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!!

 

 

 

 

 

Honest Humanity

I have had incredible joy in the past few days.  So much so, that it just bubbled over in me as I arrived at my support group on Thursday night.  I was so elated, it was overflowing.  One of the women asked me to share my story of what brought me such joy.

I didn’t even realize it at first.  In fact, I was caught off guard and speechless.  How could I even pin point it?  It wasn’t until I started sharing that it became so clear.  Something in this day was different.

A very familiar situation had happened earlier that day.  An invitation to test if I was going to respond the same old way.  Enter onto the scene a marked step of growth:  a firm boundary set.  A completely different outcome.  Not in the situation, but in me.

I am being made new.

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.

My friend said she hoped I bring the joy back next week.  I laughed and said “no promises, but I can give you this:  I will be honest.”

This morning I saw a precious friend in church who was glad for my writing.  She said it was honest.  Then she said, “People don’t like honest.  Keep doing it.”  I smiled.  So true that honesty can make people uncomfortable.  But we need more of it.  And I have the most respect for people who speak the hard truth.

Anyone who hasn’t faced their own honest humanity will always be uncomfortable when they are confronted by it.

So let me set a boundary and say this.  I promise to be honest.  Being uncomfortable isn’t a bad thing.  It is an opportunity to explore growth.  In fact, if something stirs us up inside, it is worth exploring.

I have been stirred up, trying to sort through and untangle some difficult things.  I felt tripped up.  Stuck. And then suddenly, it shifts.

I have been utterly amazed at how it unfolds like an epiphany.  Sudden freedom.  Relief.  Growth.

Seeing the power of boundaries was like that.  Hard work paying off.  Progress.  The pieces of my puzzle coming together, solidifying what I’m learning, and taking me to a better place.

 

Small Steps

I am recovering perfectionist.

I’ve learned enough about myself to know I wasn’t attempting to put on appearances, although I had been raised to do so.  It was more about calming my environment, so that I could ultimately soothe my inner world.  It gave me something to delight in, having things in order and done with gusto and fine attention to detail.

The problem was, it was killing me.

I have come to realize that I had an enormous pile up of pressure.  Decades of demands I have pushed on myself.  Endlessly, tirelessly, expecting more from myself.  Until I couldn’t do anymore.

Suddenly what my soul hungered for was Grace.  Humanity.  Limits.  Recovery.

When you are that desperate, that starved, something has got to change.  And praise God, it has.  An entire shift in my thinking.  A welcome embrace of my own humanity.  Learning less pressure and more grace.  And moving into this new reality, this recovery, I just might be able to live and not die.

I’ve learned it comes in small steps.  One decision, one moment at a time.  A shift in thinking that I don’t have to push harder.  If I kept up the pressure, I’d either explode or collapse.  No longer.  Instead, every small thing I do helps.

Out with the old, in with the new.  We took some Christmas money and I redecorated our kitchen with the smallest touches.

This isn’t where I hung them, but these are the simple daily affirmations that greet me.  I have a few fresh containers for napkins and cooking utensils, a new five dollar rug for under the kitchen sink, a place for fresh fruit.  You would think I have a whole new house, it  feels so good.

Sometimes we feel bound up in fear.  Things feel so desperately hopeless that we get stuck.  If you have battled depression, as I have, it can be empowering to hear how much a small step can help forward motion.

“Over time these small steps lead toward recovery.”

No matter how hard the task may seem, no matter how much you hope to accomplish….or for me — how many books I hope to read and study and sit with (for more hours in the day than what I’m given)….you can do something.

As Jon Allen writes, “You still have some energy and some motivation — at least some of the time.  

We must distinguish between difficult and impossible.  Hope lies in the difference.”

I learned many powerful things through The Meadows this past year.  My husband spent ten weeks in rehab there, and I was deeply blessed to support him through family week.  I spent an additional week working on trauma at Survivors Week.  I highly recommend this place.  God has profoundly used The Meadows to change our lives.

One thing that my therapist at The Meadows taught me was about moderation.  Recovery is a life of balance and moderation.  To be healthy, to have balance, to live in moderation, you often only need to take a few steps toward the middle.  Maybe your life has been out of kilter, on some unhealthy extreme.  Healing is not in moving completely in the opposite direction, or you would be off balance again.

Just take a few steps towards health.

It dawned on me in a life changing way.  Even a few steps of redirection can be the moderation and adjustment I need.  Reflecting on each adjustment, each step, I realized the power it holds.  This very process will lead to transformation.
Alcoholics Anonymous has a saying: Progress not perfection.  Take the next right step.  (Ahhh.  I sit back and smile.)  And to think we don’t have to kill ourselves with the pressure, and our life can really change.
Progress.  That’s something I can live into.

First Things

2011 began with my husband losing his second job to his addiction.  I quickly became numb, as the nightmare that I thought I would never have to live through again suddenly became our reality.

It was six years prior that we had hit rock bottom, or so I thought.  Never again would I ever want to relive that torment.  And yet here we were.  Like beating cancer, pulling yourself up to live again, believing for something more, something new.  And then being told by the doctors that the cancer is back.  The addiction has reared its ugly head like a demon’s most vicious attack.  Unrelenting.  Inescapable.

Initially we were so disoriented, so whipped with the attack of the enemy, that it was hard to get our footing.  While I attempted sleep, I would toss and turn restlessly, ever aware that this nightmare was not going away.

Yet having walked this hell before, I knew how to hold onto the glory of God.  To look for Him everywhere.  To collect every word, every breath, every sign of life, every song, every verse.  His glory — the very essence of who He is — is revealed in times like these.  God is seen, made known, and revealed in the darkness.  If only we will tune our hearts to Him.

This is how we glorify God.  This is how we experience who He is and what He does.  Willing to walk where He allows us to go, for more of Himself.

Ever faithful, ever true, God gave me a vision of what He was doing.

Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more.    Proverbs 9:9

Relapse in recovery is about going deeper.  A new and greater level of healing.  Revealing areas that we missed before that need our attention.  (I say “we” because all of us need to do this kind of personal work.  Recovery and healing and growth has to be claimed by the individual.)

God made it clear to me that this relapse was not about failure.  It did not mean that all of the work up to this point was null and void.  Instead, He was teaching us even more.  He was taking us further still.

We prayed two things: for wisdom and provision.  God, we have no idea how to walk this.  No idea how to survive but to hold onto You.  We need Your wisdom and direction; we need You to provide the way.  Lead us through.

That is when He revealed first things first.  While the crisis at hand clearly involved the loss of a job, God prioritized healing.  The job has to wait.  You have to walk deep healing.

Healing would take everything we had.  Emotionally, physically, spiritually, mentally, and financially.  And in that, I found the wisdom of praying specifically for provision.  Because God, we don’t have it.  On our own, we can’t make it.  We are spent.  We’ve been knocked over too many times.

We’ve walked decades with God and learned that though His way is often harder, it is best.  He has shown us where to go, and we have been blessed to walk faithfully and obediently, even in our human failings and frailty.  Strangely, mysteriously, He finds incredible beauty in humanity.

As we close a year unparalleled in our story thus far, God brought another verse that rings again the echoes of where this year began.  It is the bookends holding us up, holding us together, giving us vision.

In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul.
If you find it, you will have a bright future,
and your hopes will not be cut short.  Proverbs 24:14

God is growing us in wisdom.  Because first things of healing are prioritized, our future can be bright.  Our hope is not cut short.

Praise God for healing and growth in 2011.  Praise God for redeeming us and making us new.  Praise God for His wisdom and provision in incredible abundance.  Praise God that He knows the better path for us to walk, and sustains us by walking it with us.

May His first things ever become my first things.