Sunshine Breaking Through

How is it, God, that You bless me so?!?  

We have been walking the most hellacious healing journey over the past fifteen months.  Seventy days of rehab, continuing therapy, massive financial commitment to healing, facing raw emotions and ruptures head on, recovery meetings, unemployment, a growing family to nurture, a marriage to resurrect from the grave.

I’ve swallowed enough ongoing trauma and distress to want to give up the fight.  I have cried out to God — this has been too much, too hard, too long.  And from my wretched gut, I have meant it with everything in me.  It has felt like there is absolutely nothing left in me to give.  Stretched far beyond my ability to fathom what God is allowing us to go through, and how his timing is so different than mine.

“One day at a time” is full of great truth and perspective, but there have also been days that it all felt too heavy, too piled up, too far to walk with no end in sight.

Utter desperation before God.  Circumstances that don’t change.  No calls from any job lead.  No update on God’s plan for us.  Uncertainty, anxiety, pounding down like a harsh spring hail.  Unanswered questions.  Prolonged silence.  Even further delays.  How long can God keep us here?  How long can we wait?

And then the sky broke open with such a compelling warmth and sunshine that my heart hardly knew how to respond to such swelling joy.  All of this hard work, our deepest investment of faith and healing, finally took over with such a strong force we couldn’t help but be transformed by it.

The arrival of spring, the birds’ song that penetrates into my soul, the warmth of the air melting frozen places within me, I can feel it.  My heart is being revived and I am coming to new life.

The amazing thing is that we are still surrounded by much uncertainty.  There is still no job to support our family.  Questions remain unresolved and unsettled.  So what has changed?

We have.

God is transforming this adversity and testing into endurance, depth, and wisdom.  Astronomically more profound than anything we have ever walked, this must be preparation ground for something.  We can’t see where he is taking us yet, but our faith is growing.  We are becoming utterly convinced that God must know what he is doing.  He must be good.  He is indeed healing us and making us new.

Maybe it is because we are that desperate.  We know it is not within our capacity to save ourselves.  God is our only hope.  If he can’t help us, we’re completely screwed.  Have you ever been in a place so deep???

If you haven’t been there, I’m sure my words seem strange.  Maybe you can’t relate.  But, if you have walked seasons so dark and so hard that you weren’t sure if you could survive them, you are not alone.  I’m walking them too.  And God is so near with his purpose, his transforming power, his infinite grace, that this horrific journey is actually a privileged place to grow.

We don’t get to choose our classroom at times.  We play the hand we’ve been dealt.  We learn to accept the journey before us and make the most of it.  Embrace it, believing if God can work anywhere, he can work in this.

And in a way that only God can, right there in the midst of what you’re walking, he brings on the sunshine.  Simultaneously allowing us to experience pain, growth, and new life.  Even when it’s hard, and long, and far too much.  Suddenly you are so profoundly grateful for what he has allowed, because there is nothing so amazing as what God can do.  Glory!!

 

 

 

 

 

We’re still here. In the long haul.

It is difficult to be somewhere, indefinitely, for the long haul.  When life has taken its toll and it has been too hard, too much, and too long.  The accumulated distress has sunk my spirit, made it  too heavy to keep picking up, keep walking, keep hoping.

I’ve been learning to break things down, small steps, and live in the moment.  It helps my sanity for sure.  It keeps me grounded, helps me focus, and teaches me the concept of one day at a time.  But strangely this day looks much like the one before.

For as much as I’ve tried to rally and keep going, despite our circumstances, there is still apparently more to be learned here.  God hasn’t opened the door yet.  We are 14 months into unemployment, the consequence of my husband’s addiction.

Last year I bought a house plant, with leaves that were full and bushy and abundant.  I was drawn to its life and vitality.  It looked fresh and alive and welcoming.  It seemed like a great thing to nurture and enjoy.

Over the past few months, this beautiful and thriving plant has been thinning out and dropping leaves.   It has gradually gotten far worse.  Pathetic.

I brought it out into the light to see if it could be revived.  Now it sits right there in front of me, and I realize it mirrors how I feel inside.

Drooped.  Depleted.  Worn thin.  Weary deep in my soul.

Like a pile of broken, dried sticks, that you aren’t even sure where to prune.

Little signs of new life, but not really sure if they will hang on and revive.

There are these honest moments, when you know you are doing all you can to live into recovery, but you aren’t sure if it will be enough to take you through to the other side.

When you are in the thick of it, sometimes it is hard to see that you are actually going somewhere.  Especially when you look back and see the toll life has taken and it quite frankly has been far too much.

Bear in mind that I have no clue what I’m doing with these plants, other than enjoying a little bit of nature to care for.  Another plant we had was dying.  (I’m not sure if this is a pattern in my greenhouse skills, or a lesson God intends for me to learn through metaphor.  Most likely both.)  I decided to cut it back and prune off whatever seemed to be holding it back.  It was hardly green at all, mostly just sticks.  You would have thought I could have tossed it to the curb.  And this year, miraculously, it is coming back.

Growth where there could have been death.

I watch these plants, wondering about this mysterious cycle of death and life.  Pruning and transformation.  Cut back to grow further still.

I believe authentic growth goes in cycles.  There are days, seasons even, where God allows us to experience profound pain.  Anguish and despair taunt us.  Silence, waiting, and unanswered prayer.  Days are long, months crash one into the other, and we are still here.

Scripture tells us, Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

I want to be in a place of thriving — life-giving abundance in my spirit.  Some days I am.  I am pouring all I have into this healing.  I have the eyes to see the hope.  It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going.  Fulfillment is coming.  It’s worth holding on for.

But there are other times that I’m just worn out from hanging on so long.  No direction or clarity.  No end in sight.  No new word to hold onto.

All of this purging, and pruning, and wrenching of spirit WILL birth something NEW.

Therein lies my hope and my peace, even on the days that leaves drop to the floor.

Colliding Priorities

I’m surrounded by kleenex, hot tea, blankets and books.  If I felt well, it could be a refreshing retreat to soak in some studies.  Instead I’m trudging my way through a week of not feeling well, day after day.  You can only have so much echinecea, airborne, tea and tissues before you start to feel fed up with dragging.

 

I’m sick of being sick, without the energy to keep walking and keep growing.  My body won’t let me do what my hearts want to do.

My old self by nature pushes hard and cannot slow down.  My old self wants productivity, drive, determination, order.  It is my inner critic that says I need to do more and be more.

It’s as if an invisible clip board hangs over my shoulder, reminding me of the tasks at hand that I seem to have no strength to do anything about.

What I wouldn’t do to have taxes done, filing sorted, and things crossed off my lists.  And here I am — I can’t.

I’ve been learning I can’t push so hard.  I’ve been learning humanity and limits.  I’ve been digging deep into nurture and self care.  Isn’t it ironic that I’m now in a week of testing to see if I get it???

Julie, do you understand grace?  Are you good to yourself?

I have done a tremendous amount of work to understand what recovery looks like for me.  It is a whole new world to factor in my own needs and feelings.  It is brand new for me to accept and live into my humanity without always pushing myself for more.

So on weeks like this one, where my body feels heavy in need, I see these two inner worlds collide.  My old self pleads to please find productivity (translate: WORTH) somewhere.  I need to DO something.  Other people are done with their taxes, after all.  Why can’t I?  I don’t want unfinished things weighing me down.

I am self critical and self defeating.  I fret over time and my lack of accomplishment. I want to feel better, and do more, and still be nurturing to my needs.  I wish I could have both.

I want  to give more of myself to my children.  I want to work hard in my home.  And I have nothing right now to give.  The whole week has had such limited functioning.

I’m grateful for this post.  It is bringing my honesty and conflict to the table.  It’s showing me my colliding priorities and how I want my new self to rise.  It’s a test that I want to come forth with new outcomes.

The same temptations persist.  Can I push more, do more, be more — but ultimately hurt myself?   Or can I accept that things have to wait?  To live with my own sense of disappointment that not everything can get done when I want it to.  It’s uncomfortable growth.  But I’m hopeful that in the midst of this messy lesson, I’m starting to get it.  It’s starting to sink in.

This thing called Recovery

Recovery is an odd term — one that I resisted because it didn’t seem to suit me.  It seemed unfamiliar and abstract, like I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.  As my husband began his journey into recovery seven years ago, I supported him.  But it wasn’t my journey.  He is an addict — and I wasn’t sure that recovery was relevant to me.

Back then we took a mediocre walk in recovery. It was barely beginning, like dipping our toes in the water and calling it a swim.  But it was all we knew at the time.  He went to meetings once a week, unless a family event for one of our kids took priority. As for me, I really had no understanding of what recovery meant.

I tend to think long, deep, and slow.  It takes awhile for something to sink in for me to get it.  It comes in layers.  It starts off in a distant abstract thought, and then it hones in to something I can make sense of.  Recovery for me was like that.

Today I’m drawn to recovery for what it means to me.  Realizing that my old self was unhealthy, it is living into something new. This process of growth takes time.  Often we don’t even know what is unhealthy if it is all we ever knew.  The old ways don’t work and I finally see that.

Recovery is honesty.  It is allowing myself to feel my feelings and embrace my humanity.

Recovery is self awareness.  It is moving away from denial and avoidance, into reality.

Recovery is self affirming instead of self negating.  It is healthy self care and setting boundaries.

Recovery is about connection instead of isolation.  It is cultivating safe and supportive relationships for our growth.

Recovery is one day at a time living.  It is cherishing today and investing my life well.

Recovery gives me a path toward healing and growth.  It gives me steps to take to ground my footing.  It brings me to a new place where I can thrive.  I can flourish.  Fully alive.

Daily Steps

I continually wrestle and battle with grace.  My humanity comes to the surface, longing for acceptance and welcome.  My shame batters it and beats it down.  Pressure comes as a familiar foe.

I have to intentionally plant my heart in hope.  I’m surrounded by distress and anxiety, fears that tempt to encroach me.  One by one, I have to set them aside. Choose Hope.  Life.  Healing. Growth.

Recovery comes in the moments.  The daily steps.  The choices we make in how to frame the opportunity before us.

Perhaps the ongoing trauma feels so heavy, so life threatening, that we just want out. Internal stress pile up.  No end in sight and endurance chokes.  Who can survive?

I go back, again and again.  Daily.  In those moments,  I get grounded in truth and light and perspective.  Solid footing.  Without it, the storm would destroy me.

Julia Cameron writes of the grace that needs to accompany our journey.

…it is necessary to go gently and slowly.  What we are after here is the healing of old wounds — not the creation of new ones…. Progress not perfection…

Too far, too fast, and we can undo ourselves.

Grace beckons me to come and rest.  Be still here.

Allow the calm to soothe my spirit.  There is purpose in timing.

Accept that where I am is okay. This step. This one small step is significant.

Slow down.  Live just this moment, and live it well.

 

Gather Hope

How do we live into hope?  How do we unpack such a thing in our hearts?

It is something we are reaching for that hasn’t come yet.  It is looking, watching, and waiting.

It is not knowing when, or how.  Keeping our hearts expectant, alive, and fresh with wonder.  Even when some days it hurts to lift our head.

It is living with more ambiguity than answers.  Accepting uncomfortable, because that’s the reality of where we are.  Planting our faith in this moment, to see God here.

It is courage to know this story hasn’t been fully written.  There is more to come.  I have yet to see, but it is coming.

How do we hold onto this longing in our hearts — this thing that keeps us walking forward — when our storm hasn’t passed and our spirit wears thin?  Because for anyone willing to admit it, life can be really, really hard.  And if you’re walking that, it’s painful.

I’ve lived enough trauma, walked enough healing, to have some idea of how to go through.  There are no simple formulas, but I’m grateful for this journey: while it has been seasoned with pain, it has also grown wisdom.

I want to offer one glimmer of inspiration that God has given me over many seasons and years of pain.  Gather hope.

You actually have to gather it.  Just like the Israelites had to leave their tent each morning to pick up the manna God provided for that day.  Gather hope.  Surround yourself with encouragement and truth.

I gather quotes, scriptures, songs, and reread them over and over until they sink down deep into my soul.  I gather clippings from emails, books I’m reading, facebook and twitter.  I make playlists with songs that encourage me for that season.  I light candles, turn on lamps, and constantly bring myself back to hope.

Things will resolve and unfold over time.  But as we wrestled with how hard it is to wait in recent posts, we have to cultivate hope:

God’s wait is so purposeful.  He is accomplishing transformation in our hearts that we can’t yet fully see.  He is orchestrating details for what will unfold next. But we’ve got to give him time.

It’s a one step at a time kind of progress.  Perhaps slow at times, but I’m realizing slow isn’t a bad thing.  It is the time you give to something of quality.  Something that matters.  Something deep. And how you get there is just one moment, or one day, at a time…  and then the next.

What is hope if you already have the answer and the clarity?  Where is the wrestling and growth in that?  We hurt, we stretch, we get uncomfortable….but our lives are transformed there.

We will come through different than when we began.  Stronger.  Healthier.  Deeper.  More whole.  If we invest well.

So as we wait, as our hearts long for something yet unseen, let’s hold onto the gifts God gives us along the way. Gather them up.  It will sustain us to walk another day.

(If you want to follow me on twitter or facebook, I attempt to post words that bring life, faith, and hope.  I’d be honored for you to join me in that journey.)

A Willing Sacrifice

I’ve been wrestling with time.  I cannot master it.  It is a gift given in the moments, but I cannot control it and make it go faster or slower. I can only commit to living it well.  Protect it by blocking out distractions.  Being present with now, for what God has for me here.

It is so hard to give something to God when it ultimately makes us uncomfortable.  Can we willingly give up and surrender things that we don’t like…..specifically, God’s timing?

Can we live in places that are for our benefit, our healing, or our growth, if we would prefer not to be there?  Maybe this place stirs up pain, or unresolved places without answers, or brings us work to do within ourselves.  “Outside our comfort zones” is an understatement.  It stretches us far beyond ourselves.

We have past the point of the year mark where Todd last had a job.  The only clarity I found in prayer was that healing had to come first, then the job.  That became the only path we knew to follow.

God has led us forward, one step at a time, to spacious places of healing.  It has involved rehab, therapy, marriage counseling, and more therapy.  It has connected us with support groups, recovery, studying countless books, and dealing with our stuff.  It has taken us deeper with God and deeper with ourselves.

You would think that we could have the open door that I’ve prayed for unceasingly.

But God has said, not yet.

I’ve been willing to share our story for the greater good of those who might need someone who understands their journey.  For God to be glorified in our mess.  For hurting hearts to be reached.

A friend shared with me about a woman deeply struggling in her marriage.  I felt God give me this post for her, and for others.  I thought about the ones who are new at the two different support groups I attend.  I see the pain in their eyes and I feel it in my own heart.

Just newly raw, starting out on the journey of recovery.  My heart is deeply tender and compassionate for them.  My own story is still so fresh.

I wonder if I could open my own journey and show you the hope that Jesus has put there.  It doesn’t come from shallow platitudes, easy answers, or distant indifference.  It comes from my journey through the pain.

My heart is overflowing with hope.  Sometimes — and I remember the feeling well — we have to borrow hope from others.  We need them to believe for us.  We need them to help us hang on, because on our own we are too overwhelmed.

The surroundings I am in are critical to get this.  Coming from a place where my own prayers are still waiting.  Where my circumstances are uncomfortable, and still painful at times.  And even here, even now, there is hope.

God’s wait is so purposeful.  He is accomplishing transformation in our hearts that we can’t yet fully see.  He is orchestrating details for what will unfold next. But we’ve got to give him time.

There is hope.  Wait it out.  Give him time.

We can’t skip today’s work because it prepares us for tomorrow.  We want to rush out of the pain, rush past the work, but we will miss something crucial.

Perhaps your answer hasn’t come yet.  Your marriage hasn’t fully healed.  Neither has mine.  But I can live today, and give God my willing sacrifice.  Yielding my timing for his.

He has given me just a taste of the joy that’s coming.  Enough to know that there is greater joy ahead than any pain or trial we’ve had to walk.  We don’t have to walk alone.  We can do this.  We can do hard.