Behind the Bittersweet Story…

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I went to Costa Rica for my 32nd birthday with a few close friends!

But, there’s so much more to the story than the pictures ever can share…

One of the definitions of Bittersweet is “both pleasant and painful”. I have always known what this word means, especially as it pertains to food (such as bittersweet chocolate). However, I do not know that I have ever had such a vivid and personal scenario that is best described as: Bittersweet.

For my birthday, a few of my best friends and I planned for me and a group of my girlfriends to escape to Costa Rica… Secretly, I think they were all tired of me complaining about winter ruining my birthday every year!

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So, we found an amazing deal to go to Vista De Olas in the Mal Pais region of Costa Rica. Beautiful, and full of adventures waiting to be had. It was going to be epic, we had all sorts of fun things planned, and they had a slew of surprises up their sleeves. Jokes about the trip permeated our conversations for months as we planned and dreamed.

As the dates got closer, we all worked harder towards our goals financially, physically, and made lists of all the pictures and things we wanted to experience while in Costa Rica. It was going to be such an adventure, but we had such a fun time of planning and laughing at each other’s plans!

Three days before we were scheduled to leave, one of my best friends, who was also scheduled to come to with us had the worst day of her life. Without giving all the details of her story, her brother passed away in his sleep. It was a day and more than a week full of so much sorrow for her, her family, and loved ones. No one should have to navigate the death of a loved one… and as a best friend, there are no words or actions that can be done to make it better.

Pain and sorrow. That is the best way I can describe it all.

Two days later, her, myself, and another mutual best friend gathered and just sat together and cried. We spent hours sitting in silence, talking, crying, and just staring off into the distance as we processed and just experienced the loss of it all. There is so much pain in this unexpected season, and none of us know how to do this well, so we spent time just talking through our pain and sorrow for each other, and figuring out trying to support and navigate it all.

Pain and sorrow.

The following morning I turned 32; and I boarded an early plane headed for Costa Rica to celebrate my birthday with four beautiful and amazing women that are such good friends of mine… But, also without one.

Bittersweet sorrow.

My heart was overflowing with so much pain and sorrow. I spent the first part of the morning fighting back tears and trying to figure out how to celebrate and experience an amazing and fun trip that was planned by all of us; yet knowing one of my best friends was absent, and going through the worst week of her life… And struggling through the guilt of going without her, even though we had talked through it and she wanted me to go; it doesn’t reduce the sorrow experienced.

I kept finding myself circling my thoughts back around to the fact that we had planned this whole thing months prior, and yet God knew what would happen. So, why had he created this space for me to be separated? – Not in a questioning His goodness, but rather questioning the purpose and process He wanted with me when this space was created.

fullsizerender-1Each morning we spent time just being. Sleeping, reading scripture, journaling, and just sitting still to soak in the view before we went on adventures or to a beach.

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The ocean and sunshine have always been my go-to place to find Jesus and a soul reset. My mind almost instantly finds peace and calmness when I smell the ocean water and hear the waves. I have never had to fight for it before, yet I found myself heart-sick, and struggling to connect with God. I was fighting to find peace and release of my pain and anxiety. I knew what I needed, but I just couldn’t seem to get there.

A couple of nights into the trip, we gathered together on our patio and shared all of the different struggles we were each trying to work through. Anxiety and fear were the common thread between each one of us. The trip was a bittersweet escape for everyone. We spent a great deal of time just sitting silently together, each somewhat reluctant to share our own anxieties, but when all was said and done, we prayed while I looked at the stars.

The sky was expansive, never-ending, and beautiful.. Created and intricate by a God who cares and knows pain and sorrow intimately.

That night, I went to sleep with no change in feelings, but a desperate need to connect with Him.

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When I awoke in the morning, my sorrow for the situation had not changed, but I knew God was ready to spend some time together. I journaled and read scripture for longer that morning, and then swam to the edge of the infinity pool and just waited for God to show up.

He did.

Ever so slowly God replaced my anxiety with peace, He took my overwhelming sorrow and sided it with His Grace and understanding. He didn’t remove the pain and sorrow, but it no longer felt too much. Bittersweet. I could now see the sweetness of this trip without first seeing the pain. God met my needs with Himself, and I knew the pain wasn’t over, but the anxiety was put to rest, and I could now enjoy the trip fully, while experiencing the sorrow fully as well; but not feeling it tainted.

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While the trip is over, the pain and sorrow certainly is not. Death and grief are not simple nor easy. Life is different and changed forever, this next season is not what anyone wanted or planned, but it will be met with more of the Grace, Love and Mercy of our Lord.

Costa Rica was everything I needed it to be. I was able to find rest, to reset my heart, soul, and mind. I had the space to pause and grieve and hurt on behalf of someone else I love so much that words fall short.

God met me in Costa Rica with mercy new and specific for now.

Turning 32 was not what I expected, but it will forever be a marker for me. Bittersweet.

Yes, It Is Normal…

I want to be known for my blending of Grace and Truth exactly perfectly…

Unfortunately, I tend towards Truth naturally and really have to work on being better at HOW I say things.

And, in the spirit of honesty, one of my biggest struggles is learning how to blend Grace into my words to mitigate my natural leaning towards Truth in a way that reflects the Holy Spirit and Jesus well.

You see, I believe that one of the biggest tricks the devil uses against us is making us to feel like we are isolated. I think often many do not share openly their lives in a way that could be helpful to someone else because it is personal, private, and feels intimate… But, if we are alone, and if that thing we are struggling through is believed to be abnormal, if we are the only one, then clearly we are weak or there is something wrong with us…

I regularly find myself in conversations with people that allows for me to share my own story, struggles, and in a completely honest light offer them authentic encouragement because, after all, we are now in this struggle together.

Over the last few months, I have been given this amazing opportunity to share about my ministry/job with other churches around the country. Some of them were referred to me, others found my name and title (First Impressions Director) on our website, and others I am not entirely sure how they found me. But, I have gotten to talk to them, encourage their ministries, hearts, and share whatever information I could about how and what I do… As well as simply connect over our common bond of “overwhelmed but passionate” for our ministries.

One of the biggest things I have come to realize, regardless of the ministry, church size and even occupation, it needs to be said frequently: 

What you are feeling, that’s normal. 

It doesn’t really matter what you’re feeling:
Overwhelmed,
Annoyed,
Blessed,
Content,
Frustrated,
Excited,
Like you’re drowning,
Struggling,
Overjoyed,
Dry inside,
Agitated,
Numb, etc…
AALLL of the feelings are normal, they are being experienced by someone else also in your same place trying to keep that same pace.

I have been asked SO many times, “How do you manage it all?”

And, my very real and honest answer:

Sometimes I handle it well, flawlessly, and feel energized!…

Aaand then other times, I find myself binge watching Netflix with a glass of wine and snacks, locked away in my room with my puppy for six hours. – Totally healthy coping mechanism 🙄

Sometimes my daily Jesus time is SO GOOD! Then all of a sudden I look up and it’s been TWO WEEKS and I’m not entirely sure where my Bible is even located.

Sometimes my journal and prayers are overflowing, and other times I just sit and stare blankly.

Sometimes I wake up looking forward to my day, having slept well and stoked about what I have planned. Other times I hit snooze until I’m late for work (sorry boss!) and have to bolt out the door without brushing my teeth (I promise I make up the work time)!

Sometimes I go to the gym and eat so well totally dominating the meal prepping for the week. Other times I can’t even remember the last time I ate something other than fast food.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the love and joy for my job and life. Other times I am just overwhelmed with a heavy and discouraged heart.

Life is hard. 

Following Jesus is hard. 

Life and following Jesus are all real things, real struggles, authentic joys and sorrows, love and hate, anger and repentance. These are normal life things that so many try to hide or pretend are not a normal part of their lives. Why are we not highlighting the good, bad, beautiful and ugly as ENTIRELY normal?!

Some days we will feel ready to go and like we can conquer the world. Other days we will do all we can to merely survive the day. 

So, Yes, it (whatever “it” is) is normal. 

Don’t let the smiles, adventures, Instagrams, Facebook posts, snapchats or 30 second conversations of and with others fool you… We are all swinging back and forth on this pendulum of so good, and really just trying to survive the suck.

 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.”– 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Trust me, those feelings are normal, and experienced by others! Share your feelings with others, be honest, choose to help someone else see their feelings are normal and accepted too.

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Heavy Days…

The Wounded Healer implies that grace and healing are communicated through the vulnerability of men and women who have been fractured and heartbroken by life. In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve.” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

Some days are just heavy days, full of frustration, heart hurt, aggravation, not being enough, and being helpless to fix it (whatever all the “its” are). Heavy days for me becomes an exercise of sheer will in order to be kind and fully invested in those who are not a part of my heavy day.

I have found that I cope mostly through praying… or rather, I slip away as much as I can and allow my thoughts the chance to let go of the clutter, which creates space for prayers to float their way through my head. I also spend a lot of time intentionally focusing on setting aside feelings and engaging well in my day.

Heavy days are some of the worst days for my heart because I have no solutions, no ways to make things better, so my heart just hurts, my head cannot seem to orient, and my body hurts more on heavy days. Yet, despite the struggle, I find heavy days good for me because they are the days that my heart is the most open to communication with my Savior.

On heavy days the Holy Spirit speaks to me differently, His voice is sweeter, softer with much more tenderness… and on heavy days, those are the days I feel God’s affection towards me. On most days tenderness is not particularly an attribute of God that I identify with (nor communicate to those around me), but on heavy days I feel the calming presence of His tender presence.

I never wonder why God allows heavy days or bad days, because those are the days that I do not have such carefully constructed walls around my heart and He and I communicate better.

All I want to say to you is, ‘You are the Beloved,’ and all I hope is that you can hear these words as spoken to you with all the tenderness and force that love can hold. My only desire is to make these words reverberate in every corner of your being— ‘You are the Beloved.’” – Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child

How Beautiful The Feet…

I have never liked my feet.

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When I was a younger child, I disliked them because they were crooked and I had to wear shoes to correct them.

As an older child, I disliked them because they were larger than that of my petite friends.

In high school, I disliked them because they were heavily calloused from the years barefoot I had spent on martial arts training mats.

My feet still are covered in functional callouses from walking around barefoot every chance I get (odd I know given this topic), calloused from high heels, from dance shoes, from a plethora of things.

It is an extremely select few people who I will allow to touch my feet without them being covered in socks first. I dislike people touching my bare feet (not to mention they are intensely ticklish).

Now that I am sans a vehicle of my own, I have walked more this summer than I have probably any other time in my life (except maybe a couple of summers at camp)… I average 10,000-20,000 steps (5-10 miles roughly) a day.

I love the forced walking. I enjoy the space it has created in my daily life to think and process. It takes more planning to get around, but it seems to have slowed my life down just enough in this insane season. Walking has returned to me my much coveted processing time that driving used to afford me years ago.

Not long ago this partial verse popped into my head:

“‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!'” (Romans 10:15b)

When I thought of this, I looked down to my feet and contemplated if I considered my feet beautiful in this capacity. I was indeed walking significantly more as a part of my job… in an attempt to do my part to bring the good news of good things to those who have not heard.

But, did I think my feet were beautiful because of it?

I decided I did not see beauty in my feet, but instead I saw the glorious functionality of them and I was thankful.
Thankful that my tendons and ligaments have held up nicely, and they have not given out like they are prone to do.
Thankful that several years ago I bought the worlds most comfortable and durable flip-flops (Crocs) that have lasted me all summer.
Thankful that I live in a city that walking is an easily feasible option.

So, I found myself satisfied. I did not consider my feet beautiful even still, but they were as functional and actually, more useful than they have been in other seasons of my life.

Then, not long later, I began thinking about the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. I was thinking about this because I have never had to wash my feet so frequently in my entire life! (It is a fairly well-known fact that I dislike showering… I try to go multiple days without showering if at all possible.)

Yet, walking so much means incredibly dirty feet… which means washing my feet daily. Every. Single. Day. Dang. It!

However, let’s be clear, even still, I walk on paved sidewalks, brick covered sidewalks, and easily avoid the dirt and puddles… Not dirt roads.

How much more dirty were Jesus’ feet than my own?

Every evening, I wash my feet before I go to bed. I have found that as the summer has gone on, my feet are not just covered in dirt, but they are calloused differently, they are stained because of the color of the dirt… It is gross and I have had to take a foot stone to them frequently in order to remove all of the dirt.

How much more dirty were Jesus’ feet than my own?

This woman was so remorseful that she willingly and gladly cleaned Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair, and then poured what was about a year’s worth of perfume oil onto his feet.

How beautiful were His feet to this woman overcome with guilt and remorse?

And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:37-38)

Then, on top of it all, she kissed Jesus’ feet. I do not think I have never understood the intense emotions she must have felt until I have experienced my own functional feet that never seem to get clean… And yet, all she wanted to do was clean them and kiss them in such an intimate way. So many feels.

And Jesus answered him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’
And he replied, ‘Say it, Teacher.’
A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?’
Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’
And He said to him, ‘You have judged correctly.’
 Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.’
Then He said to her, ‘Your sins have been forgiven.’
Those who were reclining at the table with Him began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man who even forgives sins?’
And He said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.'” (Luke 7:40-50)

This woman is mentioned in Matthew, Mark, AND Luke. She left an impression on these men. Jesus saw her, understood her heart, and forgave her… releasing her of her guilt and remorse…

Go in peace.

How beautiful the feet…

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.

2013 Year in Review…

My favorite post is my annual year in review. I approach them differently depending on the year and how I am feeling about the year.

I love going through and being reminded of the year. Sometimes the year is full of challenges, other years is an abundance of blessings, most years are a mixture of both, and sometimes the year is just full of a crazy amount of things.

I started doing year-end reviews five years ago, even though I have been blogging on one platform or another for more than a decade! Every year, the review blog post is one of my favorites because it reminds me of where I have been, what I have done, and ultimately how blessed I truly am.

Here are previous year-end reviews:
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012

So, onto the review!

Oh man, 2013 has been an interesting year…. 

Turned 28 in January…

Had lots of different hair colors:

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I raised a Great Dane puppy, that at times I thought was either going to kill me or I was going to kill him. I have spent so many hours training, cleaning up his poop or pee, training, snuggling, training, walking, training… And without realizing it, I have grown to love his companionship, and realized he has ultimately turned out to be one of the best decisions I have made:

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Slobber.

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Vormund at 9 weeks old (technically in 2012)

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“Indestructible” bed.

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At 1 year old and 130lbs.

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I traveled. A lot, for a slew of reasons and loved every single moment of each trip:

Birds Nest Great Wall1Red Bean TeaForbidden CitySummer PalaceGaitlinburg

Basillica BarcelonaEiffel TowerMoving againVenice MapVeniceColusseumGirls MexicoSleepingWall MexicoAll Girls Mexico

I saw some of the most breathtaking skies:
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I ate new foods.. Some I loved, others…. not so much:

Bubble Tea Cafe Dessert Cafe Latte Calamari Clams1 Clams2 Pecking Duck Shrimp Shrimp2

My baby brother got married, and my older brother had a new baby!

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I got to spend so. much. time. with my family:

Rach and I

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As I truly sit back and look at 2013, it was such a great year… and such a terrible year all rolled into one.

On one hand…
I got to see and meet so many absolutely amazing and inspiring people.
I got to hug some of my best friends in the world (a few multiple times).
I was able to dance quite a bit more than I thought I would be able to.
I completed TWO masters degrees!

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My longest friend in the world and several other dear friends got married, and many others got engaged!
I had so many wonderful people I love dearly have babies this year!
I got to know and love so many fantastic and amazing teens and people at my church.

And then, there was the crappy things mixed in with such good things..

I loved my job, felt like I was exactly where God placed me, and yet, I struggled with being lonely and stressed constantly.
At one point, I felt God told me to allow someone to stay in my apartment, and while I was gone, $9,000 worth of stuff was stolen, my car was impounded, and a slew of other issues happened.
Just over halfway through the year, I was let go from my job for essentially the reason I was hired in the first place because my job was causing more issues than anticipated initially.
I lost my church and church family.
I had to move out of my home and in with family (although they’re fabulous, it is never the first option you want when moving).
I got into a car accident that was not my fault, and then figured out due to the “no-fault” laws, I literally could not afford to fix my car.
I had to deal with TWO insurance claims in a two month period… Neither of which were pleasant experiences.
I was unemployed for several months at the end of 2013.

While applying for the monotonous more than 200 jobs (around the world), I had fun changes of pace to the applications including this question:
“If our team were stranded on a deserted island, why would we want you with us?”

My answer:
“You want me on the island with you because unlike Tom Hanks, I will open the packages to see if there’s anything useful for us to use.
I also have a good sense of humor, enjoy challenges; which oftentimes expresses itself as being adventurous.
I have been camping every summer of my childhood, know how to build a fire, shelter, and I have watched every episode of LOST.
And, in the rare possibility of a zombie apocalypse on the deserted island, I have been in the martial arts for more than 20 years and have been trained on how to survive.”

In just God’s timing, right when I finally admitted I was angry, not thankful or joyful due to the crap that had been a constant throughout my entire year; and as only God can do, He swooped in and brought people around me (some I know, and others I have never met) to support me, give me a place to stay, a car to use, money, prayers, encouraging letters/notes/e-mails/scripture, and many times just laughter to give me a moment to forget the stress. And then, He sent me a temporary job the day I found out I was not eligible for unemployment. So, off I went on another adventure to a temporary job with one of my absolute best friends in the world, in a city I love and near the church that feels like home.

To say this year has been emotional in ever aspect of the word would be an understatement.

I loved, cherished, had joy, sorrow, hated, and was just plain dealing with a hurting heart… and every emotion in between this year.

2013 has been a year of bait and switch. So much good followed by so much heartache, only to be once again followed by healing and growth in only the way that God can do things.

I love 2013, and I am so glad to see it over.

Thank you to every single one of you for your love, support, prayers, notes, hugs, food, time, money, shoulders to try on, and ears to listen. I can confidently say that you made this year possible to survive, learn, and laugh through. As difficult as this year has felt, I can honestly say that every low note is met with someone there to support me.

God is so good. In the good, in the bad, in the joy, in the pain, in our good times, and our ugly. This year has taught me so much about who God is, and just how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many amazing people, no matter what happens in my life.

Hope and Understanding…

This fall, I took some time off from my blog, I needed a break from writing; mostly, I needed a break because I was broken, but regardless I knew I needed to not write for a bit.

However, I feel like I am finally ready to start sharing my thoughts and heart again.

A couple of months ago, I felt as though I had fallen into an ocean and couldn’t swim. I felt like I was drowning.

I was in a sink or swim type of situation, as though I had been thrown into an ocean so I could learn HOW to swim.

Only, I panicked.

Instead of swimming or focusing on getting my head above water, I just panicked.

You see, the problem is, when you are in a panicked state of mind, not much gets through to you. People can tell you what to do, they can yell, or get angry, or love on you, but if you are not listening, the advice doesn’t help.. And sometimes, it just adds to the noise.

I did a lot of thinking, a lot of avoiding, a lot of watching online tv, a lot of praying, and a whole heck of a lot of sitting in silence.

However, there was exactly one conversation almost two months ago that made it through the noise and the pain, and gave me hope and understanding…

After a particularly difficult day filled with tears and despair, I was pulled aside by family friends, given some money, and told that I was being prayed for. That this person was praying and lamenting on my behalf to God, and asking why my situation was so difficult and why I was going to suffer. He told me that God had told him (although not audibly) that, I was like a tree that was being trimmed. However, I was getting pruned more than normal, so it would be more difficult and painful than a normal cutting away of the excess. Yet, he said that God made it clear that I was going to be ok, because my roots were deep enough that I would not be shaken, I would not lose my faith. I would not lose my God in this situation, that in the long run it would be better and healthy because the tree and fruit would produce more than it was ever able to beforehand. He said my roots are strong enough that I would be ok, despite how much it will hurt.

While he was describing his time with God, I saw it, I saw my tree. I knew exactly what my tree looked like before the trimming, I saw the pain of the aftermath of the branches, leaves and fruit laying on the ground. I felt the gut wrenching and sheer hurt I was facing due to how much trimming had to be done, and then, I was able to see the root system. It was massive, and entirely dwarfed the size of the now small tree with piles of branches and leaves on the ground.

Above ground my tree was almost laughably small. The left over branches looked spindly, and as though the trim had in fact killed it because it was too severe. Yet, below ground, the root system was vast and expansive, and full of life.

I knew then, that I was going to be fine, but I also know how painful this was all going to be, and I had no option but to go through the pain. I thought about and wondered, and spent a lot of time asking God if I was in fact strong enough. Did I have enough faith, and believe down to my core that my savior would save me? Every time, I realized that my faith was not being shaken. I did not have a frame of reference for what was taking place, but I knew He would be there, I also knew that I was operating on just the sensory of immense pain. Just pain.

I did not have a box for knowing in my core that I would be ok, but only feeling pain.

I am still wading through the pain. I wish I could point to one, two or ten things that have caused me to be in this situation. Walking through this intense trimming, but the reality is, it has been a long time coming, and will likely be a while before I am on the other side. Unfortunately, I am anticipating a few more breakdowns in the process.

Soon. Soon I will be dancing in the amazing healing that only God can provide. Soon I will explain to you a few of the more recent steps of growth, recovery, and healing; but for now, tonight, there is just hope, and a glimmer of understanding that I feel just as much as know deep down.