Thursday, November 9, 2017

A Journey through the Darkness

The first time I walked in to meet my counselor a few months ago I felt fragile and uncertain. It was like I had aged a million years and the softest wind would blow me to dust. I was more concerned for his soul than what had been done to me because caring about him was easier than coming to terms with the truth of how he had wronged me. I was desperately clutching at whatever I could to make sense of it all. 

I was stronger than two months before, but there was still a desperation in my eyes that quietly feared what had been and what was to come. For a long time I didn't believe a day would ever come when sadness did not consume me. 

But I learned tools to move through the darkness. I learned how to breathe, to ground myself, to relax. I learned to come to terms with my grief, my anger, my questioning. I cried, broken over a sense of guilt that I could have done better. I leaned into every emotion and I let myself feel them all.

And then gradually I began to feel lighter, full, happier. A light started to break through the clouds. My shattered bones began to grow back, stronger and deeper. Six months since the nightmare began I started to have days where the sadness no longer consumed me, though the crimson thread of sorrow would always be a piece of me. 

Four months ago I came home from Arizona broken. I didn’t know who I was anymore or who I was supposed to be. I was a shell of myself. I was empty and at the same time filled with tears and regret. 

But slowly, I have begun to thaw. Spring has come back into my soul. Slowly, I have found myself again. It turned out she was still there, deep down.

Each day I have to consciously work through my thoughts to win the mental game. I will have to deal with repercussions of this for some time. But I am the best version of myself right now, I believe. 

I am stronger than ever- physically, mentally- and I am fighting my way to healing. I am doing a good work and God is doing an even better work at keeping me safe while I become who He made me to be again. My steps are more steady for God has strengthened my weak knees and feeble arms. 

He has reminded me that there is a future beyond this. And I am starting to believe that what has happened is not the end of me. 

It is only the beginning. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Finding Joy In Sorrow

I remember the first time I felt joy in my sorrow. 

It had been months without it, though I hadn’t quite realized it had been so absent until the moment it blossomed just ever so slightly from my soul again. 

I was sitting at my favorite Thai restaurant in Pasadena with a friend I had not seen in years. We had almost miraculously reconnected while I was in town and we sat for hours reminiscing on the good, the tough, and the great moments from our grad school years. We talked about what was going on in our lives now and I shared my story, still raw and full of emotion and pain, shedding tears, encouragement, and honesty. 

Before we knew it hours had passed and I realized that something special had happened but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. As I tried to explain to my friend what a gift they had given me that evening, all of a sudden it dawned on me- it was the first time I had been truly happy in months. 

It had been the first time that I laughed without abandon, that I smiled hard, that I felt good about myself and encouraged in who I was. It was the first time in my sorrow that I had actually enjoyed time out with a friend and not let the sorrow overwhelm me. I laughed and cried all at the same time as I thanked my friend for giving me just a few hours of absolute joy in the midst of the worst season of my life. 

Those few hours of joy were such a gift in the midst of my sorrow because they reminded me of something- they reminded me that one day I would feel joy like that again, and for more than just a dinner.They were a glimpse of what could be, and would be, and that moment of joy gave me strength to keep getting out of bed, to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and keep reaching toward the light that would eventually shine through. That moment of joy also made me realize that I could still feel joy, that all wasn’t lost. 

It didn’t fix things, but for a moment there was a lightness of being, a joy to living, and loud laughter that could disturb an entire restaurant. It was a beautiful, God-ordained moment that I will treasure for the rest of my life. 

Joy in sorrow is an interesting thing. It almost feels wrong, like it negates your sadness. You feel guilty at first because you assume that your feelings of sadness must not be that deep if you find yourself smiling for a minute. It is like when something bad happens it is supposed to consume everything, and for a while it really does. But I don't think there should be guilt in this. I think that joy and sorrow must go together, as odd as that might sound. I think that joy in sorrow is the most beautiful representation of Christ. 

I have been in the pit and it is nearly impossible to take joy in being betrayed and stepped all over. But I believe we must embrace the beautiful breaths of reprieve that give us a glimpse of what will one day be restored.

These days I have more moments of joy, more moments when I forget about the on-the-floor-terrible moments and embrace the levity of the right then. It is a gradual shift, and healing and joy does not come easily. 

I work, daily, at my healing and as I heal I slip into joy more easily. I still find it a little foreign when I realize I am laughing out loud at something. It was a really long time that I didn’t laugh anymore, that I had lost my joy. When my laugh bursts forth it takes me a second to realize that sound is me and that sound means joy. It is precious to me now. 

Joy in sorrow is such a gift. 
It is being happy not because of what happened to me, but in spite of it. 
It is a breath of air when you are seconds away from giving in to drowning. 
It is a beautiful reminder that there truly will be good things ahead. 

Embrace the joy today my friends, no matter what season of life you are in. 

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. . . 

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.**

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
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

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
to collapse with
the slightest shake.
Be patient with me
my eyes whisper
I am a masterpiece
but I am a work

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.