Wednesday, November 27, 2013

When the beast of anxiety rears its ugly head at 30,000 feet.

I just returned from Philadelphia. I'd been wanting to go there for nearly 4 years now. Part of what we study in 5th grade includes the origins of Philadelphia. I had gone when I was 7 or 8, but had very few memories, so me and my traveling heart wanted to go see it again.

Due to a gift I'd been given, I was able to purchase the airfare, and you know me and, we (as in me and my computer) got the hotels at GREAT DEALS!

So, Friday after school, I headed to the airport and was ready to jet off on another adventure. This one had many purposes. One, was the one I just stated above, but another was that Cade is away this Thanksgiving, so it's perfect timing to go off and find some fun instead of sitting at home for 9 days. Another is I'm hoping to do some more summer trips with students, and besides Boston, Philadelphia seemed like a viable option.

What's funny about me and traveling is that I get anxiety when I travel. Many of you know that I experienced major anxiety years ago. I lived in it, with it, was treated for it, and then, after my divorce, what had remained, left. I rarely experience it anymore, but when I fly, it comes back.

I have to carry medicine when I travel. Sometimes I take it, sometimes I don't. Typically on the flights out, I get more anxious, so I'm usually better prepared for those. I make sure I've exercised, I have movies, I take a pill, I pray, and I get on, we take off, we land, and I'm fine.

I'm not afraid to fly. I'm afraid of having an anxiety attack while we are flying, and there's no "escape route" at 30,000 feet.

I'm afraid of the fear, of the anxiety.

Why is that?

Because I know how powerful it is. I've tangled with it before, and beating it is hard. It makes you want to throw up, it convinces you that you are dying, it tells you that if you don't get out, you're going to go crazy.

If and when that happens to me on the ground, it's fine...because one can get out. The monster is irritating, aggravating, discouraging, and disheartening, but it is manageable. It is beatable...on the ground.

But, at 30,000 feet, it's like fighting a monster with a Popsicle stick; and it feels like you are drowning in an ocean amidst a hurricane.

I've had some rough flights before. But my medicine takes care of it, I may not enjoy the flight, but I make it, it works, and I head out on adventure.

This flight...ya, this flight I was ill prepared.

Or, I guess I was, because this one was different.

I hadn't packed a single movie...which is a rookie mistake.

I had too much to take care of and I didn't make going to the gym before my flight a priority, so I was short on my natural brain fighters.

I hadn't drank much water that day, and I scoffed at the prospect of anxiety when someone mentioned it earlier in the day.

Thankfully, I did have my medicine.

Because the moment those cabin doors closed, the monster reared its ugly head.

The first wave came, and I took a pill. I talked to myself, closed my eyes, and began everything I knew to do. I started telling myself truths, reminding myself of reality, I asked the flight attendant for ice, I turned on my Ipod, I prayed...I took another pill.

I knew my limit on medicine, so I paced myself trying to see when it would kick in.

It didn't.

It wasn't.

My mind was panicking. I had 2 hours to go, and I couldn't get a handle on the monster.

My book made me want to vomit.

My mind was picturing me telling the flight attendant that we were going to have to land on that patchy grass below, or I don't know what would happen, but something would happen.

The beast grew; the waves kept crashing, and I couldn't catch my breath.

I took one more pill.

I knew my max was 4, and I still had one more leg to reach Philly.

I prayed. I begged.

I sucked down ice, the ice was dripping off my neck and I'm quite certain the man next to me was sitting half in the aisle and his head was beneath his coat.

He didn't know what was wrong with me, but he knew that crazy was next to him.

The flight attendant was so nice and brought me more ice sans a linking bag.

I never muttered the words anxiety. I knew the moment they came out, it would be all over for me. I knew the moment I stood to go to the bathroom, it would be all over.

My defense was my seat, my prayers, my medicine, and not muttering the words of fear.

Just keep my eyes closed.

then open.

speak truth and only truth.

beg God.

pray the medicine would take over.

pray that God would supernaturally take over my mind because the monster had it and nothing I did seemed to be working.

I kept thinking, if only a doctor would come sit next to me. Maybe I could ask the flight attendant for a doctor instead of landing the plane in the grass of Missouri below us. That would be better. That would seem less crazy. ;)

I kept playing that scenario over and over...if only a doctor were here with me, telling my brain that it was fine.

That all this, was just a mirage. It was fear of a fear, and it would end.

But I had reached my end, so I took my final pill.

Only once before had I taken all 4, and it had been years ago.

I couldn't remember the last time I needed that much to calm me.

That alone, caused me angst.

That alone took me to a place that I hadn't traveled to in a while.

That lonely place that makes you feel helpless, hopeless, never getting better, failure, ridiculous, vulnerable, and humiliated, and alone...

But then, I opened my eyes, reminded myself of reality one more time, turned my head to my neighbor and asked the woman if she was from St. Louis. (our connection)

I asked because I wanted to know how far of a drive it was to Philly. I knew I had maxed my medicine and there was no way on earth I could go through this again. I was in a nightmare and I couldn't escape it.

I certainly wasn't going to walk onto another one.

The lady turned to me sweetly, told me no, and asked how I was feeling.

I told her not good. I hadn't felt great for a couple days (which was honest) and I thought it was just the business of teaching before a holiday, getting ready for a trip, and getting prepared to be away from Cade for 9 days. All of that is heavy, and I assumed it was that. But, apparently, there is something more.

She asked what I taught and we spoke for a bit.

I asked what she did.

Her response, "I'm a nurse."

I could feel the monster slither back a bit.

My brain immediately thanked God and thought, "this whole time Lord, this whole time I was begging in my mind for a doctor, and you had seated a sweet nurse next to me. I was fighting the monster alone, with my eyes closed, within my head, and I hadn't even looked to the person next to me."

Maureen and I continued to chat, my heart began to slow, my mind began to quiet.

God had reminded me that He was there...right next to me.

The waves would still come, but they were easier, would pass quicker, and Maureen was so sweet to let me stop mid sentence and then finish whatever it was I was saying after the wave went by. She never flinched.

The time began to pass, and St. Louis was soon below the airplane's tires.

As soon as I could turn my phone on, I texted about 9 friends and my dad. I told them what I had just experienced: the worst anxiety attack in recent memory, and I didn't know what to do.

I did know my medicine was finally kicking in: everything was slower and I was sleepy. Thankfully it was getting late, and so I was naturally tired as well. I asked one of my doctor friends if Tylenol would be okay to take as well, and she said yes.

So I begged them all to pray for me: for calm, for sleep, because I had 2 more hours to make it to Philly.

The gate people were so sweet, because after they informed me the flight wasn't full, they let me pre- board so I could sit in the back by myself.

If I was going to freak out, I wanted it to be alone, where I could curl up and ride it out.

I bought me one of those plane pillows, handed my boarding pass to the ticket taker, walked down the gateway, found the furthest back aisle, thanked God when no one sat with me, let the prayers of my friends wash over me, and the next thing I knew, I was almost to Philadelphia.

I didn't even remember taking off. Sleep had come before we left ground.

You can't imagine how thankful I was to have made it, for that to be over.

It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life. I couldn't even think about it. I just wanted to pretend it had never happened.

But it had.

All 3 days as I toured, I tried my best to soak in all of Philadelphia, Lancaster and Gettysburg, but I couldn't get in my groove.

What had happened haunted me.

That monster, the one that came on November 22nd, had messed with me, had taken something from me, was threatening to take something that brings so much joy to my life - traveling.

As I travel alone, I am always texting my friends, my brother, my dad, and sharing things I'm seeing, pithy stories, or funny observations, but it wasn't until day 3 that I could really get into it.

And by day 3, my evening flight was looming. I had asked for prayer all day, and I knew they were all praying.

I could feel it.

I was relaxed enough to have some fun, joke around, run up the Rocky steps, tell the local news tipline guy that Philly had a severe deficiency in the number of Starbucks.

But, 6:00 eventually came, and I waited for the monster.

I wondered what I would face.

But this time, I came better armed.

For one, I had stopped at a Walmart and bought 3 movies...action packed movies.

Two, I walked tons that day and drank lots of water.

Three, I prayed, and kept telling myself that at the end of this flight was my bed, was home.

Four, I had confessed to my friends that I needed them, that I couldn't do this without them, without their prayers.

Five, I remembered something Jon Acuff had said at Love Does, "Bravery is in the moments that make you want to throw up. It isn't easy, and it is not fun as it is occurring."

It seems stupid that getting on a flight was a moment of bravery in my life. Pitiful really, but for me, traveling is a passion, a desire; adventure is something that feeds me in ways I can't explain. The time I get with God, the air I breathe, and the world I see opens up, and having something stand in front of that is disheartening.

The idea that fear could close that world down for me is maddening.

So, at 6:00 Monday night, I walked down the terminal, awaiting the beast.

I stepped onto the plane, reading the many text messages of prayers, and reminders, and Bible verses my friends and family had sent and were sending.

One, stood out.

It said, "May you know that Jesus is sitting right next to you and that He is mighty."

As I buckled, I looked up to see a man coming down the aisle and stop next to me. He pointed to the window seat (only 2 seats on our side), and said, I believe that seat is mine.

I smiled, and no kidding, I almost said OUT LOUD, so you are my Jesus tonight.

I knew it was Jesus.

Calm washed over me, because only Jesus would show up in the form of a 430 pound NFL player.

No kidding.

Any ounce of anxiety I'd had, was now gone.

God knew I needed a physical reminder of His presence, of His might, and by His grace, He gave me one.

We sat, we chatted, and he apologized for being so big and being in half my seat. I told him that I was grateful for him. I never felt small, and he made me feel small, and I loved it.

This man had no idea how God was using him.

As we talked he told me about his injury and upcoming surgery, and so I told him I'd be praying for him and be looking for him on the Packers.

I asked him if he believed in God, and he said he certainly did.

So I was about to go into what Jesus had done for me that night, but the flight attendant walked up just then and told him that there was a spot in business class for him to have some more room.

He looked at me and said, well, we were having a great conversation.

I laughed and said, I'm just grateful I had these few minutes, go enjoy the room.

He got up, the plane took off, and I eventually walked off, back in SA knowing that Jesus loved me enough to sit with me as I traveled through my own personal fire.

He sent a mighty man to remind me that He's bigger than anything I face.

He reminded me that bravery comes in all forms and for all sorts of reasons.

Saw this @ Franklin Inst. & thought Perfect pic of  friendship
He reminded me that fear is powerful, but His love has no match. That friends are the ones who know no bounds or distance, who walk with you when you feel ridiculous, humiliated, foolish, and scared beyond your imagination.

He reminded me that prayer is powerful, that it works, that even though some bridges can be scary to cross, the fear of fear is no reason to stop you from crossing them.

On my flight home, I listened to David Crowder's new song, I Am. I love David Crowder, and this song...this song, is one of the best.

There's no space that His love can't reach,
There's no place where we can't find peace,
There's no end to amazing grace.

Take me in with your arms spread wide,
Take me in like an orphaned child,
Never let go never leave my side.

I am... holding onto you
I am... holding onto you

In the middle of the storm I am holding on. I am.

Love like this,
Oh my God to find,
I am overwhelmed with the joy divine.
Love like this sets our hearts on fire.

I am... holding onto You.
I am... holding on to You.

In the middle of the storm, I am holding onto You.

This is my resurrection song, this is my hallelujah come, this is why it's to You I run.
This is my resurrection song, this is my hallelujah come, this is why it's to You I run.

There's no space that His love can't reach
There's no place where we can't find peace.
There's no end to amazing grace.

I am
holding onto You.
I am
holding onto You.

In the middle of the storm I am holding on.

I am
holding onto You.
I am
holding onto You.

~ Crowder

My prayer for you, and for me, is that whatever beast we face, whether one that seems ridiculous or not, that we will see God with us, we will see His hand, His love and His grace. And that if we need to see it more, that we will beg Him to make it even more real...because only God could have known, that what would bring calm to my night, was a 430 pound football player.

I would have never thought, or dreamed, or imagined that as I showed up with Popsicle sticks and trembling knees, God was willing to show up with the physical picture of might and even a sense of humor.

To the One who does far more than we could ever ask or imagine, to Him I give the glory.

In Him,

Next post, I'll actually tell you about Philly.  :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Epiphanies via Jon Acuff, Repealing the 'Shutdown of Blockbuster' and how my "Jewish Mother" is a 10 year old boy- Ruth had Naomi helping her date, I've got Cade.

I'll never forget the day Cade became my "Jewish mother". Frankly, I need one in my life: one who keeps me on the straight and narrow, paying attention to all sorts of details I like to think don't really matter. But I never thought it would come in the form of a super cute 10 year old boy.

As we were driving one day, Cade turned to me and said, "I wish you would get married again. I want a step dad."

Me, "You do?!" amongst my laughter.

C, "Mom, are you trying? I mean, are you REALLY trying?"

Me - "I LOVE YOU!" as I was thinking "When did you become my Jewish mother?"

Being single, and being one who always at times whines complains mentions dissatisfaction about being single, I can receive all sorts of questions, suggestions, and advice in this area.

And, honestly, I don't mind it. I like that people think I should/could get married again...that it isn't a far fetched dream that I really am "just a girl...standing in front of a boy...asking him to love her." (Gosh, I need to rent that movie tonight. Oh wait, I CAN'T! Seriously, what can we do about this situation? Protest? hit the streets with picket signs? get Sen. Ted Cruz to add 'the shutting down Blockbuster' to his list of things to repeal?!?!)

For me, loneliness is like grief: it comes in waves.

Some days you are kicking butt, taking names, and loving everything about that, and then the next, you are in the fetal position, eating ice cream from the carton, wishing the couple next to you would share their $10 popcorn because this movie is just. so. sad.

Loneliness truly is a funny thing...and by funny I mean that monster that makes you want to scream and vomit at the same time.

But, I think it follows all of us.

Whether we are married or not, have children or not, whether we are old and grey or young and wrinkle and bone creaking free.

Loneliness, like grief, is part of life.

Why? one of sane emotional status might ask.

I'm not sure.

Honestly, I'm not sure of the point.

I don't like problems that can't be solved. I mean, what's the point of a problem, if it can't be solved!!

That's why life, relationships, love, family, poetry, riddles, etc... are complicated, irritating, and hard for me to grasp.

That's also how I know marriage won't solve my loneliness. For one, I've been married, and I was lonelier then than I am now. A healthy one can/will fill a hole that only a good marriage can fill, but there's other holes present, and even a healthy marriage can create a few more, so I'm not looking to get married to solve anything.

So, when my "jewish mother" says, "Mom, why don't you do that "Christian Meet" thing, my answer is always, "Um, you mean Christian Mingle...ya, that's not for me."

After I giggle and hug him and tell him I'm so glad he's looking out for me, I go into my 30 minute monologue on how I'm not looking to solve my lack of marriage and I'm certainly not looking for crazies and I seem to believe out of 20 people on those sites, you might have 1 normal, and if I'm going to get married again, I'm looking for normal.

So, until there's a site called, www.PleaseGod,I'mjustlookingforanormalguywholovesJesus,life,is6fttall, - I'm just not interested in turning to the interwebs to find my dude.

If I were younger, braver, and without child, I might do it as an experiment on all things quirky about humanity, but since I'm none of those things, I'm sticking with natural protocol.

Girl marries, gets heartbroken, then divorced, Begs God for another chance at love, waits umpteen billion years, and then waits some more, goes to Starbucks, eavesdrops on a boatload of conversations, lives her life, goes on one adventure after another, reaches a mountaintop, walks through a valley, and then looks up one day, God steps in and says, "Shelly, meet Tall, Dark and Handsome. Tall, Dark and Handsome, meet Shelly."

And, I'm not sure when that day will occur.

It might not ever.

And, honestly, as much as I'm not okay with that, I am okay with that.

Because my "way" would be one of looking for something to fix or solve this problem, and that's not what I need, that's not what life or love is about.

Loneliness, just like grief, can't be fixed. Not being married or finding love isn't a problem to solve.

Love is like a cool breeze found on a vista created not by human hands, it is the poetry created from the depths of a heart willing to walk through the fire on behalf of another.

Sitting at the LoveDoes conference, I had many Epiphanies...MANY moments with God speaking into my heart.

One was while Jon Acuff was speaking. I don't remember what he said exactly, but what I wrote was:

I often try to redeem something instead of letting and allowing God to do it.

I try and redeem instead of acknowledging that God is the Redeemer.

I can try all I want to redeem love in my redeem redeem time, my mistakes, my flippancy, my regret, my choices, my sin, my messed up plans

but it won't work.

I'm on a hamster wheel when I try and redeem any of that.

I don't have the power, the wisdom, the know how, nor the capacity to redeem.

I wasn't made to redeem my mistakes. See, my mode of redemption is to fix something, but our lives aren't meant to be fixed.

They were meant to be redeemed.

And I was made to turn and acknowledge THE REDEEMER and bask in the grace of being one He sees worthy of redemption...not fixed, not solved, but redeemed.

I love the story of Ruth, and you know what, God used her "Jewish mother" to bring about her Tall, Dark and Handsome as part of her redemption story.

"My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you?"

She too spurred Ruth on to REALLY try:

"Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor."

My 10 year old version is spurring me on to 'go down to the Christian Mingle', which I am not saying to him, "All that you say I will do."

but, I am trying to live life, let go of thinking that anything in this life will solve a "problem" I may or may not have, and trust in my Redeemer, who orchestrates and moves in His time, in His ways, and remember that all things work out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.

And even though a Tall, Dark and Handsome was part of Ruth's redemption story, more importantly, God was out to redeem her and her family.

I do find it interesting how Naomi's closest relative was willing to redeem the land and even Naomi, but once Ruth entered the picture, the deal was off.

Elimelech could have fixed the problem Naomi had, but it took Boaz to redeem truly redeem it in ways only God had planned, that only His story could include.

God's redemptive plan restored life, blessed all, sustained and provided the Saving grace.

I have to say, THAT'S worth waiting for...that's worth LIVING in...that's worth acknowledging and letting happen.

So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep... John 10:7-11

Have a great Saturday!


Disclaimers: I know several people who have met their Tall, Dark and Handsome via the interwebs. They are happily married and none are crazier than the rest of us. I mean no offense to any of have more courage than this girl who, in all honesty, just doesn't want to be rejected by more men on more mediums.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Standing in line for a Hug

On Thursday and Friday, I attended the Love Does conference in Austin. Yes, I went to the one in Washington back in May, but when Bob Goff gathers a group of folks just an hour away, I'm going to do my best to get there.

The golden nuggets of wisdom were incredible and endless. Jon Acuff and John Richmond were two of my favorites, but every single speaker was excellent. Rebecca Lyons, Don Miller, Mike Foster, and Veronica Tutaj had powerful stuff to share. Then, of course, there's Bob, which just oozes love and Jesus and all things WHAT?! and WOW!!!

I went to Austin on Thursday, on my own, and when I travel alone, day one is always the same.

I wonder what on earth I'm doing there.

I question taking off work, being alone, my decision making skills, and how I didn't lose 10 pounds before I came.

Then I get mad at myself for feeling this way and have arguments with myself about being normal as I'm talking out loud in the parking lot with a few people around...solidifying some of my, "ya, you're not normal" arguments...but whatev's.

I'll tell you what's not normal - sidebar - a man just walked into Starbucks telling his friend, "This place is weird! I've never been here before."

Um, ya, I choose to compare my normal status to him.

I may talk to myself, but at least I don't live under a rock where people don't pay $4.49 for their coffee.

Come On people!

(Sidebar over.)

After a few hours, I settle in and remind myself that this is why I travel gets me in that highly uncomfortable state where I must face some fears, talk to God, and hear the deep down hurts inside my heart that I can ignore when lots of noise is around.

You pair all of that internal chatter with speakers talking about love, shame, calling, Jesus, second chances, redemption, community, and living and doing, then you got yourself two days of awesome.

The Love Does conference really is incredible, and I might have to be a conference groupie...because that's normal, right?

But, then, there's always the closing of it. The walking to the car, alone, and all that quiet comes rushing back in.

I coached volleyball for years.  I hated the ride home after a big game or after a long day of a tournament. If Cade wasn't with me, I'd get in my car with the emotion of coaching this incredible game and then have no one to download any of what just happened to.

To this day, I can remember how empty those nights would be. It physically hurt to have ridden that emotional train and not have a soul to tell about it.

Those moments would be this huge reminder that I had no spouse and my mom was gone.

Often times, I'd cry the entire way home. The pit would be so deep, I'd feel like throwing up.

Don't get me wrong, I had friends, good friends, but calling them for a volleyball run down of girls they didn't even know just didn't make any sense. I couldn't ever make that call.

I would just tell God how much that moment sucked. I loved coaching, loved winning, loved the fire that sports brings, but those car rides home would just about do me in.

Friday, after Love Does, I felt that same pit.

For 2 days I was forced to face dreams, heart ache, fears, wisdom, pain, and hope. But then, I walked to my car. alone. With only the ringing silence inside my head and that pain within my gut.

I tried to shake it. I got mad at it. I asked God why I couldn't leave there feeling like taking on the world and not like I walked it alone.

Once again, I was disappointed with myself and mad I felt so alone.

Thankfully, 2 friends of mine had come up for Friday and even though they rode together in another car, I called them, we put ourselves on speaker, and as they drove a few miles behind me, we chatted.

(Thank you iPhone.)

I could navigate the backroads of Austin and listen to the voices of my friends and they could listen to mine as we drove home.

I was no longer alone.

Community matters.

I never knew just how vital it was until I was single.

My marriage was lonely and so jacked up that I avoided community...not knowing really why, but that was my was part of the unhealthiness of it all.

Part of being emotionally healthy is being part of community. When we begin to withdraw from it, I truly believe it is a sign that something isn't quite right.

For me, hermit is my default. Being on the fringe, staying back, and being invisible is my comfort zone. But when I choose hermit for too long, I begin thinking my friends are Tony and Ziva, I hold conversations with myself as I get dressed, and I wear the same yoga pants for 3 days.

It ain't pretty.

I convince myself that watching a marathon of What Not to Wear is better than going to church and protein bars can be a person's sole source of nutrition.

Red flags start flying, and I know it's because I pulled back from people. It's time to text some girlfriends, make some coffee dates, and get out of the yoga pants and GO TO CHURCH!

Community makes us better. 

My friends and I talked for the entire drive home. We each shared, questioned, challenged, and listened. That conversation made me process way more than I ever would have alone.

It made me see them, and it made me see me.

Even though traveling alone can be really hard, it makes me remember that God is always with me.

Being alone, in a place that forces me to rely on Him, makes me SEE HIM, and it reminds me that He sees me.

But, I also really love how God gave us people. He made us with this innate need to see others and to have them see us. In fact, we start going a little bonkers when we don't.

He knew that we were not to walk alone.

He walks in us and for us, but He sends others to walk with us and us with them.

I'm thankful for the pain of loneliness, because it reminds me that I matter. It reminds me that He made me to feel the pain of being alone, because He firmly believes that it isn't good for man to be alone.

I'm thankful my mind, body and heart agree with God on this: It stinks to be alone.

My prayer is that I see the lonely. I pray my heart is burdened for people who feel alone and need someone to call after a long day of excitement or a hard day at work. I pray I sit, and I listen, and that I remind them, they are not alone.

One of my favorite things about Bob Goff is that he hugs you when he meets you. I had no book for him to sign, I'd met him a couple times before, I had pics of us, but I still got in line...I got in line for the hug.

When it was my turn, he, of course, hugged me, told me his name was Bob and asked mine. He chatted with his animated face and eyes and when I told him I just really wanted a Bob hug, he took his hands, clasped my face between them, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I'm so glad you are here."

He sees people. He takes time and sees that people matter...they matter more than anything else.

Jesus came down to be with us, to save save people, because we matter to Him and to each other.

Jesus didn't come down to save a business or to show us how to make more money. He didn't come to save the whales or demonstrate the art of getting through Target without spending 100 bucks...cause that does take a miracle. He came down for you, for me, for us, because WE MATTER.

Praying I hug more people today, that I look in their eyes, truly seeing them, and tell them that I'm so glad they are here, and in turn tell them they matter.

In Him,