Thursday, October 17, 2013

Tough Tears

I have tried for most of my life to be strong.  I often linked the presence of tears with weakness.  As many of us can probably attest to, growing up we were told to stop crying (or we would be given something to cry about!).  As we grow, we are told to be tough or else thought of as a "baby."  By the time we reach adolescence and young adulthood, we have learned that this type of emotional signal is either a tool of manipulation, a sign of immaturity, or in extreme and often rare cases, a sign of real pain.  At least, this is what I came to believe.

I have spent a long time closing myself off from feeling any emotions strong enough to elicit tears.  There have been only a few deeply meaningful moments where these unwanted drops would fall, but most often this was very private.  Even then, I felt silly, embarrassed and weak. If anyone was present for this lapse in control, I would apologize profusely and promise myself that it would never happen again.  After getting married, more than a decade ago, I was determined not to use emotions as manipulation, and felt betrayed by myself if I ever found my eyes even welling up with moisture, regardless of the circumstances.  Even my husband, with whom I am deeply in love, was not allowed into this deep part of my soul.  As if this is not bad enough, I have found myself unable to fully engage in worship.  I feel the flood levels rise and quickly take measures to lower the water levels.  I sing the words, I listen, but it's mostly with my head because I can't trust myself to open that part of me.
This is a place where I am afraid to go; afraid that I cannot control it if I enter.  It has made me very cynical of those who openly display through their tear ducts the depth of emotion they feel.  I in turn feel that I am somehow being beguiled by their pull at my heart strings.  I tend to look at them with distrust and believe them to be weak.

This year has been one of the most emotionally wrenching years I can remember.  I had planned to move an ocean away, those plans were changed (both decisions came with a huge amount of emotional tolls), I was able to meet and had to say goodbye to a precious baby nephew, I witnessed my parents' remarriages (to other people), and now another divorce in my family is looming.  These are just the really big things, not any of the myriad of other highs or lows.  I hesitate to open up this much and in as much detail as this in such a format, but against my better judgement, here I go.  Many of these events have pushed me to my controlled limit, and I have succumbed to the flood of emotion, a perfect description.

Floods overtake their surroundings and do damage often irreparable.  We can try to rebuild, but it is never the same.  I feel like my heart has been flooded and there is no way to rebuild the fortified dams I had in place before.  I am still trying to keep some semblance of control with some smaller measures, and I know time will rebuild some, but I think I'll not be the same.

Recently I went to a women's conference with my church small group.  I remember very vividly a couple of things that really spoke to me.  The first was at the beginning when the worship leader challenged us to completely fall into worship, like you would fall trustingly into a foam pit!  And, not only to fall, but to jump in with full abandon!  I wanted to, but that just seemed so out of control.  Crazy.  Irresponsible, even.  That image wouldn't leave me alone, however, and in the last time of worship, after hearing our speaker in a conversation with an audience member say something about presenting our tears as an offering to Jesus, the dam broke.  I felt it, physically.  I know there are some that would doubt this, and I don't mind, but I physically felt the walls around my heart crumble, exposing the path to the deepest part of my soul.

This is all very recent, and years of habitual closing off won't suddenly be changed.  I am sure that I will continue to fight feelings that bring tears to my eyes, but I no longer feel that I have to.  I have a freedom to offer my tears to Jesus, either in public or private worship. I can enter in to other's heart stories and feel the pain and hurt with them without judgement.  I'm still working on not feeling embarrassed when I shed tears, but I imagine that will change over time.  Do not misunderstand; I will not be a bumbling mess at all times with no hold on my emotional state, but no longer will I be a statue with a very separate compartment for my emotions either.  I can enter this deep place exposed by the flood, because I don't go alone.  Jesus is there with me and just like the woman who wiped His feet with her tears and her hair, He will not shame me, but will take what I give an offering of love.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Today he would be 18 days old.  His birthday was the 9th, you see.

I had the most amazing opportunity to meet him; to hold his perfect hands that look like his mommy's, to touch his perfect feet, to see how much his tiny mouth looks like his daddy's.

To say hello and goodbye.

I miss him.  I miss my nephew, Z.  He's my 14th N&N!  I love him so much.

This has by far been the most difficult month of my life, and I'm the Aunt.  I can't fathom walking this path in my brother and sister-in-law's shoes.  I would do it in their place in a heartbeat though. If I could.  That seems to be my constant wish; If I could.  But I can't.   Instead, I pray and cry and hope.  It's strange to be an aunt.  I wonder if all aunts feel as close to their nieces and nephews.  I wonder if I feel closer to them because I don't have children.  I wouldn't give up that closeness for anything.  Even when it hurts.

It has been a couple of weeks since we said our goodbyes to Z, but life is not the same.  You don't just move on.  I actually hate that phrase.  You can change it to "moving forward" and it makes it a little better, but it still just stinks.  I'm not one to use or feel comfort from platitudes, even if they are true.  I see the happiness of a new birth with other parents all over the place now, when I don't think I noticed it as much before.  I struggle with wanting to be happy for them, but feeling instead like I want to cry.  I want them to fully realize how fortunate they are.  Hearing about so many others (too many) who have walked this path and come through gives me hope, but still reminds me how much I had taken for granted, and how awful living in a fallen world can be.  Singing beautiful praise songs in church is almost impossible.  Not because I don't believe it, but it's just so emotional.  I was supposed to be making multiple trips to see the little guy, playing with him and babysitting while mommy went to the store or the spa or wherever else she wanted to go!  He was supposed to be here.  It's not the same.  It won't ever be the same.  I don't want it to be the same.

I want to remember those perfect little fingers that looked like his mom's and the lips that formed points just like his dad's.  I want to remember how sweet his tiny perfect feet looked as they peeked out from his blanket.  I want to remember how much his mom and dad looked forward to his entry into the world and how much they love him.

Z has made an impact on my life, and so have his parents.  I have seen how they have loved him, grieved for him, rejoiced for him, and continue to support not only each other, but so many of us around them.  God is using Z.  As we discover all the ways, I will continue to believe that God is grieving with us and comforting us.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Shape Shifting

You remember this toy, right?  I don't exactly remember playing with it per se, but I do remember it while babysitting or working in the church nursery!

We learn early on that certain shapes fit into certain spaces.

Sometimes, this is a lesson that bears repeating in adulthood.

I have been rather sad for the last couple weeks as it has become clear that our path is not what I thought because we were not the right fit.  As close as the star might be to the cross, it won't fit.  The oval will not conform to the circle.  The triangle will not morph into another shape just to go through.

The redeeming fact of the matter is that though certain shapes won't fit just anywhere, they do fit somewhere.  The do fit in the shape that was created for it.

While I grieve the loss of placement of where I wanted to be, I believe that there is a place created just for us.  And while I feel a twinge of guilt in the loss we have created, I also believe there is a perfect fit for that space as well.

Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

Friday, January 18, 2013

Loaded Camel

The last couple of weeks, especially, I have been battling a huge array of feelings.  My thoughts have been jumping to conclusions that have some basis in reality, but nothing confirmed.  
I am afraid.
I am afraid of being miserable.
I'm afraid of failing.
These are things I am readily able to admit, but I wonder how much of this fear is clouding and affecting my judgements.  Fortunately, I have a brother-in-law who is wise and understanding, and extremely diplomatic, who has helped me to see what I could be doing to my self-ascribed former clear mindedness.  These are his words:
I'm loading the camel.

You've likely heard the phrase, "The straw that broke the camels back."  In allowing my mind to fill with negative thoughts (beyond the realistic questions), I have begun to load the camel.  In making assumptions that have resulted in frustrations, having unrealistic expectations that inevitably result in disappointments, I have loaded the camel.  In not communicating in a way that asks for the information that I desired that brings me a feeling of distrust due to a lack of communication, I have loaded the camel.  I am just setting myself up for that proverbial last straw.

So, am I really open to what God may want for me?  I want to be, but it is extremely difficult to allow myself to see what God wants over my load.  Especially if I have it so densely packed.

I am preparing to go on a journey that desperately needs a lighter load.  I have been praying that God will help me unload the camel, give Him the weight, and trust His leading.  An amazing oasis might be just over the hill.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wicked Weeds

They are everywhere.  Really, I've seen them.  
I cannot believe how beautiful they can be, especially if they are not in my flower beds.  
 I have to admit, there were several amazing specimens in my lawn back in Alaska.  Especially once I started to fertilize said lawn.  They are really quite a beautiful and rugged flower.
So rugged, in fact, that it is very difficult to get rid of them.  One thing that does help to eliminate them, other than meticulously hand picking each and every one with the entire root system, is to first feed them.  This may sound counterintuitive, but it serves a purpose.  When plants are at their best, they are able to store food all the way through their system.  This is when it is optimum to apply the desired product of destruction.  It's almost like you get in good with the dandelion, and BAM!  Take 'em out.  It's a bit harsh but effective.

I was reading in Psalm 92 today.  Verse 7 states:
"That when the wicked
sprouted up like grass
And all who did iniquity
It was only that they might
be destroyed

Sometimes I wonder if God does the same thing with evil as I do with dandelions in the lawn.  God was the original landscape designer, and I know He hates the weeds that come into His creation, slowly sucking the nutrients and moisture away from what He has sown.  Could it be that when we see all the evil in this world, and the seeming lack of consequences, that it's just a matter of time before the BAM!?  It gives me a little bit of solace knowing that even though the wicked weeds are showing themselves off to be something of beauty, their seemingly uninhibited splendor will be destroyed.  I can rest in this.  I can know that the evil that enslaves, kills, mutilates, and inflicts any other number of pains, will be destroyed.  Forevermore.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year, New Adventures!

I'm going to honest.  (like I'm not usually!)  I getting more and more apprehensive about moving to Africa.  

Probably not a huge surprise to anyone who has actually done anything new.  That pretty much includes everyone.  Basically, the idea has been very romantic and the closer it comes, the more realistic I am becoming.  
Romantic (above) vs Realistic (below)

 Romantic vs. Realistic

 Romantic vs. Realistic

It's going to be hard.  Very hard.  I'm not exactly sure the extent of all the different ways it will be hard, but I can pretty confidently guess that every aspect of my life will change.  

I have been in a process of transferring my trust from people to God.  One might think that she has done this once she gave her life to Him, but in my world that doesn't just happen.  It is clearly an ongoing process, not a box to check.  I am realizing how little I actually trust God to direct my life.  I continue to see all the places where I place my trust on myself, my husband, or others.  I have been disappointed.  As long as I trust people to guide me, I will be disappointed.  I may not feel let down at first, but it will happen.  Every time.  With God, I may feel let down at first as I struggle to discover His purposes, but I will never be disappointed in the end.  Ever.  

As this new year dawns, it brings new adventures and experiences that I am anxious about, but also excited.  I can only imagine where God will take me, how He will grow me, and what kind of person I will become through this year.  From Alaska to Africa - who'd have ever guessed?!

(Thanks to D. H. (my boss) for the use of these pictures of his trip to Ghana!)