Friday, December 29, 2017

D-Day and the Shame of a Situation

Throughout this whole process I have questioned myself. I have questioned my actions, my response, the things I should say, the perspective I should take. I have wondered if I should write about it, and if so, with how much detail. I have questioned because I wanted to figure out the “right” thing to do. 

But I had no guide, no map, no precedent to follow. After all, I am a Christian and we do not talk about these things, let alone let them happen to us. 

So a few days ago when I listened to a relatively transformative podcast by Rob Bell, I finally was able to take a breath and realize. . . I don’t actually need a map. I am the committee. 

I can question what is “supposed” to happen or what everyone else thinks I should do, but really, I don’t need a committee to make my decisions for me. I am the committee and I can make those decisions for myself. 

So, a few days ago was the anti-climatic “D-day,” the day my not-husband went to court to get the judge to sign our divorce decree (therefore divorce-day=d-day). We did a DIY divorce (as I like to call it) so I had no lawyer and honestly, I got all of my legal advice off of the internet, so I ended up not appearing in court (for a multitude of reasons I can explain later). It was the official end of my marriage, though it has been over for almost seven months already, and it signaled the start of the next season of my life.

If you know me, you know that I am not the kind of person that goes around talking about my "situation" all of the time. I never wanted to be the friend that people hoped they don’t have to hang out with because I can’t talk about anything other than my asshole husband or something. Even in the throws of it I tried not to dominate conversation with the topic. In part, this was also because my story was my shame. I never believed in divorce as an option. I married with a full commitment for life. But I wasn't given a choice in the matter. He left and I couldn't stop him, no matter how hard I tried. And I felt that from this day forward I would be judged negatively by what had happened to me. 

Then I listened to that podcast and I changed my mind. I decided, as the committee, that I don't have to be defined negatively by what has happened. 

My story can be my empowerment. 

My prayers weren’t answered as I wanted them to be, but I still believe that this is a story of hope. Even though I didn’t want this, it is a story that understands pain from a place of perspective. 

Sharing my story, even here on virtual paper, puts me in a place of scary vulnerability. As Christians or as people in general, we don’t talk about things. We aren’t transparent because it isn’t the image we are supposed to have. 

I am going to be transparent. 

I am a woman that is made up of pieces. Every moment of this experience is still a part of me, a detail in my composition. 

Seven months ago I was a pile of broken and fragile shards and I have been put back together to create something more complex, more beautiful with its scars and patched up edges. 

I am all of what has happened, what is, and what I am striving toward. 

I am the committee, making the decisions about what I do with it all, no longer bound by what he, or people I know, or strangers think I should do and be. 

I am a Christian, a missionary, a person who loves love, a hiker, and a believer in the good things coming. 

And I will share my story. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

For the Love of Love

Today, on Christmas Eve, I sat in church and I felt the emotion of the Christmas story in a deeper way than I ever have before. Every song gave me chills, the scripture made me teary. I was overwhelmed.

For here is a true fact:

I love love. 

Maybe it is because I now know that true love is such a rare and amazing thing, but any time I see or experience real love I feel the greatest joy. I love seeing my friends happy in their marriages or engagements, I love seeing families having fun together, I love how my grandparents care for one another. I absolutely rejoice when I see acts of love. It gives me life to see other people's joy.

My therapist recently explained God's love in a way I hadn't imagined before, with an imagery that spoke to me:

The short version of the Genesis story is that once there was the garden and everything was perfect, but we chose sin and had to leave.

In that moment, God could have said, "Good luck out there, in the imperfect, difficult, sad, and sinful world. One day I will let you return to the garden, to perfection, to being with me."

But He didn't.

Instead, God left the garden and He came into the darkness with us. He left the perfect, sinless, place to enter into the darkness at our side.

This act of great love brought me to tears as I considered the Christmas story tonight. I love that God sent His son, fully God, to walk with us. And I love that He didn't send His son in a cushy, easy way. He sent Jesus as a child, in a manner that is equivalent of having a baby in a taxi and then having to sleep in a tent. He sent Him in a manner that made Him just like us. He had to enter the sadness and the pain and the suffering, just like us.

He decided to walk with us. 

This whole past year God has walked through the mess with me. He has never abandoned me.

And that truth, as I lit the candle for the candlelight service at church, made me cry. Because He loved us in the most overwhelming and beautiful way.

And that changes everything. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Debut of Meredith 2.0

Last night I went to a wedding and debuted Meredith 2.0. Actually it is probably version 563.7 but we will say 2.0 just for simplicity sake. As a matter of fact, it was one of my "kids" (read: high school students that I used to mentor) that threw some wisdom at me the other day and impacted my decision to embrace the newer, better, brighter future.

I was lamenting about a picture I had lost that had him and some of the other kids in it when he texted me, "They're all good memories but sometimes we have to. . . look forward to better memories."

I know. Tell me about it. I "raised" good teenagers.

As 2017 comes to a close I could easily sit around and wallow in what was and what could have been, but really that isn't too productive. The much better alternative is to put on my favorite sparkly shoes and a great dress and walk into a group of people with my head held high, my heart full of excitement for what is to come, and my feet full of fantastic dance moves.

So the latter is what I did last night. I made myself fancy and I started a new chapter of the new me.

And it was great.

I ended up sitting with some fantastic, kind, and funny people and laughing so hard. I met new friends, spent time with old friends I hadn't seen for years, and held tight to some dear friends who made sure to look out for me. I managed to (while obviously still looking flawless) knock over my entire flute of sparkling cider while exclaiming a curse word in front a bunch of RZIM staff members, and eat a huge piece of delicious cake while continuing to groove to the tunes on the dance floor. I also tried to start a dance party with the sparklers to "Don't Stop Believing" but it didn't catch on. Ah well.

I laughed, I cried happy tears for my friend, I danced, and I enjoyed the evening. I enjoyed the beginning of this next chapter of new and better memories.

And even though I walked away without any marriage proposals or spontaneous declarations of love for me based on my amazing shoes alone, I walked away feeling fabulous and excited for what is to come.

And that, my friends, was the debut of Meredith 2.0.

I do declare that based on last night, I am going to enjoy this new chapter very much.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Wishes for Existential Things

I want my skin to be thick enough for nothing to hurt. 

If only my heart was full enough that it no longer ached when I think of what was, what could have been, what is ending. I wish that my armor could shield me from the pain, the twisting arrow, the thoughts that I can't stop thinking.

I wish that I did not care, that his ghost did not have the power to make me feel so broken.
I want to forget the bad and forget the good.
I want to stop loving someone who doesn't deserve my love.
I want to go back and change my fate, my decisions, my trusting heart that told me to lay it all out for a person that would take it all and then walk away.

I want to be as carefree and happy as he seems, instead of worrying that people will discount me for my story.
I want to believe that all is well and all shall be well.
I want to be stronger than the mess.

But here is the truth:

There is no strength that could keep this from penetrating my defenses.

My heart is bound to beat with sadness and anticipation. It is bound to be weary and it will take time to heal. Though I scarcely believe it, I know that my heart is strong because even though it sits raw and vulnerable, it continues to defy the brokenness that overwhelms it.

No, this Christmas season is not full of joy for me. It is the anticipation of an ending that I did not want and that I still wish I could wake from. It is for me a season of sadness and frustration, anxiety and pain.

Because I still don't want this.
After everything that has happened, I still wish that it was different.

And though I know (and so often preach) about the silver linings and positive twists and blessings, sometimes I just want to be ok in not being ok. I want to sit with the frustration that God allowed this to happen at all, to be mad that I wasn't protected from this, that there wasn't some sign in the sky that told me what was coming and to back away.

I want to sit and not have to talk about the silver lining or the blessings. And maybe I want to throw something. Although it will probably be soft and I can't actually throw very well so it won't have much impact. But I will throw something nevertheless.

Because overcoming is about the mountain, but also about the rocks and hills along the trek. It is overcoming the hours and overcoming the months. It is feeling all the feels and being pissed that you can't just shove them down and ignore them. Overcoming involves a lot of being pissed I think. And snacks. Overcoming is worthless if there aren't any snacks.

So as much as I hate the stupid process of healing and time, there is no escaping it. I know, reluctantly and with an attitude, that eventually I will summit the mountain, feel the fresh air whipping over my face, and realize that I am stronger than I believed and happier than I ever thought I could be again.

But until then, I will have to make do with some pringles.

Maybe I'll even throw a few. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

What Six Months Looks Like

Overcoming is a weird thing. You simultaneously want to move along, to forget the bad thing that happened, to be free of the person that hurt you. . . and yet to fully move on and let go brings on an anxiety that is undeniable. 

Love is a weird thing. Someone can do the worst to you, beyond what you ever imagined, so much so that you hate every single piece of them. You want to scrub your skin raw, rip up every picture and trace of them, destroy every piece of life that they ever touched. And at the same time, almost against your will, you still love them, still wish they were there for the important moments, still wish things had turned out differently. 

Growing up is a weird thing. 
It never turns out quite like we imagined it would. 

Six months ago my life turned on its head when my husband decided he no longer loved me. Five months ago he left me to be with the woman he had chosen instead and filed for divorce without a single shred of remorse. Our marriage, what had been to me a sacred vow and a lifelong commitment, was to him a failed experiment to be tossed aside when it no longer suited him. He blamed my inadequacies and left me a shell of the confident woman I had once been. 

Six months ago everything I had known and hoped for was thrown into the air and set on fire. 


"I think people get bored of grief," said Natasha. "Its like you are allowed some unspoken allotted time- six months maybe- and then they get faintly irritated that you're not 'better,' like you're being self-indulgent hanging on to your unhappiness." 

-Jojo Moyes, After You

The flames that fell sought to destroy me, but like a phoenix I rose from the ashes, refusing for this to be the end of my story. I worked hard on healing, on understanding what had happened, on discovering the best of me again. I fell and I tripped but I moved forward. I grew stronger. And yet, it did not fix everything. Six months did not leave me a person unburnt by the things that had happened. 

My grieving looks different than it did six months ago, but the veil of him still covers my life. It colors everything, though only lightly and like a quiet afterthought. I am removed from him and much of my life has moved on, and yet I will tell you that the ghost of him still follows me. The anger, the sadness- it is not deep any longer, but it still brushes against my heart with quiet frequency. I am better than I was but I am still a work in progress. 

For those that have asked the questions that seem so simple to others:

I am ok but I am not.

I am doing better but I am not untouched. 

I am happy and I am sad. 

I am pleased for my future yet frustrated by my past. 

I am a walking contradiction who cannot answer the simplest questions. 

And that is ok. It is ok for me to still be processing, to still get quiet or lash out. It is ok that healing takes a long time and it is ok that however heartbreaking and hard this is, it is a part of who I am. 

I cannot separate from my story, but I will not let it be my shame either. I have not been defeated. I can stand on the far side of the valley and say with absolute confidence that there is still good. There is still hope. There is still joy

And that is what it looks like for me to rise from the ashes and spread my wings.

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. 

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.

Monday, August 7, 2017

To Share our Pain

I think that it is a stupid symptom of our society that we think we need to hide our pain from each other. We think that no one else wants to hear it or perhaps that they will not love us anymore if we show them. We think that their life is probably perfect.

That's ridiculous. 

God's love is shown in mighty ways when we trust each other with our pain. There is so much healing in vulnerability.

But it is not an easy task.

My confidence has been shaken. I apologize for everything. Anything that maybe I possibly did wrong at one point in time, I now apologize for. Because I feel bad. And I worry that I have done wrong by people that I love. Its a twisted symptom of the situation. I have lost my confidence. It is temporary but it is difficult.


I think of my life as a tapestry. It is made up of threads. "Time heals," they say. I believe that, but only because I believe that with time, more threads will be added to my story. What has happened in these last few months will always be a piece of me, but it is not the whole picture. Though it is painful, it can be woven together with the other threads of my life into something beautiful.

Imagine that. Pain becoming a part of something beautiful.

I like the sound of that.

My wise and wonderful friend just reminded me not to focus on the "better" but focus on the now. God is not waiting for me to be better. God is here now, in the middle of the pain. And my job is not to just get through each day hoping one morning I will wake up and feel fine. My job is to feel what I am feeling and seek God in that. For He is present and He is loving and He is totally ok with whatever I throw at Him. He is weaving my story and I can trust Him in the process.

Isn't that lovely? I like that it takes off the pressure of healing.

I know that one day things will get better. But I also know that this will be a long road.

So I will have grace for myself in the process.

And I will not hide my pain. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Current Thoughts on Hard Times

Here is the thing about pain: It's shitty.

There is no going about it and making it seem ok. It isn't. Pain and hurt and fear are unfortunately real parts of this world and they are hard to escape. I'm not pleased about my hard times right now, I am not "making the best of things" and I am processing daily what has happened. But here is what I know so far:

I get it. To the person who has cuts on their arms, I get it. To the person who thinks the only way out of the pain is death, I hear you. To the person who cannot get out of bed because it is too painful to face the day, I understand. When grief produces nausea so intense that you cannot eat for days even if you wanted to, I know what that is like. I feel you, I hear you, but there are so many reasons not to give up. For all of the bad there is so much good. For all of the sad moments, there are also beautiful ones. I may not have cuts or scars but I know how you feel.

Grief comes for all sorts of reasons and none of them are silly or unreasonable. Grief is weird, seriously, it is so weird. It makes no sense and it makes people do funny things. And as much as I hate this season I am in, I am grateful to understand pain. I am grateful to be able to pass on the knowledge I have and the comforts that have helped me because I know how it feels.

And goodness there is so much hope, guys. I'm in the midst of such a hard time, but I know that the pain (though it will always be a part of me) will not be like this forever. The key, I have found, is in finding your tribe. 

Whatever your sadness is, for whatever reason that your heart is breaking, you must find your tribe. I know losing someone important, even if you are just dating, can make you feel like you have been ripped in two. I know. And for some reason we want to retreat and not see anyone. But the only way to get through is to cling to those who love you.

And oh my, you are not alone. People will come out of the woodworks. Cling to the people that won't judge you when you send them texts that you don't think about first and that make you sound crazy. Cling to those who acknowledge your grief but also help you to find the steps forward. Breathe in the advice, the words, the notes of encouragement because that is who you are. You are not defined by what has happened to you. You are loved and cherished, even if someone has caused you sadness.

Cling to your tribe and you know what else? Believe what they say. Let them tell you the truths about yourself. Let them care for you, grieve with you, and see you at your worst. Your people are the ones who love you unconditionally. Let them hold you up.

Grief is the shittiest (not sure if that is a word but I like it). Pain sucks and I am so sorry that anyone else out there has felt loss or grief or just been stuck in hard times. It is not a good place to be. But I know that one day it will be ok again. I know that one day I will praise God for how He held my hand in the valley of the shadow of death. And I know that I will see His goodness in all of this.

There is hope and to anyone hurting, I hear you. 

*Thank you guys for being my tribe. I have felt so loved and it has made all the difference in this difficult season. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

What's Love Got to Do With It?

I have been thinking for the past few days about love. I always thought I understood what love is. This powerful word that we say so easily and so easily claim. I thought that I understood love, but recently I have questioned: what does love actually look like? What is love in action? What happens when I quit just saying the word and I start living a life of selfless love?

When I was single, I would try to gain the affections of some or another guy. My desire was not that they would let me love them, but that if I worked hard enough then they would love me back. It was a selfish desire, not a selfless one.

And the trend of my singleness, I believe, is common. We so easily get easily swayed into a selfish love without even realizing it. We do things to please the other person, hoping that it will in turn make them love us more. We serve our husband or wife in the name of love, but we are actually hoping to get something in return. It masks itself as true love, but really the motivation is for someone to love us back. 

This isn't necessarily a bad desire, that desire to be loved. It is innate in us. We all want to feel loved and we should all be loved. It is a desire, though, that is truthfully only fulfilled by accepting and relying fully upon God's love for us.

God's perfect love.

His love for us that is entirely selfless. He died for us while we spat at Him and hated Him. He created us, imperfect beings, and still loves us no matter how many times we reject Him, ignore Him, and scream at Him. God's perfect love is the only love that will satisfy that insatiable need in our souls to be loved.

But oh how quickly we ask our spouse to bear the burden of perfect love.

My husband will never make me feel perfectly loved, though he gets incredibly close. His love for me will always be imperfect, and if I am seeking to turn him into the perfect husband with a perfect love for me, I will always be disappointed. The love my soul seeks is never going to come from him. It can only come from my Savior.

That's another hard thing. When we have the earthly love of a husband or wife it is so easy to set God aside and convince ourselves that everything we ever needed should come from that person.

But that is not love. And that is not a fair thing to expect.

So how, then, do I love my husband well? What does that mean?

For me it means, changing my motivation. I should not love him for the love he can give me in return. I must love him because marriage is to be a portrait of God's love for us. I must love him without the motivation of what I will get in return. Because marriage isn't about what C can do for me, it is what I can do for him. It is loving him with a selfless love, asking nothing in return, giving forgiveness in abundance, and living in the peace that we can never fully fulfill each other but that we serve a God who can. And if we are both living that way, then the love that we feel will be incredible.

We all want to be loved, yes, but what if we stopped seeking that acceptance and started giving love first to everyone else around us? What a world that would be, where we would all chose to take care of each other first because we have been given the greatest love from our Father.

We love because HE first loved us. 

Gosh it is hard to do. It is hard to be selfless. It is hard to give up the habit of seeking love instead of serving it on a nice big joyful platter. My husband is incredible at the selfless love thing and I am a work in progress. But how nice to know that God never gives up on us. How nice that we can continue to learn and grow forever and ever.

Love. What does it mean to you? 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Truth about Ministry and Depression

*Disclaimer: This post was written one year ago, almost to the day. I did not post it then for fear that it was too vulnerable, but I feel like I need to post it now. Too many people give into depression and suicide because we don't talk about it. I hope that this experience will give someone else hope that they are not alone, and that maybe they will, like me, take steps towards healing. If you (whether I know you or not) ever need someone to talk to, please contact me. We need each other in this world, and no one should feel the depths of pain alone.*

Written: May 2016

I've debated on whether I write about this too much. I've debated that maybe I don't write about this enough. So if it sounds like you've read it before, feel free to move on. If not, stick around. Probably this post is more for me than you anyways.

To start with, I think there is this misconception that if you are single you can work more because you don't have a family. This is dumb. Just because you are single doesn't mean you shouldn't have boundaries. But I didn't realize this was dumb until I wasn't single anymore. For years my ministry and my work came first, no matter what. It came before vacations, time and visits with my family, and my own personal well-being. Once Cameron came along he actually had to tell me that I needed to love him more than I loved my job, and that was something I actually had to work at. It wasn't healthy, my friends.

So as we all know last year I struggled pretty strongly with anxiety and burnout. Years of ministry without boundaries will do that to a person. It made me unmotivated, not very nice, tired, and pretty sad and anxious all the time. As I transitioned to a more balanced life of ministry, the fallout from my years in non-stop ministry didn't just get fixed over night, as much as I would have hoped it could.

As God moved me, or forced me really, into transitioning to a more healthy work-life balance, the impact was rough. I was pulled pretty forcefully from my way of life and it was kind of like a bad breakup between me and my work. I won't sugarcoat things, though there is a lot that doesn't need to be said, but the combination of having to understand a new life paradigm and the heartbreak of being treated really badly by people that I trusted led me to a rough new chapter of being a missionary.

A side note before I go on: I have been reluctant to post this in fear that certain people will think it is overdramatic or exaggerated. But the truth is that I don't have to care what those people think. We don't put enough emphasis on the toll that ministering to human suffering can take. We think we should suck it up and be fine, but that isn't me. There is only so much rape, murder, abuse, and neglect that I can take before I break. We need proper counseling and places of rest for missionaries. Missionaries get so caught up in their work and their need to write newsletters and convince supporters to stick around, that they don't take care of themselves for fear that people will think they aren't working hard enough. That is also wrong, and it is something that we need to come to terms with, both as missionaries and as those who support them.

Anyways, for the last six months I have struggled heavily with what I now realize was depression. My depression took a toll on our marriage, as neither of us really understood it at the time. I would burst into uncontrollable tears, as if someone had died, at random moments and I would be unable to stop. I was unmotivated at work and at home, I was tired for no reason, and I was sad basically all the time. For my husband this was difficult to understand because he was working so hard to provide a good life for me. It made him feel like a failure, but that wasn't it. I couldn't explain why I was sad and I didn't want to be sad, I just was. And with each stab of injustice as I tried to do what I thought was right, the cycle would start all over again.

Throughout this last year of my ministry on the reservation there were multiple times I had the thought pass through my mind that the solution was really just to die. This thought crept back in about a month ago. It is a harsh and evil voice that tries to make you believe your life is worthless and it is really really scary. I never would have followed through with it thanks to the strength of the Lord within me, but it is a scary and convincing voice that says you might as well just be dead.

And hello, that's called depression.

Until one day I decided that this was the last time I was going to cry over what injustice had been played against me. It was the last time I let other people control my emotions, my marriage, and my life. It was time that I let God work the healing in me that I had been rejecting for so long. 

I will tell ya, it has been a hard 2 years and a hard 7 months of coming to terms with a lot of things. I can say with such joy though, that I finally feel really close to complete healing. I have been able to see so much progress within myself over the last 7 months as I slowly became me again. It feels weird to wake up happy, content, and not be anxious for days at a time, but I think I could get used to it!

Small things have helped, like joining the softball team I mentioned in my last post. It seems silly, but joining the team shows that I am no longer isolating myself in a world of ministry and work. I am branching out of my comfort zone, making new friendships, and settling into a new way of life. My marriage has gotten better and better as C has learned how to take care of me and as I have learned better coping skills and ways to find joy in my life. And my ministry, surprisingly to me, has not suffered. Just because I had to take a step back doesn't mean that everything fell into a big pit. My kids still call, we still hang out, we still laugh together and have sleepovers. They are just as important to me as ever, I have simply learned that I need some space and some boundaries, and that is ok.

Like I said in the beginning, this post is probably more for me to process than for you to read, but maybe it will help someone else out there. Working in ministry is hard and we want to pretend we have it all together, but it is ok if we don't. It is ok to take a step back for self care even if others don't understand.

And don't worry. You don't have to send me emails or stop me on the street to ask me if I am ok. I am great and I am healing and I feel better than ever. It is like a dark cloud has lifted and I find myself laughing again and feeling happy again. Its a good thing and I know it is just going to get better. God never left me and He never will, and I know He will heal my heart fully again.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Relentless Burden of Relaxation (sarcasm intended)

I spent last week laying on a beach in Mexico thanks to the extreme generosity of a good friend. It's ok to be jealous, it was pretty awesome. The funny thing was that even though we were in a little piece of paradise, Cameron and I could not figure out how to relax for the life of us.

You see, our vacations are generally active vacations. We pick places where we can hike every morning, or go to museums and do some sightseeing. This vacation, though, was different. In this location of Mexico there was absolutely nothing to do except lay on the beach, or lay by the pool, or read on the patio while overlooking the ocean. Yea, rough life.

So the first day Cameron and I did all of the obligatory laying around and reading and by the end of the day we were totally freaking out. "We might have to leave early," Cameron said. " I don't think I can do this for 4 more days."

"Yea, who knew that being lazy would be so difficult!!"

It was such a weird predicament, to have the opportunity to be leisurely, a luxury really, and have absolutely no idea what to do with it. 

We laid on the bed, overlooking the ocean, and deeply sighed. What a ridiculous problem to have.

The problem was an American one, but a problem nonetheless. We had accustomed ourselves to lives of such busyness that idleness was more foreign than the local Mexican grocery store. We had convinced ourselves that relaxation was bad, something to feel guilty about, and a waste of our precious time.

But as the week went on we started to give in. We read novels for hours, took afternoon naps, and walked down the beach looking for shells every afternoon. I swear that Cameron started to look younger as he left his stress behind and actually began to rest. We were rarely frustrated or angry, and we laughed. We laughed so much more than in our everyday existence.

What had changed? Cameron and I still talked with each other in the same ways, and the same problems and to-do lists still existed back at home, but we were calm. We were more easy-going. We were more apt to let the other person choose where we should eat dinner and we served each other better. All because we allowed ourselves some rest.

Funny enough, I came back to work today feeling so calm, even though the visions of the beach are only in my mind. The spirit of rest accompanied me to the office, and actually produced a more effective and productive employee. Rest seemed to enhance my normal life, even though our culture frowns upon it. And it made me think that maybe Millennials sometimes have the right idea. The media and the "real" adults chastise the Millennial generation for not holding down jobs, for wanting a more leisurely, retirement-like existence, in their twenties. But I think maybe this generation is grasping onto something that has been missing. Yes, we need to work hard. Yes, we need to do well at our jobs, seek a sustainable career, and be responsible.

But maybe, just maybe, we also need to relearn how to take times of rest. Maybe every now and then we need to let go of guilt, log out of our email, and spend some time reading a novel on a beach somewhere.

Add a piƱa colada in a real pineapple and I am thinking I might have found the recipe for success.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Flowing Words that will Not Be Stopped

I miss the words that used to flow like ocean waves from my fingertips. 
Like the tides they would present themselves. 
They were reliable, they were my lifeline. 
And then so much changed and I think I could barely figure out myself let alone the words to express it. 
I lost myself somewhere. 
I lost the words that were so precious to me and I curled up into the shell that I had created and decided that the world was bleak and I was better off cutting myself loose. 
To produce words would mean to process and I did not want to process. Processing can mean pain, and my little shell was comfortable and dark, but manageable. 
Processing was not manageable. 
So the words packed themselves into a box and decided not to bother me. Since I was rather snappy it was probably better for them anyways. 
But despite my resistance the words kept pressing against the tips of my fingers, begging to be written. Maybe my identity was a little bit lost, maybe my purpose uncertain and my ego hurt, but there were still words that wanted to be pushed into the sea. 
So I sat and I decided to let my soul move my fingers, no matter the result. 
To write, for me, is to live. 
The tides are moving and from this point forward they will not be stopped.