your profile, they should give you a chance.

And the guys. The catalogue of guys. Oh man. Most of them lost their shirts somewhere and had to go without one. And they all own dogs and take pictures with their moms. And are actors. Or attorneys.

But despite it all you finally find one that looks like maybe he is just like you, a fun person who hates this but is giving it a chance.

So you press the button or swipe the correct direction or whatever. And you are connected.

This could be it. The person that gets you. The one that will eventually see you in the ugly pajamas.

All it takes is the first opening line. All it takes is an amazing conversation starter.

My mouth goes dry.

Its like I've never started a conversation with a male stranger I met online in my life.

Oh wait. I haven't. In fact I am pretty sure this is one of those rules your parents tell you from the time you are born.

I let that thought go and start typing.

I say the most ridiculous things. I try different angles. Different jokes. I remind them that its hard to text a stranger on the internet.

And no one responds.

I question the quality of my selfies. Should I have left the part about loving cheese out of my profile? Should I be better looking? How the heck do you start a conversation with a stranger???

Shout out to "Paul," whoever you are in the world. He responded and thought I was funny. Or at least funny enough to send me some "lols" and ask me some questions. I hope you find your mate, Paul. You seemed like a decent fellow.

I close the app. I've wasted so much time. There is no way I have the energy for this.

I pick up a good book and my pup and I decide it will have to go the old fashioned way.

Perhaps I'll hang out in the produce section of a Whole Foods instead. You never know what can happen when standing next to the tomatoes.

I fall asleep with my glasses still on.

I decide that best case scenario I live an awesome life. I decide that worst case scenario I live an awesome life.

I delete the app and watch 3 episodes of Gilmore Girls instead.

I mean, my dog thinks I'm a catch and really that's all that matters.