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Four Little Words

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Before I begin my story, there are a few things you need to know about me, if you don’t already.  I am afraid of heights (to the point of not even wanting to stand on a chair), and I don’t like being barefoot (to the point of not being able to walk barefoot on the beach or on grass).  I am also a dancer, but I prefer to choreograph things ahead of time.  I’ve never been very comfortable with improvisation (with anything, really, but especially when it comes to dance).  These are important things to remember about me toward the end of this story.

It isn’t often that I can say that I am sure of what God is doing in my life at any given moment, but there isn’t a doubt that He loves me.  One of the ways I see that in my life is He communicates with me in the ways He knows I’ll understand – in the ways He knows I will hear Him and respond.  Since He created me, He knows every detail of my heart and mind.  He not only knows that I have a tendency to be ‘a little’ stubborn, but He completely takes that into account when He asks me to do or work on something.  Throughout my life, I’ve been told that I shouldn’t argue with God.  Trusting Him means just blindly following what He asks.  For some people, that might work – but He knows me better than that.  He knows that when He asks me to step outside my comfort zone, I will fight Him (and most likely tell Him that I not only won’t do it, but I really don’t like Him in that moment).  But, unlike the many people who have told me I need to have more ‘faith’, God simply says, “I know.  It’s okay.  Do what you need to do.  I’m not going anywhere.  We’ll walk through this together.”  So what often happens is that He will put a thought in my head well before He actually wants me to do anything about it, just so I can fight Him and tell Him all the reasons I can’t do it.  Then, by the time He actually wants me to take that step, my heart is fully prepared for stepping into the unknown area outside my comfort zone.  You’d think I’d start to see it coming, but I’m still amazed when I step outside my comfort zone and then look back and realize that He’s been preparing my heart for a while.  The most recent example of that happened a few weeks ago.  Actually, it began a few months ago, just before my birthday.

I was listening to music (the language God often chooses to speak to me through), and a song started playing that I’ve heard quite a few times before.  I really like the song, but a line in it struck me in a way it hadn’t ever before.  The line is “You’re worth it.”  I stopped what I was doing at the time because I knew He was trying to tell me something.  He said, “You don’t believe that to be true about yourself, do you?”  My response was, “Of course not.  Why would I believe that?”  In that moment, I realized that I had been carrying around this message for my entire life – I’m not worth it.  When I shared this revelation with a couple of friends, I remember telling them, “This is big.”  I’ve done quite a bit of work on old messages from my past, but something felt different about this one.  It is deeply rooted, and it is so ingrained in me that I struggle with even calling it what it is – a lie.  After God revealed this message, I started looking back over some writing I had done for the book I’m working on, and I started seeing the manifestation of that message over and over.  Since then, I have started to see that message popping up as God has continued to work over the last few months.  Everything that He’s had me work on – everything I’ve struggled with and wrestled through leads down a path that ends with that message.  He’s been asking me to fight for me, but I’ve not been sure I am worth the fight.  He’s been asking me to take a step deeper into the emotional waters so I can begin building deeper connections and intimacy, but I’ve hesitated because I’m afraid of rejection.  I’ve been afraid that I will only find the reinforcement of that message – I’m not worth it.  So if I just don’t take the step – if I deem myself ‘not worth it’ before anyone else can – I’ll save myself from the pain of that rejection.  But what God started to show me was that I’ve been looking for some external confirmation and assurance that the message ‘I’m not worth it’ is truly a lie.  That is a part of my wiring – to look for external confirmation and assurance rather than trusting myself.  God said, “As long as you believe the lie and continue to tell yourself you’re not worth it, there are no amount of external words or experiences that could possibly convince you otherwise.”

Fast forward to a few weeks ago.  God asked me to share my story at our last HeartChange workshop.  I shared the first part on Thursday, and I finished my story on Sunday.  On Friday, I wrote out what I was going to share on Sunday, and as I finished writing, I knew there was something missing.  The end wasn’t quite the end.  I knew He wanted me to say something else, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what that was.  On Sunday, about an hour before I was going to share the rest of my story, He revealed what He wanted me to say.  I rolled my eyes and said, “Seriously?  I have to say that?  You do realize I’ve never said those words before, right?  And I’m not sure how comfortable I am saying them now, especially in a room where there are people who probably believe those words more than I do right now.”  His response was, “That’s exactly why you need to say those words.  We’ve been talking about this since before your birthday.”  Again I rolled my eyes, realizing He had been preparing my heart for months for this very moment, and as I finished telling my story I said, “God told me I had to say this – mostly because these words have never come out of my mouth,” and as quickly as I could (and as I was turning to walk away as quickly as I could), I said, “I am worth it.”

I can’t honestly say that I fully believe those words or that everything is now magically fixed in my life, but I know something broke open when I said those words.  I’m still working through the full meaning of what happened (and I know God will continue to reveal His purpose and work), but those four words coming out of my mouth caused me to connect to a part of myself I hadn’t ever connected to before.  And I’ve seen the manifestation of that in ways that may not seem like much to those who don’t really know me, but they are huge.

The day after the workshop (the day after saying those four little words), a group of us went to a park and worshipped.  Someone had his guitar, and he played, we all sang, and a bunch of us danced.  At one point, God said, “Take your shoes off.”  I’m standing on concrete at the time, and I said, “No, thank you.”  Again He said, “Take your shoes off,” and He added what seems to be His favorite phrase over the past few months, “It’s time.”  After a few moments of inner temper tantrum, I stepped out of my flip flops.  All I could focus on was how uncomfortable the ground felt on my feet.  I wasn’t really paying attention to the music being played (which is saying a lot if you know me at all).  Then God said, “Ok, now you can tap.”  I stood still for a few moments, trying to reason with Him that if just standing on the concrete was uncomfortable, tapping wasn’t going to make it better, but I somehow lost that argument. 😉  After a few minutes of tapping, a friend of mine leaned over and excitedly said, “You’re dancing without choreography.”  It was a simple statement of truth, but I hadn’t really thought about it until then – I was just dancing.  Then my friend decided that it would be much better for me to tap on the smooth surface of the table than on the concrete.  I told God that I didn’t really like Him in that moment and really didn’t appreciate his sense of humor, but I still ended up dancing on a table.  After some more dancing on the concrete (still barefoot)  with a group of friends (and a couple of girls who randomly asked if they could join us), my friend asked me when the last time was that I had stood barefoot in the grass.  I couldn’t really answer her because I actually couldn’t remember when the last time had been.  She took my hand and walked with me over to the grass and patiently waited for me to step out of my comfort zone.  We stood together in the grass for a couple of minutes, and I wondered to myself, “What is happening?  This is not normal.”  God said, “Do you remember what you said yesterday?  Just as you knew that the negative message I revealed to you a few months ago was a big deal, you need to realize that what you said yesterday was huge.  Step into that more.  I know you don’t fully believe it yet, but hold onto that.  Say it again.  Keep saying it.  Do what you need to do because there is a part of you that will never fully come alive until you believe those four words to be true.”

He’s been asking me to write about this since it happened.  I’ve tried to use the excuse of not having time to write, but that’s not entirely true.  I’m just still not comfortable with those four words, and I knew that I’d have to say them again.  So He made me say them anyway.  For those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, you’ve seen my updated cover photo.  He made me put that there until I “found the time” to write this (though I have a feeling it will stay up for a while even after writing this…).  And He’s told me that as I step deeper into those four words, they will continue to open more and more of who He created me to be.  That is both exciting and scary to me, but I trust Him to be there with me (even as I throw my temper tantrums).  I have been dancing more and walking barefoot more (maybe not as much as most people would consider ‘a lot’, but it’s a huge step for me).  And I know He will continue to unfold His plan as I connect with those unlocked parts of me.  I am worth it!

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Home

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I am sitting here on an air mattress looking around my ‘getting close to empty’ place knowing that I’m supposed to write. So here I am (kicking and screaming just a little bit…). It is my last night in what has been ‘home’ for over ten and a half years. As the tears that I’ve been fighting for the last month begin to flow, God and I are having a discussion about the word ‘home’. One of the dictionary definitions of the word is – the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household; of or relating to the place where one lives. There are several things that strike me in this definition. The first word that pops out is ‘permanently’. In my life, I’ve lived in eight places that I’ve called home according to this particular definition, but, obviously, none of them have been permanent (and it doesn’t count anywhere that I’ve stayed for less than two or three months). It is interesting to me that the word permanently is used in this definition because there really isn’t anything that is permanent in this life. My permanent home will be in heaven. The second thing that jumps out at me is ‘especially as a member of a family or household’. For the last ten and a half years, I have lived alone. My little place is part of a larger house so I have had the ability to have interaction with the owners when I’ve wanted, but I live alone. Being a member of a family is a somewhat foreign concept to me. I didn’t really have that sense growing up with my biological family, but God has provided people I’ve considered family in my life. But I don’t live with those people so it’s still a little odd for me to see that as a part of the definition of the word home. It makes sense to me intellectually, it is just not something I have personally experienced. The other thing that stands out to me is just the idea of home being a specific, physical place. It is an accurate definition, but God has been talking to me about that lately – mostly in an effort to get me to access the emotions that are bound to come up when a huge life transition happens. These four walls have seen a lot over the years. From the good and the not so good moments of my last serious relationship – to helping the original owners’ son with his homework – to finding out that the original owners, who had become good friends, were moving out and watching the new owners move in. These walls have watched me dance. They’ve heard me cry. At times, they have held me up as I struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide. They saw each of my cats being brought into my home, and they watched as each cat took his last breath. They’ve witnessed the building of relationship that I had never experienced anywhere else. They’ve seen the joy and the sorrows. They’ve heard the laughter and the tears. They’ve witnessed the creative side and the analytical side. They’ve heard the unique conversations with God and watched the transformation of my life after HeartChange. They have even seen me climb a ladder or two (plus climbing on top of the fridge). They’ve heard my hopes and dreams, and they hold the memories of the first place that has truly felt like home to me. I know that all of those memories are in my heart – there is no fear of leaving those behind – and I know that God has some awesome plans for me. But there is a sadness as I think about my final night here and walking out that door tomorrow. I am leaving this home, but I know it was never intended to be permanent.

As a verb, the word home means to move or be aimed toward a target or destination with great accuracy. That definition made me laugh. There’s no doubt that God is moving me toward a target or destination right now. And I can trust that it is with great accuracy. I really have no idea what is coming next, but I know He does. I am pretty sure that I’m going to be doing some couch surfing for a little bit. Part of the reason for that is He wants to continue to stretch me. Not having a long term living situation will put me very far outside my comfort zone. I’ve never really not known where I was going to be living. I’ve moved quite a bit in my life, but I always knew where I was going before I actually moved. This is new for me. I also think He’s got some things He is working out before His next ‘target’ is ready – both in my life specifically and just in the circumstances as He prepares the next landing spot for me. In some ways, I’m excited to see what God is wanting to show me during this time. Of course, it also scares the crap out of me. I’m trying to listen to Him and step out in faith with all He is asking of me right now, but it’s not easy. I’m in the process of selling a lot of my stuff. He’s taken care of the majority of my furniture already, and I will be having a garage sale in a couple weeks. He wants me to try and sell just about everything, and whatever doesn’t sell is what I’m supposed to keep. I have no idea what I’ll end up with after that garage sale. As I try not to curl up into a ball under my weighted blanket, I have had some thoughts about some things that He could be preparing me for. All of them could be really interesting, but they are also well outside my comfort zone. I’m sure that’s why He’s working on expanding the borders of that comfort zone. It will be interesting to see what target or destination He has me home in on, but I know, even when I’m kicking and screaming, He’s got perfect accuracy.

Another definition of home is ‘relaxed and comfortable; at ease’. This is not always defined by four walls. I feel at home when I am with the people I care about. In my processing through the idea of doing some couch surfing, quite a bit of anxiety has come up because of how far outside my comfort zone that is. But there has also been something else that has come up – a feeling of home. I have had so many offers of a couch to sleep on. If all of this moving transition had happened two years ago – well, actually just 13 months ago – I don’t think I would have survived. I wouldn’t have had many options of places to go and may have ended up just sleeping in my car. But He knew what He was doing. The people I met through HeartChange have become family. God is showing me again and again that He has built up this community of support in my life for a reason. There no longer is only one or two people in my life that care about me. I could crash on a different couch every week for the next two months and know that each couch was ‘home’ for that week simply because the person offering is family. I can be relaxed and comfortable or at ease. I may not like the idea of not having a place of my own right now, but I won’t be without a home. And the tears of sadness mingle with the tears of joy as I am reminded that I am loved. My heart has found a home that will not be affected by the physical location of my body. For that I am extremely grateful.

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To Be Known

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When I was growing up, and even into adulthood, one of my main struggles was with feeling like I was invisible.  There are several stories I could tell about how that message was presented and reinforced in my life – some one time events and others ongoing situations that continually reminded me that my existence was not important enough to be acknowledged.  One of those ongoing situations was Christmas Eve with my family.

For as long as I can remember, my family spent Christmas Eve with my dad’s side of the family, and we spent Christmas Day with my mom’s family.  My dad had a large family – seven sisters and two brothers (plus my dad’s brother who died at a young age).  My dad fell close to the middle so I had some cousins that were my age and quite a few second cousins that were around the same age.  Until sixth or seventh grade, we would go to my aunt’s house every Christmas Eve.  My dad’s family would come and go throughout the evening, and most of them were people I would only see on Christmas Eve.  My cousin and I would look at each other as people came in and ask, “Do you know who that is?  Which sister/brother do they belong to?”  When I was in junior high, my aunt and uncle got transferred and had to move a couple of hours away.  That’s when we started hosting Christmas Eve at our house.  Because I am so uncomfortable around people I don’t really know, I could have easily chosen to hide away in my room all night.  Some years, I would leave for a bit to go to a Christmas Eve service just to not have to be in that environment.  But for the most part, I would sit at the little island in our kitchen and just listen to the conversation that was pretty much the same each year.  How many times had each sibling been married/divorced?  Which spouse came in what order?  Which kids belong to which spouse?  There was something else that was pretty much the same each year.  I could sit at that island the entire night, and not one person would say a single word to me.  I would guess that if you asked most of them, including my immediate family, they would say that I was the ‘quiet’ one so they didn’t want to pressure me to talk, but it just reinforced how little my family actually knew me and how little I really mattered.  I was invisible in my own home, even when I put myself in the middle of the ‘action’.

That feeling of invisibility has haunted me most of my life, and though I still struggle with it from time to time, I have found myself feeling much more visible in the last year.  I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about why that is.  I went through HeartChange and met some awesome people that I consider family, and they have shown me what belonging and acceptance and grace truly look like.  It made sense that those things would help me to feel more visible.  Last week, I realized that there is more to it than that.  Those things are important, but I was missing something God wanted me to see.  I was at a small group one night, and the host was asking each person if they wanted tea.  When she got to me, before I could even open my mouth, she said, “Would you like some water?”  I don’t like tea – I never have – but I can remember times in my past where people would ask me over and over if I wanted any tea.  It seemed like I was just having conversations in my head about not liking tea because no one seemed to know that about me.  But this person, after only one time of me saying that I don’t drink tea, remembered that and offered water which was what I had asked for that first time I said that I don’t drink tea.  This wasn’t the first night she had offered me water (or anything else to drink), but it was the first night I realized God was trying to tell me something.  I felt something that night – something I was only starting to get truly comfortable with.  I felt known.  I felt loved.  As I listened later that night to what God was trying to tell me, I kept thinking about little things that had been happening over the last year that were making me feel known by more than just the one or two exceptions in my life to that point.  The only hot beverage I really drink is hot chocolate, but I don’t like it really hot.  Over the last year, I’ve had people make me hot chocolate and leave a little room in the cup to add cold water if it was too hot.  People who know that I have issues with my lower back have checked in with how my back was doing as we have set up and cleaned up workshops.  Multiple people know that I don’t like my foods to touch, I am a huge sports fan, and I love root beer.  They are such simple things, but those simple things being known have had huge significance.  I am not invisible.  I am known.  Even in the small things.  Knowing that has helped me to step deeper into the more vulnerable and big things.  I can trust that I am safe, and there are people around me who care and want to know me.  As I let that sink in a little more, I realized something else.  God wants to be known.  He knows everything about each and every one of us because He created each and every amazing, intricate detail.  And He wants us to know Him.

As I sat on the beach on my birthday a little over a month ago, I watched my friends being rescued, and I couldn’t move for a while.  God kept telling me to stay where I was at, and no matter how much I wanted to go and see how bad things were, I could not get up – could not even move an arm or leg.  As I’ve shared that story, one response I’ve gotten is that people were glad that I listened to Him and stayed put.  My response was usually, “I didn’t really have a choice.  He sat on me.”  His quick and adamant response was, “You always have a choice, my child.”  As we talked about what happened that day, He said, “If you were not listening, if you did not know my voice – know Me – you would not have even noticed that I was there, wanting you to stay in that spot.  It was your choice to hear My voice because it was your choice to know My voice – to know My Spirit.  And it was your choice to stay and listen.  You could have gotten up at any time, but you listened.  You know My voice.  You know Me.  You may not understand all of it, but keep listening to My voice.  Get to know Me more.  Go deeper.  Just as you have felt the significance of being known, I desire that with you.  Know Me.”  I haven’t really thought much about what could have happened if I hadn’t heard and listened to His voice that day.  I do know I would have gone in the water, and I know it would have been a pretty stupid thing to do.  I am glad that my heart recognized His voice, and I now have a new, vast desire to know Him more.

 

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The Unmaking of an Emotional Stuffer

holding-hands-photography-535693_1280_10242I was never allowed to express emotion growing up.  As a five year old, that message was already ingrained.  I became an expert stuffer.  Throughout my life, I’ve been told that I am hard to read.  I took pride in that for a long time.  That meant I wasn’t weak.  I wasn’t vulnerable.  I wasn’t stupid enough to risk more rejection and abandonment.  Of course, it also meant that I wasn’t actually living.  When you stuff, you don’t get to choose which emotions you feel and which ones you don’t.  They all get stuffed.  I may not have been vulnerable – I may not have cried (shown weakness) in front of people – but I also didn’t truly feel joy, peace, or love.

God has worked mightily in my life to bring me to a point where I could feel emotions and identify them as I was feeling them.  When it came to expressing those emotions, however, there was still a wall that I was fighting to keep up because I had pictures running through my head of what happens when I allow myself to express emotions, especially tears, around others.  I am an experiential learner.  I could hear about, or read about, how crying is natural, human, beneficial, and important in healing and relationship, but that doesn’t change the fact that my experience told me that crying only caused people to walk away.  I never had someone hold my hand or put their arm around me or hold me or even just sit with me when I cried.  Crying was an isolating thing for me.  I was 26 or 27 years old the first time someone actually just held me while I cried.  She was the exception in my life, and it was hard for me to stretch that across all of the opposite reactions I had experienced when I allowed myself to fully connect and express my emotions.  Even throughout my friendship with her, there were times when others would reinforce those old messages of rejection. Then that would leave me believing my friend was truly the exception in my life, and I could never figure out why she cared – because I certainly didn’t deserve that if everyone else was rejecting me.

This past weekend, I volunteered at a HeartChange workshop again.  When I went through HeartChange myself, it changed my life.  I keep going back because God keeps showing me more and more of how He sees me, and He keeps working in me to prepare me for His purpose.  Over the weekend, someone shared a song that I had never heard before.  Music is my language with God.  He speaks to me more through music than any other way.  And music forces me to connect to my emotions.  That was the theme of the weekend for me.  He wanted me to allow myself to let the wall down and trust that He had something different for me.  And, boy did He pile it on this weekend! 😉  This particular song that was shared is called The Unmaking by Nichole Nordeman (check it out if you haven’t heard it…I’ve been dancing to it for days).  When I heard it, I knew that it had a special significance in God’s plan for me that day.  I had been fighting Him the entire workshop, knowing what it was He wanted me to do.  I told a few people what God was trying to do because I really did want to trust Him, but this was an area that was so risky for me.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to handle any more rejection.  Would there really be anyone there if I let that wall down and just allowed some of those stuffed emotions to come out?  When you stuff emotions, they don’t go anywhere.  They never just disappear or evaporate.  At some point, they have to be released.  And God kept telling me that it was time to take that step.  But I just kept seeing the pictures in my head of people walking away or trying to fix things when I would cry.  Could there be another experience for me?  God kept telling me that I would never know if I didn’t try.  That’s why I told a couple people about what was going on.  I wanted to at least open the door to creating an environment where a different experience could be possible.

On Sunday, I knew He would be pushing my buttons.  He allows me to have my process, which involves fighting the step He wants me to take, but then He will gently push me off the cliff if I can’t jump.  I knew the push was coming.  As I sat where He told me to sit (away from the door so it wasn’t easy to bolt), He told me to look around the room.  He said, “This is different than it has ever been.  You know that.  This is a safe place.  These people are safe.  You belong here.”  And I knew He was right.  As I sat there fighting with Him, there were people in that room who were keeping an eye on me, knowing what was happening.  The night before, one person had asked me what it would look like when that wall came down and what I needed when it happened.  That question almost brought down the wall right then and there because I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she really wanted to know the answer because she wanted to be able to make sure that I had what I needed so this could be a different experience.  To feel that as I sat there was huge for me.  I still fought, but I knew I was safe.

There’s a line in one of the songs from the workshop that says, “Don’t you think it’s time?”  I hear it every workshop, and God taps me on the shoulder each time.  But this time, there was no tap.  There was a flashing neon sign in my head.  Don’t you think it’s time?  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fight much longer.  I had a couple of things that I had to take care of so I did those quickly after that song was over, and then I told one of the people keeping an eye on me that I was getting close.  Then I sat down and listened for a bit.  I wanted to respond to what God was saying to me (there might have been a desire to yell at Him…), but I was sitting in the middle of a room full of people who were trying to pay attention to what was happening in the workshop.  So I grabbed some paper and wrote my responses to God as we talked.  We went back and forth for a bit before I put my notebook down.  I had told Him that He was going to have to push me because I just could not jump.  He stood next to me and took my hand.  Then He said, “Will you jump with me?”  That’s when the ‘down in the trenches’ battle truly began.  I had my eyes closed because I knew that if I opened them, I would be pulled out of that space.  And I was exactly where I needed to be.  When I start to feel a connection with my emotions that is strong enough to produce an outward expression, I get extremely anxious.  When I get anxious, I tend to move a lot.  Normally, I would have left the room – maybe gone to the bathroom – so I could take some deep breaths and gain control again.  But I knew I couldn’t do that.  So my leg started bouncing up and down uncontrollably.  It was an attempt to distract myself from that emotional connection…to once again regain control.  I looked at Him and said, “Do you promise that the result will not be the same as when I’ve jumped before?”  His response was, “Will you jump with me and find out?”  Of course, that just aggravated me so we spent some time going back and forth because I wanted assurance that the jump would be worth it.

I really had no idea what was going on around me at the time.  I was filled in later, but at one point I felt someone standing next to me, and that person began rubbing my back.  For an instant, I was tempted to open my eyes just to see who it was, but I knew I couldn’t because I would be pulled from that space, and I needed to be in that space.  It was a little while before I finally said that I would jump.  My leg stopped bouncing, I took a deep breath, and we jumped.  The tears started coming, and I looked at Him and said, “Now what?”  He just said, “Stay there.  I’ve got this.”  I heard someone say that it was time for break which meant that I had a job to do, but it didn’t register in my head.  Of course, God really did have it.  Someone asked me a question, and I was sure she was talking to me, and I recognized every individual word, but I could not make sense of what she was asking me.  Later I realized that God made sure that I couldn’t make sense of it because if I had, I would have immediately pulled myself out of that space, gained control, and gone to do my job.  At one point, I felt a hand on me briefly, and even though I wasn’t looking, I knew who had touched me and what it meant.  It was the person who had asked me what the wall coming down would look like and what I needed.  And in that touch, I knew that she knew, and I knew that she would do everything she could to make sure I got what I needed.  I allowed myself to stay in that space and was careful to do what I needed to make sure I didn’t go back up into my head.  I told someone that I needed to leave the room because I wouldn’t be able to stay in that space once everyone came back in after break.  So a couple of people went to another room with me, and I did my best to allow the emotional release to continue.  One of them wasn’t fully aware of what was happening, and I wanted to explain, but I knew that if I started talking, I would go back into my head, and it would become an intellectual, factual thing instead of staying in the emotional state.  So I just let her be with me and pray, knowing that God was there and in control.  There were a few times when I would get distracted by something I’d hear, and I would feel like I should really be back in the other room ‘doing’ things.  Each time, the person with me would speak to it and tell me not to listen to that – that everything was taken care of – that I was where I needed to be.  And she just held me.  As she did, God brought the pictures up in my head of when people had walked away – the times that I needed nothing more than a hand to hold or a hug.  Each individual picture would come to mind, and God would say, “Let her hold you through this.  This is what should have happened originally.”  Another person came in later and gave me a hug and held me for a bit.  I know that happened because God wanted to make sure that I knew that it wasn’t just one or two people who were there for me.  The whole thing was this amazing, healing process.

I still have some work to do, but I can no longer say that my one friend is the exception in my life.  I have found a place where I belong.  I have found people who show me what unconditional love looks like.  People who show me that it is ok for me to be me – without judgment or a push to change me.  People who show me, in tangible ways, that I don’t have to believe the lie that says I am not good enough and I deserve to be alone.  I have found family.

This was where the walls gave way.  This was demolition day.

This is my unmaking.

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Exhale

inhale-exhale “It’s okay to not be okay.”

This is the first line of a song that I have been listening to over and over today.  It’s called ‘Exhale’ by Plumb.  Music has always been hugely impactful in my life.  It is how God speaks to me more often than not.  It is how I have connected to my emotions.  It is how I process through the things I experience and learn.  Over the last three or four months, I have experienced and learned so much.  Some of the lessons may seem small to most, but they have completely changed my life – and honestly, saved it.

As I have been processing my experiences over the last few months, one of the things I realized is that what we inhale greatly impacts what we exhale.  If we inhale toxins, we will have a very difficult time exhaling freedom, love, or joy.  Throughout my life, I have constantly inhaled judgment, rejection, abandonment, and fear.  With each breath, I began to build a wall.  My childhood provided a strong foundation, and the wall just grew and grew as I continued to breathe in toxins for almost 40 years.

15 years ago, I met the first person who did not exhale toxins in my life.  She was the exception to the rule.  When she said she loved me, I actually believed it.  I began to question the voices that kept saying I wasn’t worth it – that there was something wrong with me.  She continued to love me no matter what, but I was still inhaling so many toxins.

3 years ago, I met someone else who exhaled love into my life.  She stood by me as I began my journey of ‘detoxing’ those negative voices.  She encouraged me to be myself and did not turn away or judge when I could barely keep my head above water.

When I felt my life spiraling, and I questioned the point of it all, it was the love and support of these two that kept me going.   If they saw something worth caring about, it was logical that I needed to find that within myself.

The last few months have been about ‘detoxing’.  I have been able to start exhaling those toxins from my life…the fear, the anxiety, the worthlessness.  And the reason I’ve been able to do that is because I have found a group of people who have exhaled love and grace into my life.  Not since dance was my entire world have I ever felt like I belonged or was accepted the way I have been the last few months.  I have not inhaled even a whiff of judgment or rejection, and that has allowed me to begin to step into the person God created me to be.  I am so grateful for my heartchange family.

This is the chorus of ‘Exhale’:

Just let go
Let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

These people have (and continue to) just let go and let His love wrap around them.  And when they exhale, it is a beautiful breath of only love and grace.

For those of you who are constantly inhaling toxins, I pray that you find a community who begins to exhale God’s breath of life.  For those who have let go and inhale God’s love, I pray that you continue to exhale into the lives of others.  You may never know the lives it will save.

 

 

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Shades of Purple

color-thesaurus-correct-names-purple-shadescolor-meanings-symbolism-chart-purple-violet

If you ask anyone who knows me (and a lot of people who have just met me), they should be able to tell you what my favorite color is without much hesitation.  For three years, my hair was purple.  I have gone back to my natural hair color, but will be adding a purple streak soon.  There are few days when I am not wearing something purple.  I love the color.  And I believe there is a reason for that.

I went away for the weekend to be by myself.  It’s something that I need from time to time, and it has been too long since I’ve last done it.  Throughout the weekend, I kept being led to thoughts on color.  It’s hard to explain how my mind works so I apologize if this starts to go several different directions.  I am constantly thinking about several things at the same time, and I never really know when God is going to interrupt with a new thread.  I don’t often create what is considered normal ‘quiet time’ to talk with God.  He talks to me whenever He wants because I am always listening for His voice.  I hear Him best when I am actively thinking about something else or when He speaks through others, not when I am sitting still waiting for Him to speak.  I spent a lot of time walking today, listening to music and enjoying the scenery.  God and I had some great conversation, even when I was arguing with Him, and even when I was pushing for answers that He was not willing to give.

I spend the majority of my time working as a business analyst.  It’s not really what I saw myself doing, but it pays the bills – and I’m really good at my job.  The reason I’m good at my job has less to do with training/schooling as it has to do with how I am wired.  My mind likes numbers.  It likes solutions.  It likes right and wrong.  It likes black and white.  I have always, and probably always will, look for black and white answers.

But my favorite color is purple.  When you hear the word ‘purple’ what do you think of?  Plum?  Violet?  Lavender?  Eggplant?  Light?  Dark?  There are so many shades of every major color we think of.  Have you ever tried to buy paint?  Some places have color swatch books that are inches thick – every subtle difference in shading imaginable.

On my walk, I took this picture…

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What colors do you see?

We do not live in a black and white world.  We live in a world full of color.  But it’s not just blue or green or brown…it is subtle, and not so subtle, differences in shading.  It’s impossible to look at anything and see just one thing.  I found this website that shows different meanings of different colors.  I included the meanings of purple above.  There are so many different words – so many things that purple can convey to different people.  It is the same for every color included.  Here is the link if you want to check it out…

http://www.arttherapyblog.com/resources/color-meanings-symbolism-charts/#purplecolorchart

Does it surprise you that God created a world full of people who are so unique that they can look at the same thing and think and feel so differently?  There are so many shades of color because there are so many different people.  God isn’t black and white.  He is shades of purple…and shades of blue…and shades of green…and shades of gray.

His words to me lately have been about those shades.  He knows that I want a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  He knows that I will always seek that no matter how much I learn or how comfortable I may get with the ‘unknown’ and the ‘gray’.  I will still want black and white.  And He’s ok with that because He knows my heart.  He knows that at the end of the day I will follow Him wherever He leads.  So He will allow me to question Him, argue with Him, and push Him for answers because, though He created me with an analytical mind, He also created me with a creative side that thrives off of shades of gray.  I’ve asked a lot of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions lately, and His answer has been the same.

“You are so intent on having a definitive answer, but it’s never that simple.  The question isn’t what I want you to do or the direction I want you to go.  The question is ‘Are you paying attention?’  If you go right, are you watching to see how I work?  If you go left, are you watching to see how I work?  That is all that matters.  Which way you go is up to you.  I will work either way.”

I have spent most of my life trying to live up to other people’s expectations.  I always thought that was what was best.  I don’t really have that desire anymore.  I am 100% positive that God created me uniquely, and He gave me a brain that He intended for me to use.  I don’t always like it, but it has always been clear to me that God wired me in a way that most of the world will never understand.  That makes me feel extremely isolated most of the time, and that has caused me to continue to try and live based off of what others think is best.  And I in no way think that what is best for me is best for anyone else.  There is no right or wrong.  Where would God’s creativity be displayed if there was a simple, across the board, answer for what is best?  I am finally starting to realize that I will never get to where I want to be if I continue to live based off of what others believe.  It won’t be an easy road, but I am ready to live my life without needing a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  I will still ask for them because that is a part of my wiring.  But I commit to also embrace the shades of gray.  God commanded us to LOVE.  It is why Jesus died for us.  It is what we are called to do.  It means that we have to figure out a way to accept the shades of gray.  Because God is not black and white.

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Waiting for the sun to shine…

your-truth-is-a-hundred-times-more-powerful-than-doubt-faith-quote

 

I believe in God, but right now, I do not trust Him.  I tell Him this multiple times every day.  His response is always the same – “I know.  It’s ok.”  I find this response comforting and infuriating at the same time.  I also find it interesting.  When I tell people that I do not trust God, the responses are varied, but there are very few who truly believe that it is ok that I don’t trust Him.  But He does.  He knows where I have been.  He knows where I am right now.  And He knows where my journey will take me – every step.  What am I going to say?  Lie?  Pretend?  He knows.  The only thing I would accomplish by saying that I trust Him is making other people more comfortable.  He knows that I can’t trust Him right now, but it’s ok.  It’s a part of the process.  My faith is being destroyed so that it can be rebuilt.   Yes, I said “is being destroyed”.  I 100% believe that this is something God is doing to me.  Now before you start in on ‘freewill’, let me explain something.  I chose to follow God years ago.  Every decision I have made since then has been because I believed God was leading me in that direction.  He opened the door for this journey to begin.  It was my choice to walk through that door.  There came a point in my journey where I knew my faith would have to be destroyed.  Like so much of my life, it was built on a false foundation.  A foundation created by what other people decided was best for me or what other people expected of me.  My current journey is about rebuilding my faith on a foundation that is truly my own – a foundation that embraces the uniqueness of how God created me.  That process will take some time, and I refuse to skip steps or pretend that I am ok with what is happening to me right now.

But that doesn’t mean that I am not fighting or that I have trivial or juvenile expectations of God doing what I want Him to do.  I fight for my faith every moment of every day.  What is the point of faith if it is not worth fighting for?  But I am called to fight in my own way.  We all are called to fight in our own ways.  My fight shouldn’t look like someone else’s because God created us all uniquely.  A large part of my fight is figuring out who I am and then leaning into that – being comfortable and ok with the way God created me, even when it feels completely isolating.

Right now, I find no hope or trust in my faith.  It is filled only with fears, darkness, loneliness, exhaustion, and relentless pain.  Yet, still I fight.  I am facing the demons of my past.  The ones who have lied about my worth.  The ones who have rejected and neglected me.  The ones who convinced me that everything is my fault.  The ones who have shaped how I see myself and the world.  This space is confusing, frightening, frustrating, and profoundly painful.  Yet, still I fight.  It would be easier to pretend that I trust God.  But in that space I deprive myself of knowing God in the unique way that He created me to know Him.  It would be easier to walk away.  I am angry with God, and I honestly don’t want to trust Him.  I wonder how much more I can take.  It feels like a game, and I am tired of playing.  Yet, still I fight.  I don’t know where this journey will take me.  There are days when I am completely convinced that I will never trust God again.  Yet, still I fight.  I feel alone in this journey, and I often wonder if the fight is worth it.  What does it matter if I rebuild my faith and still find myself isolated and alone?  Yet, still I fight.

I talk to God on a constant basis.  I will continue to do so.  I will also continue to hit Him, to push Him away, to wrestle with Him, to yell at Him, to curse at Him, to distrust Him, and to dance with Him.   I will be angry with Him for what I have experienced and for the lack of answers.  I will not believe the people who tell me that He loves me, that He cares about me, that He is worthy of my trust.  It is all a part of my process.  And God is big enough to handle it.  He is right by my side, and He will continue to ask me to dance, and He will continue to tell me it’s ok that I don’t trust Him.  Because He knows my journey.  And He is holding and protecting that part of me that will someday trust Him again – that part of me that will become the foundation of my faith.  Until then, I will fight in my own way.  And I will wait for the sun to shine.

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