Wednesday, October 4, 2017

When Stuff Gets Worse. . .

You know that saying about rock bottom? Yea. That doesn't apply to my life.

"The only place you can go is up!"

That silver lining seriously is not cutting it for me at this point. More like, "Surprise! You thought it was rock bottom but shit just gets worse!" Again, and again, and again.

It has officially been five months of really hard stuff. Its been a rough four years but man, these five months have taken the cake. I have been betrayed so many times and it seems that right when I get my footing again I get kicked back down into the dirt.

I do not say it lightly when I tell you that the devil has been out to kill me. I don't know what you believe about good and evil but I believe that we are in a battle- a serious spiritual battle, not a figurative one. I think that the forces of good and evil are battling it out for the world, and though I believe that God (the ultimate good) will win in the end (and has already claimed that victory through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ), the middle is a whole lot of war.

One of the tough things about my "situation" is trying to figure out God's role in it all. I have seen His goodness in mighty ways throughout the last five months, but a big part of me has questioned why God did not stop this in the first place. I prayed and prayed over my future husband for years, so why did God not warn me to steer clear of the one who would ultimately try to destroy me?

I have wrestled over this uncertainty for a while. I know God is a good God, that He loves me perfectly . .  . so how do I reconcile the serious amount of pain and disappointment I have experienced?

Well yesterday it clicked.

When I was in Arizona, satan did his best to defeat me. he did all he could to destroy me and I now believe that his ultimate weapon was to use the thing I longed for most. I put my trust and faith in someone that was incapable of returning the same, and in the long run, it would have destroyed me.

So where was God? 

I will tell you where: God was there fighting for me in my darkest moments. God was there giving me glimpses of good in the midst of the bad. God was there to pull me out of a really terrible situation and bring me to the other side of the country, away from the battle and away from someone who was not loving me well or at all. 

Did He bring me out to a prosperous and easy situation? Not yet, but that doesn't mean He isn't working things together for a beautiful future. Trust me, I am not all roses and patience. I have been so frustrated, angry, and sad. But I know that ultimately God provides. . . just in time and just enough.

Yea, things could be easier right now. Things could also be a whole lot worse. I believe that God rescued me. I believe that God is working miracles together for my future, but that will take time. I also know that a lot of times I have trouble believing all of this, but thank goodness I have friends who remind me of the truth.

Grief is messy, my friends. It is trudging through the mud, growing weary, and putting one foot in front of the other. Grief is a process of learning the tools- how to breathe, how to live again, how to expel lies with truth- and therefore being able to stand a little bit stronger as the waves continue to hit. 

I am weary, yes.
I am sad.
But I am strong.
And I am worthy of the fight.
Because you know what?

I get hit again and again and again but I am still standing. I have not been defeated. I still praise my God and His goodness from the depths of the darkness.

I am a fighter.

And that shows that our God is our protector. He pulls me through the mud. He sends people to lift me up when I fall down. He has been caring for me the whole time and one day,

one day. . .

all will be well again. 

Friday, September 22, 2017

I Am Worthy

Quite a while back my community group in Arizona was sharing our stories of faith. I opened up and shared, through teary eyes, about the voice I had been hearing in my head that was telling me it would be better off if I died. I’ve written a little bit about that before and how scary it was to hear such a convincing voice. 

The next day our community group leader, Brian, came by the office where I was working. 
“I’ve been thinking about what you shared with us last night,” he said. “Now, I am not a prophet or anything, but I just feel like God wants me to tell you that that voice you heard was not for you.” 

At the time, I was skeptical. The voice had been convincing and I knew I was struggling through depression, but I continued to listen. 

“I think you heard that voice so that you will understand,” he continued. “I think God wants you to understand what your kids [on the reservation] go through, what people who are in that kind of pain hear and feel. But I feel so strongly that that voice was not for you.” 

At the time I didn’t really think he was right. I was pretty sure that the devil was trying to kill me, but I held onto Brian’s word and I did not forget it. 

This week I was talking to my lovely therapist and telling her about Brian’s word for me. I explained that now, months later, I am realizing that his word was true. I feel so strongly that a lot of my struggles have been so that I understand, and I rejoice in that. You cannot understand people who die by suicide, or consider it, if you have not heard that horrible and convincing voice that tells you everyone would be better off if you ended things. You can’t understand that kind of pain and desperation unless you have been there, and I have been there. Its weird to say I am grateful for my darkest moments, but I am. I am glad to understand. 

As I relayed that story, my lovely therapist (hereon out L.T.) nodded and listened. She listens in a true and sincere way and in a way that seems to strengthen me as I speak. As I rambled on eventually we got to talking about the task she had given me the week before. I had been told to wake up every morning and list off three reasons why I am worthy. I was amazed when I went to do this exercise because for every reason I had, I could debate it to you as not true. This truly surprised me. 

I used to be a seriously confident person. I have always been an advocate for people thinking well of themselves, not in a prideful way but in a way that makes them happy to be who they are. I think that we should all wake up in the mornings and list three reasons why we are worthy and then be proud of that. We should be able to say we are beautiful, kind, lovely, people. I’ve always thought so. 

But suddenly, I could not come up with more than two reasons why I was worthy.Well, I am kind” I would think. “Yea, but you weren’t always kind and being too kind means you get taken advantage of so that’s probably not a good quality” my mind would rebuttal. “Well, I am funny kind of,” I would continue. “Yea, but you aren’t really that funny. No one else thinks you are funny” my mind would counter. And on and on and on it goes. 

I told my L.T. this and she looked at me and said, “That voice is not for you.” 

I gave her a puzzled look. 

She continued. 

“That voice that tells you why you aren’t worthy? That is not the voice of truth. That voice is not for you. The voice of truth tells you you are worthy, and you don’t need to listen to the other one.” 

I quietly began to soak those words in. 

“You were worthy of the work you did to get your education. You are worthy now of the work you are doing here with me as we pursue healing from what has happened. You were worthy of the work you did on the reservation, and one day you will be worthy of the work you do to help others again." 

She concluded with a kicker: "You are stronger than you think you are.” 

I let that sink in. 

I am worthy.

I am strong. 

Yes, terrible things have happened in my life recently. Someone I trusted with my whole self betrayed me and left me. Someone I trusted with my profession promised me a job and then let me go without just cause. My circumstances have not been great. 

But the voice that tells me that this is my fault? That tells me I am not worth anything because of it? That is a lie. And that voice is not for me. 

It will be a process to regain the confidence that has been stripped from me. Healing is a process and I have to be ok with the baby steps. But let me leave you with something else the L.T. told me:

I am not destroyed because I am still standing. 

I am not a half a person. I am whole, just wounded. 

And I and you my dear friends and readers. . . 
we 
are
worthy. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Glimpse of a Moment

My heart song is poetry I think. Its lame, I know. But when I am truly deep within an emotion, I pick up my phone or my pen to express it and it always comes out in poetry. So I roll with it.

Grief and loss, betrayal- it all requires a lot of different emotions as we process. Things felt in one moment may be the opposite of things felt in the next. It is all important and always valid. So here is a little poetry from the other night when I could not sleep and I could not see the beauty in the pain. Here is a glimpse into what my heart sometimes feels when I breathe in the solitude and I hate every part of this stupid rebuilding (my life, my trust, my self) process.

**If poetry makes you cringe and think of high school english class, don't be intimidated or skip over this one. Poetry is just a paragraph with weird spacing and capital letters. I believe in you.**

Shattered
Shaky
Bordering on the line between
I'm ok
and I can't do this today.
My skin is but a thin layer
just barely protecting the inner
brokenness.
I am not on solid ground
I play pretend
that I am strong and worthy
fine and getting better
But the truth is
my pieces are not put back
together
yet.

There is a mighty work happening
within me
but it takes time.
Like a masterpiece in marble,
it takes time.
I am fragile with my inner
scaffolding made seemingly of
toothpicks and tape
threatening
to collapse with
the slightest shake.
Be patient with me
my eyes whisper
I am a masterpiece
but I am a work
in
progress.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

I Will Overcome

My soul needs the mountains to breathe.

The mountains are where I can think clearly, where I can put one foot in front of the other and grow stronger emotionally, mentally, and physically. They are where God speaks to me and where I find the space to hear Him, where I can sit by a rushing stream with my brother and we can listen to our surroundings and be at peace.

So this past weekend I went backpacking with my brother in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a fact that a weekend in the fresh air, by mountain streams and without access to phone service, is more healing to me in this season than most anything.





I will admit that I went into the weekend angry. I was/am so angry at my husband for what he has done to me, for the ways he has betrayed me. I started hiking and I couldn't shake the bad thoughts. My therapist says it would be less normal if I wasn't angry, so I gave myself permission to be mad.

But as I continued up the mountain I reminded myself of another thing that my new therapist told me- that for six months I have to focus on only taking care of myself. With this in mind I began to remind myself of why I am worthy, of the beauty that surrounded me, and that this trip, this hike, was for me. Only for me. I wasn't proving myself to anybody except myself.

You see, so many times I have heard "you can't."

"You can't lift that." 
"You can't climb that." 
"You can't go that far with that much weight on your back." 

The lie that pierces my thoughts is this: you. are. weak. 

So I said "to hell with that!" this weekend and I carried a heavy pack filled with everything I needed for two days in the backcountry for 12.6 miles, including a steep incline with 3,000 feet elevation gain. It was steep, it was long, and starting on mile 3 I was blessed with some gnarly blisters on my heels, but I did it. I didn't complain, I didn't quit, I didn't get discouraged. I put one foot in front of the other, feeling my strength pulsating through my veins- the strength that God gave me and that no person can take from me.


As my brother and I summited an awesome piece of the Appalachian Trail called Charlie's Bunion I crawled over the steep rocks to sit and admire the beauty of God's creation and to breathe in the accomplishment. I had proved myself worthy. I had not only survived the backcountry, I had thrived. I may have been slower than most, but I had accomplished something and proved that I was capable of difficult things. 

Mountains have been essential to my life these past four years because they are a needed metaphor for my hardships. They prove that when things get hard I can press forward, summit the mountain, and make it back down to flat ground. When everything seems to be a mess I hike mountains to prove to myself that I can overcome.


This season of my life has been the hardest of anything I have ever gone through but this mountain of pain I will summit and I will one day walk back down to flat ground- battered and bruised, but stronger in every way. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Optimistic Shadow

Have you ever had those days where you just don't feel ok?

Sometimes weeks pass. Weeks pass and nothing seems to get better.

But the last shred of optimism clings to you like a shadow. Eventually there must be a corner. There must be a step that leads to a new horizon. Surely peace is just a few steps away from the pain. This idea gives you the kind of hope that makes you feel like you can breathe again. Surely a new horizon will cause the bad feelings to peel away as a snake sheds its skin and make you new.

Surely, the optimistic shadow whispers with a push, you must keep walking to the corner. 

So you walk. And you walk. And you walk.
But that corner never seems to come.

There are other corners turned but they all seem to lead back to the same place and the shadow of despair looms large. People join your walk for a little while, but they don't understand what moves your feet, they don't know for what you search. Eventually they go off on walks of their own and you understand that. Why would people walk with someone whose feet are moving without a spoken purpose?

Eventually the walk gets weary. Feet tire, shoulders slump, the sky begins to darken, but you keep moving forward. Optimism is now just a quiet whisper, a remnant of a memory, but you cling to it because it is what you have left. It is the last flickering light in a world of shadows. For without this light, what is there but an overwhelming darkness?

Suddenly you realize that your light is shining brighter, though you cannot figure out why. You have not changed nor grown more hopeful, but the light is piercing. It is illuminating your tired feet. The corner still does not come but you look up to realize that there is Hope, standing next to you. He gives no answers and He does not provide a map, but the look on His face tells you that the journey will be worth it. He speaks not, but a peace begins to flow over your desert soul.

Who knows when the horizon will show up, but with this Hope your feet have gained strength, and though your heart is still sad, you move forward with your eyes focused on His.

And that is enough to keep you on your feet. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Having Nothing to Do is a Very Hard Thing to Do

I'm tired.

I am tired of this season, of feeling down, of waiting for something good to happen or for the next chapter to begin. I am tired of wondering and questioning, of not sleeping enough and sleeping too much. I am tired of not knowing what I am supposed to be doing and I am tired, mainly, of being still.

When I was in Arizona I had it all- a house, a husband, 2 dogs, a job, teenagers to care for, and mountains to hike. I had purpose. I had people to take care of, to feed, to clothe. In fact, for the last four years in Arizona my whole life has been about pouring into others. I was caring for teenagers, friends, my husband, and yes, even my dogs.

And then all of a sudden, I have none of that. Not even one little ounce of it. All gone. All stripped violently from my arms in a story that is too long to tell you right now and too fresh for even me to fully understand. I went from having everything to having nothing. I had a life and now I have a blank space before me that I am not sure how to fill.

And man, that can really get to me. I can get so frustrated because it has been months and nothing has been restored. Nothing has gotten "better" or been "fixed" and I am so tired of having nothing to do. I am so tired of not having my own home or job or purpose.

But then I sit at a pizza restaurant with a new friend and I hear myself saying these words before I even realize what I have said. . . I think I needed this. Wash my mouth out with soap I cannot believe I am going to even write it down. I think I needed this. 

I go and go and go. I take care of people and I pour myself out and I love that. There is nothing wrong with that. But I think that God is working something in me and for me and to do that He needs me to just. . . stop. To have literally nothing to do but be.

Its like when someone is sick and they need rest to heal. My soul needs rest to heal and as much as I hate it I feel God saying, I am working on something big. You simply must wait. 

I know that this season has its treasures. I know that many people never will have the flexibility to travel and see friends, to meet for coffee in the middle of the day, or to say the words, "call whenever, I am always free!" I don't take that for granted. I thank God for this season even though it is hard and even though I am praying for the right job or the right move. I know that I have so much to be grateful for.

And I know that even though it is killing me to not have purpose right now, God is in this too. I have to believe that I am not wasting time, but that I am waiting as God works something for me. I fight it every day, I do, but there is purpose in the quiet.

My God will fight for me. . . I must only be still. And that my friends, is a very hard thing for me to do. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Ebb and Flow of Grief

August 7th: 12:21am

If there was an ocean out my back door I would walk right into it and let myself sink. The weight of this sadness would lead me straight to the depths and it would make no difference. For I am already there, in the depths of the darkness, in the pit of death surrounded only by the bones of those gone before me. I cannot feel the light within me. My arms are weak, my legs unstable. Piece by piece I shut down until what is left is just the shell of me. Consumed by fire I am just ash and dust. Yet I still have to walk, and breathe, and pretend that I am truly alive. But life is no longer in me. Nor hope or joy. I am but dry bones and I am forgotten. 

There have been a lot of days in this process when my journal has looked like the entry above. Strength in hard times is a many faceted thing and sometimes, it just isn't there. A lot of people have told me to feel whatever I feel in the moment, to let myself process. For me this means writing it down. I have always processed through writing, but I also want to remember the ebb and flow of this process of grief.

As it happens, in strong days we forget how our grief ever consumed us. On hard days we forget that we have ever felt strong. In seasons of loss, sadness, or hardship we simply have to be ok with experiencing both. 

The strong days are the ones in which God gives me rest. They come when I need them most. Just when I think I am about to go under, when I have decided that I have no strength left and I just want to be left to die, God wakes me up with a day of strength.

Strong day journal entries sound more like this:

August 9th

It has been a dark battle against despair these last few days. Yesterday I felt defeated. My enemies had won, satan's lies were overwhelming, and I had nothing left. I had no fight within me. It felt like the darkest and most lonely ending. 

And then I went to sleep and God gave me joyful dreams. I don't remember what they were, but they made me smile. And I woke up to strength. 

I have rested my head against Aslan all day. This is a battle and it will continue, but for today there is a rest in the fighting. I have prayed for God's guidance, I have prayed for His help, and I have felt rest. The turmoil in me has been great these last few days. Sleepless nights, many many tears. But God has given me a chance to gear up. 

The battle against the evil one is not over. It will rage on. But just when I feel defeated, He gives me rest. He provides a chance to build up my arsenal and my weapons once again. 

He is good. He is so very good to me. He protects me. He lets me be challenged but when He sees me fall He says enough is enough. You will leave her alone for today. She will rest in hope and in My provision and love. You will not touch her. 

Sometimes I think hope is futile but it is not. Hope is not futile, it is not foolishness. It is what pushes us forward. It is the sword with which we fight. And I know that God's armies are fighting with me. I know that He will be victorious, even if that victory looks different than what I had in mind. 

Oh to rest against Him today. Oh to feel strong for just this moment. There will be hard days to come but He will again provide rest when I need it most. He always protects me, even if I still have to fight. And we do have to fight. God does not take us out of the battle. I don't know why. But I do know that even though we teeter on the edge of destruction, He does not let us fall. 

_______

My dear reader, whatever you are going through, have grace for yourself in the depths of the ocean as well as in the shelter of our Savior. Know that He will not let you perish. Though you may feel a shell of your former self, He will not let you crumble. He will build you back up, slowly and piece by piece. He will not keep you from the fight, from the wounds, but when it becomes too much He will roar like a lion and for a moment you will be sheltered.

Believe that the good will come and be ready for the days that seem to bring you back down.

You will survive. This battle will not last forever.

Be strengthened.
Have patience with the ebb and flow of grief.

You are not alone. And there is so much grace.