Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Fear of the burn...

Have you ever watched a movie drowning scene? 
What did you notice about it
If you've seen more than one, how were they alike or different?

A few scenes come to mind for me & here's what I've noticed...

Some characters are living joyfully, when something goes wrong. They may be enjoying the maiden voyage of the greatest ship ever built.  They may be at camp with other teens, swimming & playing in the water.  
Alternatively, they may be struggling; perhaps trying to steer a ship through a terrible storm, believing that, against all odds, they will prevail & return home to their families.  Perhaps even mourning the loss of a loved one & attempting to "join" them.

In many movie drownings, the victim's loved ones flash before through their mind.  They may even attempt to send mental messages of love to those friends or family members.  
Similarly, scenes from his or her life may come to mind.  Joyous times; fond memories; friends they haven't seen in 20 years; even regrets are things they reflect on as they realize they may be dying.
In some cases, the person drowning may panic; thrash around as they realize they can't breathe.  In others, they quickly accept their fate & peacefully wait to lose consciousness. 

In the past few months, I've come to realize that grief can be like drowning above the surface. 
One moment I'm moving through life & everything seems fine; the next, I'm gasping for air & kicking for the surface. 
I may panic & struggle trying to figure out what happened & how I got there.  "Where did this speeding bullet come from & why did it hit me now?" It's like the perfect storm of emotions hitting me at once.

Some days, I accept it as necessary & peacefully let tears roll.  Maybe a song reminds me of the loss of my Father in Law.  Perhaps a story reflects the relationship he had with my kids & husband.  

Sometimes, it might be my own regrets.  The last time I saw him, he was so tired & frail.  I spoke to him, but barely.
I was uncomfortable & didn't know what to say.  I wanted to be hopeful - for all of us - that we'd get through it.  That though we were traveling a bumpy road, we would eventually make it - through healing. 
I know my Father-in-Law was healed, just not in a way that he could stay here with us.

Had I known it would be my last opportunity to talk to him, I like to think I'd have chosen differently.

When I was 8 or 9, our family was visiting relatives at Lake Gaston.  Three of my uncles had second homes there & boating, skiing, tubing, & other water activities were available to entertain us for hours. We spent time there regularly throughout my childhood.

On this day, I was afraid of the water.
In fact, I can't remember a time in my life when I've felt confident jumping in & splashing around like most kids.

I was standing near the end of the pier & my Dad was trying to coax me into the water.  He stood in the water, showing me how deep it was (or wasn't).  He held his arms up & told me repeatedly he'd catch me.  I just had to jump.

I can't say how many times I took a step or two but could never actually leave the pier.  I may have even said, "ok, I'm gonna do it this time" - MANY times. 
I think Dad may have said, "come on! Don't you trust me?"
Eventually, the frustration was too much for my younger brother so he just pushed me off, surprising all of us.
Even though Dad was standing there, somewhat ready, it happened so fast that I plummeted right through his arms.  He reached down & grabbed me, pulling me up as soon as he could, but not before I swallowed quite a bit of water.

I can remember the feeling so well: my heart skipped a beat & thumped hard from the fall; there was burning in my nose & lungs from taking in water; the terrible coughing that results from trying to regain normal breathing after that.  
I can recall a slight feeling of relief that I was alright.  That my Dad picked me up & got me out of the water.
But the burning! Oh it hurt!
And because of the burning - my current state of pain & fear - I couldn't appreciate that I was really ok.

That memory seems a good metaphor for life lately.
My difficulties aren't just because my Father-in-Law passed away, but I think that event has scared me from "jumping off" again.  
It's made me fearful of losing someone else I love, & I worry about that more than I have in quite some time.

Coupled with giving up my long-standing Pampered Chef business & a few other "small losses," losing a family member has put me in a position to question who I am & what I do...what I should do...what I'm "good' at...what I was created for.

I believe God created me for a specific purpose (just as He did everyone).
I even think I know what it is.

But every time I think I'm ready to jump in...move forward...I chicken out.  

I know that I'm safe.  That, even if I fall, my Father will catch me & lift me up again.  I hear Him saying, "Come on! Don't you trust me?"
Yet, I just can't seem to move forward.  Or, worse, I take 2 steps forward & 3 back.

I tell myself, "just do it!"

I know that trials & failures foster perseverance & perseverance enhances character {Rom 5: 3-4}.   I know that even if I fall in & swallow water instead of bobbing back up to the surface, my Father will pull me out of the water & I will be ok.

But it's that burn - the fear of the burn - that makes movement & trust so hard.

If you've been there, fearing the burn & refusing to move forward, rest assured you are not alone.  

I'm realizing that ALL things work together for my good.  ALL things includes grief, suffering, & sometimes fear.
I've learned that being "called according to His purpose," takes more than just desire.  "Experience" in this life comes best the same way learning does; we learn more from our mistakes than when we "get it right."
I'm still learning that head knowledge & heart knowledge are separated by a chasm as wide {or wider} than the Grand Canyon.  That as much as I know, that I know, that I know that God's purpose is for my ultimate good, my fear can still keep me paralyzed. 

When I find myself gazing out over that canyon between my head & heart, I turn to verses like these; I hope you'll find them helpful as well.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

{When you don't know what it all means...}

There's something wrong with my mouth.

Well, actually, there are several somethings wrong with my mouth.  I'm really trying to figure out if God is trying to tell me something about my mouth.

Maybe there's a life lesson in there somewhere?

Not in my mouth.  In the experience.

A couple of months ago, on my 40th birthday no less, I woke up in horrible pain. I cried because it hurt so badly.  And maybe a little because I had been awake in pain most of the night. Ibuprofen was not TOUCHING this pain, friend. 

So on my birthday, I spent a few hours dealing with dental issues and visiting a strange dental office because my dentist was out of the office recovering from his own surgery.
The dental visits on that day revealed a serious infection under my gum and tooth; after I did a round of antibiotics to clear the infection I needed a root canal.

Fast forward about 6 weeks and 3 more dental appointments, and the list of dental needs has grown:
  • the root canal tooth needs a crown  - like, yesterday.
  • My dentist won't do the crown until I have my wisdom teeth CUT out {I've procrastinated on this for 2 years}.
  • Once my wisdom teeth have been removed, I need to wait a few weeks for the shifting that will occur with all the teeth in my mouth before getting the crown.
  • a temporary crown is not an option for me
  • I'm still procrastinating on scheduling all of this 
So,  my mouth is a mess - pretty much like the rest of me right now.  It's probably psychosomatic but I'm telling you, my mouth and jaws hurt ALL.THE.TIME.

I've mentioned before that I feel like I've lost my voice - the figurative one.  The one I use for writing and communicating beyond the necessary day to day talking.
I've drafted several posts in the last few months that I just can't seem to complete in order to publish and share them. Paragraphs without endings, posts with no connecting words or finishing thoughts, odd ramblings that I couldn't seem to make sense of, much less help someone else make sense of.

A week or so ago, I nearly lost my voice, literally, due to a cough and cold. That seems like a big hint from God that he wants me to shut my mouth, right?

As these "mouth issues" continued to pile up, I prayed,

"Lord, are you trying to tell me something? WHAT are you trying to tell me? Do I need to shut my mouth? Am I not using my 'voice' the way you want me to?"

I'm really not sure of the answer, but I will hesitantly say this.
These past few months of crazy hard stuff have brought me poems and lyrics {songs? I don't know} from out of nowhere.  Most of them I can't even write down quickly enough when they come to mind.  Some spill out easily, others I have to revisit and edit later.  Some I think are pretty good looking back on them, others I'm not so crazy about.

It's a little frustrating because I think some of them would actually make great songs, but I don't write music so all I have are lyrics.  What do I do with those alone? I don't play an instrument so I literally have NO WAY to craft these words into songs.

Maybe it's another way God wants me to use my voice.  At this point, I'm still not sure.

As much as I hate not having answers, I think I may just be in a season of questioning. 
I can't say I'm ok with that, but I'm learning to live in it.  I think part of life is learning to just BE where you are, when you are.  
That may sound confusing, but in today's world so many people do not know how to just be present and grateful.  Regrettably, I'm one of those people.

So instead of using my mouth to question God aloud or do much talking of any sort, really, I'm asking questions through prayer.  
I'm using my fingers again to share my jumbled thoughts here {it seriously feels so good to type!}. 
I'm trusting that He who works all things together for my good is refining me into someone new and that He will tell me how He wants me to use my voice.  

With or without my mouth.


Friday, January 15, 2016

The Loss Months

In the past, I've made jokes about myself being an "overachiever" and how I don't do anything half-way.

I laugh just re-reading that statement.  It takes me back to the 2 months leading up to my wedding almost 16 years ago.  In that small span of time, I quit one job, started another {with all the training it required}, wrapped up all the loose ends of wedding planning, and then got married and went on a honeymoon. To say that I had an identity crisis a month or so down the road is the biggest of understatements!

Sometimes these things - the pile-ups of life - "just happen" and we could've chosen differently and prevented some of the stress.  Sometimes we could just choose to react differently to these things when they happen. And often, we don't have any control over them, which is what I've experienced over the last few months.  

A while back,  I made mention of a big decision I'd made, but that I had to wait to announce.  As hard as it was, after nearly 12 years, God told me to give up my Pampered Chef business.  
This was something I'd put my blood, sweat, and tears into for a long time.  I'd built it from the ground up.  I had over 2000 customers in my data base.  I constantly got compliments from hostesses and customers and I truly felt that I was good at that business.
In fact, one host said to me, "but you're so good!" when I told her that I was going to be resigning.

Many of my conversations have gone like that one these past few months.
Explaining to people over and over again why I made the decision I made and why there was NO other decision I could make.

How do you explain that to someone else? How do you explain that conviction? How do you explain that something you were once so passionate about, you are now passionate about releasing?

That ONE thing would've been hard enough.  It would have been a loss and would have required a period of mourning.

Just DAYS after I made this decision, I had only told my husband and kids, my parents, and my in-laws.  DAYS, not weeks or a month; just DAYS.  We were told that my Father-in-law had cancer.  Again.  The same cancer he'd had about 12 years ago.

It took a month or so of doctors appointments and second-opinions before chemo started.
He told his doctor that his grandkids - my kids - are what kept him going. 

But less than four short months after getting this diagnosis, my Father-in-law entered Heaven's gates.  A week and a half after Thanksgiving and two and half weeks before Christmas.
My husband and Mother-in-law were dealing with funeral plots and caskets. 

To say that the whole situation seems surreal is, again, an understatement.

I recently heard a prayer of praise shared at church.  A miracle healing of a young cancer patient. An answer to many prayers.
And I'm ashamed to admit it, but my first thought was, 

Why? Why, God? Why couldn't that be us?
Did we not pray hard enough? 
Why did my husband have to say goodbye to his Dad at such a young age?
Why did my kids lose their Papa so soon? Too soon?
Why did my Mother-in-law have to lose her husband?
Why did this happen to us?

And then the shock of "why am I questioning this?!"

I guess it's because I'm human and I can't help but wonder "WHY?"  If you ask some members of my family I've been asking that BIG little word since I could talk.  


Do I believe that God's plan and His timing are perfect? 
Do I believe that He has a purpose for all things?
Do I believe that He will help us all get through this?


I still wonder why.  Not just why he died.  Not just why now? But so many "Whys," really...

I've prayed, questioned, searched, and struggled to figure out why things had to happen this way.  

Why all at once, God?
Why me?

What is this supposed to teach me? 
What do I do with this? How can I use this pain and this mourning to glorify you? 
Is that even what I'm supposed to do? 

I'm not sure unsettling is a strong enough word for what I'm trying to describe but it's the only one that comes.  
The only one that comes to mind to depict the paradox between knowing so strongly that I was supposed to surrender my Pampered Chef business and now feeling like I don't know anything.  I felt so strong in my faith during my prayers and decision to resign.  
Now I feel so shaky in my faith.
Not because I believe any less.  Maybe it's because I fear what's coming next? Maybe I'm afraid of what else He may ask me to give up?  
After the big losses of these last few months, I am just spent.  I feel as if I don't have anything else to give up and I am certainly feeling that identity crisis I felt as a newly-wed all over again.

I read another blog today that was very helpful; the post was titled When God Says No. Not only was the content spot on for my life situation right now, but she references Daniel and his three friends thrown into the fiery furnace.  I'm currently leading a small group Bible Study on the book of Daniel.

I think not.

And though it doesn't tie things up in pretty little bows for me and answer all my questions, it reminds me that questioning God isn't bad.  It doesn't have to be irreverent or disrespectful.

God desires to have a relationship with us.  A relationship between a loving Father and a child.  A Father who doesn't want us to hurt but knows sometimes it's for our greater good when we do.  A Father who loves us no less when we question than when we lift our hands and praise Him.

Here's my favorite line from "When God Says No:"

We dared pray the scariest prayer, that His will would be done, and it has been. While He may not have answered every prayer in the way we asked, our faith is not dependent upon how God works or responds to our requests. Our faith is in Who God is.

My faith is not dependent on my current situation.  It's not dependent on my asking "WHY?" one more time.  

My Faith - My Trust - are in the One who knows the number of hairs on my head.  The One who knew me while I was still in my mother's womb.
The One who's love can withstand my "Why's" for as long as they come.  

And I feel they may continue to come for awhile.
But I trust the journey will not be in vain and in spite of me, He will be glorified. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Truth and Consequences

High school, my sophomore year, I was accepted into Honor's Chorus.
I was over-the-moon!
I never expected to be selected and I. COULD. NOT. WAIT!

There was just one teeny, weensy little problem...

I was also in rifle line {color guard} of the marching band. We had a big competition coming up in Disney World on - you guessed it - the same weekend as Honor's Chorus.

What to do? 
Obviously, I couldn't do both.
Being in Orlando, Florida and NC for Honor's Chorus at the same time was completely impossible.

The story is complicated but here's the short version:
the other girls of the rifle line didn't like me much and were anything BUT kind.  No matter how hard I worked and how much I practiced, I was never good enough - in their eyes, or in reality.  The reality was, I auditioned as a first-timer and did so well I got placed in rifle line rather than flag-line (that was unusual).
In the beginning, I was thrilled with the opportunity of a challenge. 

In most cases, I rise to a challenge quite well.

In this case, after months of verbal and emotional beat-down from my "team-mates," I was just spent.  I didn't want to try anymore because I was convinced no matter what I did, it would never, ever be enough and I was just drained from all my efforts.

So I told the instructor I wasn't going on the band trip.

Ha! He knew just how to take the wind out of my sails! Even though band was an elective for me, he told me that the trip wasn't optional.
That if I didn't go I'd likely fail the class; at best, I'd wind up with a C.

That was academic suicide for me and I just couldn't do it.

I turned down Honor's Chorus, never getting the chance to audition or attend again.

It was a hard lesson to learn but one that we all must.  When you make a commitment to something and/or other people, you can't just bail when the going gets tough.  
No matter how much YOU or sometimes, THEY,  want you to.

As a Mom, I'm hoping some of my own experience can help my pre-teen daughter navigate adolescence.  I've found myself telling her things that I never thought I would.  Things I don't like talking to anyone about.  Things that are embarrassing, hurtful, and disappointing even all these years later.

But things that I think could help her avoid heartache.  
Because isn't that what we all want as Moms? To keep our kids from feeling the hurts we felt?

Sometimes, though, we veer off too far in the opposite direction.  We set limits and rules to try to avoid the temptation of wrong altogether.  We might even distract our kids with activities and extracurriculars that keep them too busy to get into trouble - or so we think.

*Now, I have absolutely no problem with the way my parents raised me; this is not a criticism of them, specifically. *

There were times, though, when I remember just wanting my Mom to talk to me like "I were a real person." As if we were on the same level.  As if she really, truly remembered what it was like to be my age. To want so badly to do something the older girls were doing just because "all the other girls were doing it."  To feel the rejection and judgement that was going to come when I said I wasn't allowed to ___________ {go to the mall and walk around with my friends all Friday night when I was 13; talk on the phone as long as I wanted, to whomever I wanted, whenever I wanted; start dating when I was just 15 even though "the other girls were doing it."} You can fill in the blank with any of those and many other choices.

I'm already having these conversations with Sweetpea and she's only 11.  
I hear her saying, "but why? So-and-so's Mom let's her do it!"
To which I reply, "I'm not so-and-so's Mom!" Sometimes adding the "and if I were, she wouldn't be going either!"
Or, the lovely, "if so-and-so jumped off a bridge because it was 'cool' would you do it too?"

It's both horrifying and humbling to hear my mother's words come out of my mouth!

In my journey to live more authentically, especially these past few years,  I've embraced the hard truth even in parenting.  Not that I think my parent's lied to me - not at all.  What I mean is, some times - MOST times - the hard truth, with all its emotions-  can be it's own powerful lesson.

When my daughter hears my voice, sees my face, senses my fear/disappointment/hurt/embarrassment, I think she feels those consequences too. We're alike in that way.

I'm not foolish enough to think this will keep her from making her share of teenage mistakes, but if I protect her heart from just one hurt, it will be worth it.

The bottom line is CHOICES.  Life is full of them.   We ALL have to make them.
Sometimes the options before us don't SEEM like choices at all.  Neither is appealing or neither is the direction you thought your life would go.  Even as an adult, there will be backlash from others.

There will be criticism - 
"I'm sorry, what? You didn't go because your husband said 'no'? Can't you make your own decisions?"

There will be judgement - 
"Her business wasn't doing very well, so she came up with an excuse to get out and she abandoned her team in the process."

There will be rejection - 
"She didn't say much last time, let's not invite her this time."

If there's one thing I've learned about choices, specifically, mine, there is only ONE whose opinion really counts.
His mercy and His grace cover a multitude of mistakes, and for that I'm very grateful.
But I'd rather seek His will first, before making my choices and spare myself and Him the disappointment.

That's what I'm hoping to accomplish by sharing my ugly truths with my daughter.

We all know mistakes from the past help forge us into the person we become, but who said we had to make them all ourselves to learn from them?