Thursday, April 9, 2015

If loneliness and grief are your schtick, then the great philosopher Elsa had it right, it's time to Let it Go

Typically, when I write, I spend hours on it. It takes me a long time to get all of my thoughts out, then I read and reread and edit and try and make it sound coherent.

So, by the time I hit publish, I've read the darn thing so many times, I'm over it.

I've released whatever was inside my head and heart and I move on.

It doesn't ever bother me that it sits on the website for a long time, and I usually feel just fine with whomever might stumble upon it.

The blog I wrote a few weeks back messed with me on sitting there for a while. I didn't like the idea of that one, being one of my most vulnerable ones, sitting out there for so long.

I used to write way more frequently, but now I only write when I feel this rush in me that I'm supposed to sit and do it. There has to be a deeper voice within me saying I need to go and think and process and put it down in some words.

When that happens, I know the same process will occur. I'll show up truly having no idea where the post will end up, and as I begin typing, sometime in there I will cry and wipe my tears in the middle of a Starbucks as a post comes together in some magical way.

My last post was different. I wanted to write it. I had stirring thoughts and I wanted to write. I decided to roll with it and write just on a desire to do so.

The post came easy and since I didn't have that compelling feeling inside, I decided to sit on it and not immediately publish it.

After several days, I mustered up the courage to reread and hit publish.

I knew I wrote during a low point in the month, not when I was at my optimum, but it was real and true and it was what it was.

The funny thing is, as I wrote and after I wrote, I wondered if there would ever be a time I would write about anything other than loneliness or grief or other discouraging stuff.

I even told myself, loneliness and grief seem to be your schtick Shelly.

I wondered what that said about me...I wondered if I could write about anything else.

I received some sweet notes, a text or two after my post. They were kind and encouraging.

I received a long email from my dearest friend and it made me weep.

But then, I opened another was encouraging as well, but it also said some other things in it that truly made me pause and have a gut check moment.

Here's the deal, more often than not, my significance, value, worth are completely tied to what I think others think of me.

For years, this was a HUGE problem. It ran my life. People's opinions of me have been my holy grail. I wanted, and still 99% of the time want people to think I'm great, I'm doing it right, have my poop together, am wise, funny, solid, with it, and let me just say it, amazing.

It's the "I must get it right to avoid the pitfalls in life" part of my personality meeting the "perfectionist" meeting the "I'm completely insecure with who I am" trifecta.

It's the perfect storm.

It causes one to over analyze, over step, over try, and anything else you can over, it overs that as well.

So, after my life went to pot, I was determined to let go of so much, give this thing to God, and fully immerse myself into rehabilitating the toxicity that had become my insides and my thinking.

It sent my intentionality and my chance at a second chance of living into overdrive. My determination and desire to live an authentic life had another shot, and I was going to take it!

There's been much beauty and healing in the wake of that. I can't even tell you the leaps and bounds I've come and the amazing grace that God has shown me and taught me through the process of surrendering my life to Him, letting go of the controls as much as I can at each step of the way.

But, as I stated in a couple posts back, forgiving myself has been very problematic for me. It's taken (and seems to be still taking) six years to get to a point where I'm allowing the idea to become a possibility.

Six years.

The book of Exodus has always been my favorite. The story of rescue and redemption and God's power amongst a people that begs to go back to slavery and creates idols because they're impatient and forget and can't keep their minds on the Lord has always connected with me, because I have always known I am just like them.

I beg for removal, but then I practically beg to go back. I beg for rescue but then I wander around reminiscing about slavery.

I don't see God working fast enough so I track down some new idols, prop them up, and weep in the mediocrity of it all.

Years ago, a Bible teacher of mine once said, "God took the people out of Egypt, but it took a long while for the Egypt to get out of the people."

God takes me out of slavery, but so often, I think I'm still a slave or that I need to remember that I was a slave or acknowledge that slavery isn't that far away or it's the cause to my mediocrity...not because I set up camp in a desert with my man made gold statues.

When I'm about to have an anxiety attack, one of the best remedies is to call one of 2 friends. If I call Amy or Brit, they'll talk me through it and most likely out of it.
They're calm, they remind me of what is happening, that everything is going to be okay. They ask great questions and just talk with me, but most importantly, they tell me the reality of the situation.

My mind has to remember what reality is and that my body is panicking over a perceived situation but it isn't reality.

That's what God has to do with us each day. That's what we NEED to have Him do each day.

Remind me of what's real Lord, of who I am, of Your love, Your rescue, Your grace, Your forgiveness.

Remind me. Speak to me Lord.

Throughout the Old Testament God says to the people, Do this so you'll remember.

Remember that God brought you out.

Remember the Lord is mighty.

Remember what the Lord has done.

The email that stung a bit, was one that was telling me in so many words, Remember Shelly.

My immediate thought back was, I do! I do remember.

The grace, the joy, the love...all of it. The countless stories and moments and friends and job and simplicity and complete's all God and I'm grateful for every ounce.

But...the forgiveness, letting things go, and not reminding myself or convincing myself I must still be a slave, not so much.

How could I let that go?. It's my schtick.
When my heart hurts, that's usually why.
When I'm alone, that's where my mind wanders.
I might become an optimist for Pete's sake and not a cynic.
I might lose my snark and start accepting the reality of who I am and stop pretending to be something I am not.

So, instead, I build my golden statue for a little while, let my mind wander in the fields of loneliness and wander back across the border into Egypt...or at least long for it for a while.

Living victoriously is hard.

I honestly didn't think it was for me.

I'm intentional and determined and hell bent on doing it, that I can't quite figure out why I'm not full on, immersed living victoriously.

And, this Easter morning, I think I caught a glimpse...

Forgiving myself is the ultimate humility for me.

Forgiving myself would mean I really did and do screw up, and I can't do anything in my own power to fix it.

It means I really do need Jesus.

I'm not solid, super wise, got it together, rockstar amazing.

It means I'm normal and human and in GREAT need of a Savior and friend and forgiveness and grace.

Too often, I am the rich young ruler showing up to Jesus telling Him I'm keeping "them all" Lord, what do I have to do?

I'm singing, I'm dancing, and I'm going after it God...

But I kind of wonder if Jesus might be telling me to stop singing and dancing and chasing it.

Forgiveness and grace come when you realize this isn't a chase; this isn't something you do.

If you do it Shelly, it isn't done, it isn't real, and you're missing the point.

"With man it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible."

 This morning, as John preached from Romans 6 and talked about how we have been buried with Him through baptism into death and all of the ramifications from that...

...that the old life is gone, buried; it is no more. There is no going back. The death has occurred and it is gone. Irrevocable..

I saw how I tend to go back. I'm afraid I haven't paid a big enough penalty, maybe I haven't learned my lesson, maybe I need to relook or rethink or continue to pay the price, so I go back.

And I really need to stop going back, exhuming my mistakes, climbing into the hole, and thinking the ghost is haunting me.

My lack of forgiveness is just my pride refusing to let it go.

And it's time, to let it go.

Stop staring at the Promised Land.

Step into the river and trust God that living victoriously is way better than standing frozen :) in fear to move on in His grip, on His path, and in His plan.

The unknown is scary. It is.

But, His unknown includes hope, grace, love, new life, and victory.

It's time to step.

Shackles gone and buried.

Closing my eyes and stepping out, stepping away...

For this I know, that God is for me.

In Him,

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Spring will come, even if there seems to be a crushing silence

I love spring time. I feel the hope of sunshine, new beginnings, shedding the winter coat, enjoying the longer days, the relaxing evenings at baseball games, and the promise of summer fun. I'm thankful for all of that, because Spring can also be hard because it holds my mom's birthday and a few other "anniversaries" that remind me of heartache and some seemingly crucial failures in life.

Today, on this Good Friday, my mom would have been 65...which is crazy to think. Where has time gone? Sometimes I get stuck thinking I'm still that little girl, whose grandmother is 65, and I have my whole life ahead of me.

But then, I look in the mirror or see pictures of myself and I am quickly reminded that life has moved on; I'm no longer that youngster and much of my life has passed by.

Visions of all I'd do in my thirties have yet to come to fruition, and my thirties are quickly exiting.

Last night at small group as we were discussing a new book we are going to read with our families, 3 questions were posed:
If only ________________________ I'd be happy.
If only ________________________ I'd be respected.
If only ________________________ I'd feel loved.

I could fill those blanks in with a number of things: If only I could travel more, go to law school, was thinner, didn't own a TV, read all the time, spoke a couple languages, was financially secure, and on, and on, and on.

It's basically a list of how I view myself falling short.

It's a list of how I see my significance manifesting in a world surrounded by people...because that's what I respect, love, and view as happiness.

It kind of reminds me of that verse, "how you judge, you also will be judged."

I wonder if we sentence our own selves to the death of guilt and shame by how we give and see significance among others.

I certainly hang from the noose of my own deep seeded pronouncements on humanity...I end up hanging from the rope I intended for others.

But, the one...the very one that could answer all 3 of those questions for me, the one that regularly haunts me and I can't seem to run fast enough from, suppress, ignore, and deny is my desire to be loved by someone here on earth.

I hate typing that and admitting it, and truly the only reason I even can is because from a computer there is anonymity, and I think no one really reads this thing anyways.

What's ironic is that when we steps back and look at our lists, we know none of that will REALLY make us happy or bring us respect or make us feel loved...or if it does, it's temporary, and will cause an equal amount of conflict.

But, even still, we chase, we dream, we wish, we hope for the day when something changes, a door opens, and an emptiness that we feel, will start getting filled.

I can't explain my loneliness.

I can't explain why it hurts amongst a life that I love and is extremely fulfilling and fun and simple and at times even magical.

My friends, my job, my son, my freedom, my health, my opportunity...all of it is awesome, and I wouldn't trade any of it in, because all of it makes my life full and rich and fun.

But, periodically, and by periodically, I mean fairly regularly, as I drive alone, go home alone, walk into church alone, go to dinner alone, shop alone, travel alone, I wish there was someone with me.

But, I don't want just anyone with me, I desire a best friend, someone who I find super special and who finds me the same way.

My deep down, deep seeded desire is to be special to someone.

This month reminds me of how my mom is gone, and that I'm alone. March 4th is the day my divorce was finalized. And even though it was an end that was necessary and one that marked a death occurring years before, it still brings up sentiments of failure, of how I missed the boat, of my loss of time and missing out on one of the hardest but most beautiful pieces in life.

I see it as a failure bigger than God's redemption...or one that maybe doesn't really deserve His redemption. A screw up that deserves years of consequence and a forever sentence of loneliness.

One's mind is powerful. Things we tell ourselves wouldn't even be in the ballpark of what we'd tell others or even believe for them.

But, what I tell myself is harsh, worst case scenario, and isn't true.

One of the many things I love about my job is that I get to teach Bible. In 5th grade, we go through the Gospels, and come springtime, my favorite chapter in the entire Bible comes back around.

It's the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the Dead...but it's SO much more than that.

Just when March is kicking in, and I find myself in that hole of discouragement and I'm fighting through the frustration of feeling sad or down or blah, John 11 gets opened once again.

John 11 is the picture of grief, of trusting God, of waiting on Jesus, of heartache, and of Him being there in all of it.

The story is of 2 women, Mary and Martha, who are called friends of Jesus. The Bible includes other stories of them, so they truly have a relationship with Jesus, an intimate, real, and tangible friendship with Him.

Their brother Lazarus becomes sick. They send word to their friend, to the man they know is the Son of God; their Jesus who loves them and their brother.

But what comes back to them is heartbreaking.

It's silence.

They hear nothing. Just, silence.

Being someone who has felt that silence, it's gut wrenching to read that and go back there in my own feel the emptiness of silence.

If someone wants to hurt me to my very core and break my heart, then just be silent. Don't explain, don't answer, don't come, just let there be silence.

 Mary and Martha waited days for Jesus to show up, and He didn't.

Can you imagine the confusion and hurt?

Jesus, our friend, healer, Savior, Lord, the one who loves us not coming.

Their brother dies. They bury him. They weep and grieve the loss of him.

But I think they grieve even more because of the seeming silence of Jesus in their heartache.

One of my students asked me the other day why we don't get to experience Him in person like those of the Bible do. Why is the "Bible back then" and not now?

I won't rabbit trail off on all that I answered, but part of my answer included the grace of having the Bible in our hands, for us to read, to see the stories playing out and seeing much of God's perspective on the events and not just living them out ourselves. Oh what GRACE is involved in that.

Mary and Martha lived it, but we get to read both their part and Jesus' part. We get to see the Narrator and the narrated.

We get to read that Jesus received the message of Lazarus' illness, and we get to see that He had a plan, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified in it."

But we also see, "He then stayed two days longer."

There was no telegram, text message, or phone call.

They sent word, and He sent silence back.

The crushing blow of that would have been devastating.

Today, in our lives, it can be devastating.

But, the story continues and we get to see it play out in the lives of Martha and Mary, which gives us hope in our own.

After He declares to His disciples that Lazarus is dead, Jesus says, "Let's go to Him."

When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. I'm not quite sure the exact timing, but it seems like at least a week has passed since word had been sent to Jesus about Lazarus' illness, and I would say it's safe to assume even more time than that had passed.

Mary and Martha had spent quite some time in silence without hearing from Jesus.

When word came that Jesus was approaching, Martha quickly got up and went to Him, but Mary stayed back.

I would have been Mary. I would have stayed back.

I don't know if it was out of hurt or anger or confusion or why she stayed back...but that's where I would have been. In life, when I'm hurt, I go get in my hole, I pull back, I can't face the person, and even with Jesus, if I'm hurt or sad or lonely, sometimes I feel so guilty of my lack in gratitude or contentment that I just can't face Him. I can't walk to Him while feeling silenced, forgotten, or ashamed of having felt those ways.

With grief, it can be the same way. Confusion, anger, loneliness, heartache, and the feeling of rejection can keep us from going to Jesus.

There have been times in my life that I just couldn't say another word to Him, I'd curl up and cry with my heart aching for Him and His assurance, but I couldn't go to Him. I remember falling asleep a number of nights with my Bible under my hand like it was a blanket or a teddy bear, but I couldn't open it, I couldn't face the explosion of hurt and what I thought He might be telling me in the silence of the pain.

Martha though, she goes, and runs to Him. She blurts out her pain, "Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died."

She couldn't hold it back. The blame, the hurt, the grief came spilling out onto Jesus. He takes it in and has a conversation with her, assuring her that her brother would rise again, telling her that HE is the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in Him will never die.

Martha quickly runs back to her sister and lets her know that Jesus is calling for her.

Once Mary hears Jesus is calling for her, she hurriedly goes to Him. Once her name is called by Him, she runs, falls at His feet weeping, and cries out, "Lord, if You had been here..."

"When Jesus saw her weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled."

"Jesus wept."

Jesus had a plan. There was a plan from the beginning with Lazarus, for the glory of God to be shown.

And the plan was going to require patience, death, grief, yet it was all wrapped in deep love, a deep love for family, for friends, and from Jesus.

And this is why John 11 is my favorite is a picture of life.

In life, we are often times faced with a great need for Jesus and some of the times we are faced with a seeming silence from Him. We pray, we seek, we beg, but no answer seems to come.

Our friend, our Savior, our Lord may not come with an immediate answer and we must sit and wait. We might even have to walk through pain and death.

But, one of the overwhelming things I learn from John chapter 11 is I can run to Jesus, and even if I can't bring myself to run to Him, He's going to come and call for me.

I can run to Him, fall at His feet, and release all that my heart feels, even if it's blame: If You would have been here Lord!

And the second, and the most beautiful part: He is here...even in the silence. He's here.

Jesus didn't have to come to heal Lazarus. He could've done it from afar.

Jesus' plan included other roads, other ways, and other reasons.

His timing was part of the plan, but even in that, Jesus didn't expect Mary and Martha to be rockstar believers and never be shaken by the pain and grief of losing their brother. Their blame didn't throw Him, annoy Him, or change Him.

Their pain and their weeping upset Him and greatly moved Him, and He too wept with them.

He came and He wept with them, and then He miraculously brought Lazarus back to life.

I miss my mom. I miss there being a person on this earth who thinks I'm very special. I miss being able to call someone any time of the day or night and who would sit and listen, whose shoulder is ever ready, whose prayers always include me, and who reminds me that God has great plans for me...that loneliness will wane and a new dawn will arrive. To remind me that God's grace is bigger than my mistakes, and to not listen to everything my mind tells me.

John 11 reminds me that Jesus has a plan, it requires patience, but in all of that, He comes and He weeps with me in my grief.

He doesn't expect me to buck up and press on, but He calls me to love deeply and when that love faces death, the grief that follows is tough. It is heart breaking, and at times, one must weep.

Just fall at His feet and weep.

And then watch Him do the miraculous that will follow, because with Jesus, something miraculous and full of grace will follow.

With Jesus, death does not win or have the final say, life will always follow.

Spring does come.

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.
26 It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:20-25

The pain, the tragedy, the horror, and the silence on Friday must have been crushing to Jesus's disciples, but in 3 days, GRACE erupted.

He had a plan, it required patience, death, grief, and a seeming silence in it all...but then, the miraculous, LIFE sprang forth.

Never doubt it my friend, spring will come, Grace will erupt.

This I know, that God is for you.