Growing and Grooming

I have been doing a lot of thinking and praying recently about a slew of things and I think I am finally to the point of having it clear enough in my head to share.

Lately I have dealt with a lot of confusion, frustration and anger and struggles to wade through the last two years. There have definitely been days where I felt guilt for my anger, but other days it has seemed as though it was the sole emotion pushing me to continue to pray so I grasped onto it as hard as I could. I have been really actively trying to process through what it looks like to follow what I believe God lead me to, and then what to do with it when it went so terrible wrong… as in the entirely opposite direction.

What do I do with the fact that I felt God had pushed me towards a specific place and job, and that it was finally my calling made exactly perfectly for me; only for it to fall apart within a year?.. And then, why would he prevent me from getting another job and placing me in a situation of losing most everything for another year (maybe more at this rate)?

Let me pause for a second and say, if you know someone going through an intensely painful period of life, there is very little that can be said to encourage someone throughout a season such as this. In the last two years, the most encouraging thing came from the people who did not offer cute or well-meaning sayings, but instead chose to acknowledge how difficult and frustrating life can be, and then just offered love and support. The people who could quote well placed in context scripture to offer encouragement were like sunshine in the depths of night.

However, above anything else, it has been the people who have just been there. The people who listened, prayed, cried, laughed, and sat in silence with me as I just struggled and continue to work through the emotions every day while not understanding the purpose or goal.

I do not have an aha answer yet as to the reason behind why things have turned out the way they have.. nor why things continue to be difficult. However, I do have a list of things I have learned that have ruminated in my head long enough to share now (or again)…

  • I am learning and having compassion literally grown in me. – I am not a naturally compassionate person, every ounce of it has been cultivated over time within my heart.
  • I have spent my whole life viewing my value as coming from the fact that I am capable. – While I still struggle with this idea daily, I now recognize that my value is intrinsic, not because I am capable of handling my problems AND yours. Every day I struggle with working to view myself as valuable outside of my ability to handle anything thrown at me.
  • I think the most overwhelming thing that I have realized throughout everything is that, every single day (no exaggeration), I have gotten an e-mail, phone call, FaceTimed, text, FB message, hug, coffee, snail mail card etc.. from friends and family checking in to say they love me, are praying for me, thinking of me and wanting to know how I’m doing. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. from a whole slew of people, not even just a small group. It more than almost anything else overwhelms me with emotions to see how many people love me so very deeply.
  • There are a handful of people who have listened to me verbally struggle and be angry throughout this process and they have done nothing but show grace, love, compassion, and understanding; it has made the most significant impact on my heart. I can only imagine the level of frustration they must feel over how long I have been struggling.
  • Throughout scripture you see people asking God over and over “Why?” and “How long?” – I just recently discovered this little bit of truth (thanks to Amazed and Confused by Heather Zempel), and I am so thankful to realize that my feelings are not new or abnormal, but I share those feelings with so many others.
  • Recently, I have realized that the vast majority of my stress comes from tomorrow, not often today. In that realization comes the fact that we are told not to stress about tomorrow. – Having exactly what I need today is enough, stressing about tomorrow is fruitless, but it takes a serious level of active work to let go of tomorrow’s worry.
  • I have realized also how much comparison good or bad is detrimental to our hearts. Comparing someone else’s worse or horrible situation does not make me feel better or guilty about my own situation. The problem comes in that as soon as I compare bad or worse, I also compare those who have it great and better. – Both are pretty unhealthy. Obviously something can be said for gaining perspective, and sometimes looking at someone else’s situation can offer that, but more often than not it is unhealthy.
  • I have watched Dick Foth’s message Enough from NCC in DC twice now, and I keep reminding myself that God’s Grace is sufficient. Meaning that it is just right, at just the right time for me and my situation. It is not too much, it is never too little, but it covers me perfectly.
  • A few months ago I switched from thinking that God was waiting and preparing things so that there will be “something better” later, to believing that he was preventing me from moving on. – I still believe this, but a friend recently said it in a way that put my heart at rest. – God is grooming me with all of this, and God grooms people for a specific reason. It was a small statement, and may have been told to me before, but the right words at the right time that changed my perspective. This means, that it is all on purpose, yet not in a malicious or forgotten sense, but in a healthy and cultivating way. I do not know if “better” in the classic sense is what is coming, but on purpose and healthy IS better when coming from God.
  • I think I often try to deny the fact that I am such an extreme touch person that during periods when I do not receive any form of touch (for days or weeks), that it causes a pretty severe negative impact on my mental state. – I think I like to pretend that I am or should be strong enough for it not to matter whether I am touched… Until I am once again regularly hugged or touched in general, and it feels as though my dry and dying soul is a desert that is suddenly watered and refreshed.

Every day I struggle through more feelings and thoughts, and try to aim towards getting healthy again. I desire more than anything to feel peace once more, and while I am not there yet, I can look back and realize that I am much closer to it than I was months ago. I can see the pieces of the puzzle fitting together, although I have no clue what the picture is supposed to be at this point.

While I struggle daily with a variety of issues and stressors, the biggest and maybe most profound thing that my heart has settled back into is that God has not forgotten me, I am loved, cherished, and this is not for naught.

Outside of Yourself…

IMG_2182I have said it numerous times over, the more you focus on yourself the more depressing the world becomes.

Over the last while, my world has been primarily focused on myself; some out of the spotlight was pure necessity, and some of it because of depression, but most of it was out of fear. It is becomes easy to lose sight of other people’s pain when I feel out of control of my own situation. When I have no game plan and no perceived way out of my struggles, I tend to fall back into focusing on surviving.

I am really not a fan of that habit.

Sometimes I feel as though I am able to control myself and prevent my natural self-preservation tactics, but then the stress or scenario get worse and often pushes me over the edge once again.

Eventually I will find my way back to relying on Christ, His stability, and His promises… But, it seems to always take me a while.

However, recently I have found myself presented with a situation that surprisingly is exactly perfect for me to step in and help with. I have found myself exhausted, drained, and working hard, but at the same time I have felt renewed because I absolutely must put my attention elsewhere.

Unfortunately, I have taken my frustrating season of life into another person’s painful season as well, yet I am finding that together, we are making it through. As though our lifeboats are strong enough to hold both of us together, but not necessarily buoyant enough for each of us alone.

A long time ago, I listened to a pastor give a sermon that caused me to sob almost uncontrollably, and in his message he talked about being joyful in the midst of severe pain, when joy is nowhere to be found. One of the things the pastor pointed out was how important it is to purposefully name the things that you are thankful for. I tried for several weeks, and then months to name more than one thing that I could muster up the feelings of thankfulness.

Lately, I have found myself with the ability to be thankful for such seemingly small, but incredibly important things… Such as, the ability to cover my bills, that this stage of life allows me to step into helping someone else unlike any other time in my life would have allowed. The way that only God can use two painful and frustrating stages of life to help each of us support each other. The practical feelings of “we are in this together”…

But, today as I sit here writing this, I am finding myself mostly thankful for the desire to read scripture again. I have been trying to force myself to read my Bible for months upon months, but really lacked the desire or heart.

I realized the other day that despite knowing so many of the Truths and promises found throughout scripture, I was going to run out of steam, both emotionally and spiritually if I did not find or make time to dig in and reenergize myself.  Then, as I often forget, the more I spend time reading and thinking about scripture, the easier it is to focus on loving those around you. For the first time in such a long time, and despite the very serious and difficult situation I find myself in, I am filled with thankfulness AND hope that God is not only good, but that He will take care of me, my friend, and our situations to the betterment of both of us.

“The Lord also will be a stronghold for the oppressed.
A stronghold in times of trouble;
And those who know Your name will put their trust in You,
For You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:9, 10