Tag Archives: epiphany

The Battle for Hope (And I’m Still Here)

Image Source: CreationSwap.com

Image Source: CreationSwap.com

Oh, dear blog readers, I’m still here.

I cannot believe my last post was September 15. This might be my longest stretch of silence since I started blogging, and I certainly did not plan it.

There’s this fine line as a writer–finding the balance between not over-sharing but still offering the vulnerability and raw honesty that makes stories powerful. I struggle to walk this line because I do not believe in spewing AllTheThings over the entire internet, but I do believe in transparency and not shrinking away from the hard things.

With trembling hands, can I hold out my messy heart for a moment?

A few weeks ago, I had one of those epiphanies that often comes in the ethereal seconds between waking and sleeping, when your defenses are down and your mind is drifting, so your heart and spirit get a chance to speak up a little louder than usual. I had been so busy surviving, trying to keep my family encouraged and hopeful and moving forward during a hard season, that I missed how deeply my heart was grieving. Space had not been allowed for the processing of some painful losses.

I am used to living with feisty emotions, but the depth of what I was carrying and stuffing deep inside caught me off guard. The processing has been rough. It still is.

2014–a year I held very high hopes and expectations for–has turned out to be marked by four heart-shaking circumstances that have all left their own variation of chaos or hurt in their wake

A prayer we’d been waiting to see answered for five years was seemingly realized for a few weeks, only to unravel into a nightmare. And nothing in my theology or experiences with God prepared me for this. Seasons when He seems silent or distant? Yes, I can navigate that. Seasons of waiting when you’re wondering when He will come through? We’ve gotten pretty good at those too. But when it seems a promise is fulfilled and then it’s not? Ok, technically I supposed stories like Abraham & Isaac & Job should’ve prepared me, but they didn’t. They just didn’t.

How do you navigate feeling utterly betrayed by God? At least there was a point when the prophet Jeremiah cried out, “Oh God, You deceived me and I was deceived.” It’s not really comforting, but at least someone else felt tricked by God and had the guts to say so. But I have walked with God for most of my life, and this has shaken that relationship to its core. In a lot of ways, God and I are beginning again.

During all of this, another decision we had been mulling for several months became clear, and we realized we needed to step away from the church plant we’d been part of for two and a half years. And while I still know in my bones this was the best choice for our family, it has been an enormous loss for me. I loved that church. I invested my heart deeply into that church. I had huge dreams for that church. I saw myself there for many more years. I had relationships I thought would last a lifetime, and instead they are broken or unravelling.

I have grieved this like a death in many ways. It still stings. Even though my children and husband are flourishing spiritually in a way they hadn’t been able to for a long time, even though this decision was made back in June, my heart aches. It is hard to trust that what was best for my family will also somehow be best for me. I don’t see it yet.

We had every intention of moving when our lease was up at the end of September. Our current apartment isn’t horrible, but we don’t love it and only saw it as very temporary. Our kids have been asking for their own rooms and a backyard, and we were really hoping to find a house to rent, somewhere we could settle for a little while.

But the closer it got to September, the more we realized it wasn’t the most practical choice yet. Financially, we would benefit more in the long run if we stayed put another year. Another hope dashed. We’re adjusting a little better to this one, but it’s still hard, especially the closer we get to Christmas. Last year, when we packed up our decorations, the kids and I actually prayed that when we put them up again, it would be in a new house with a fireplace. I’m really hoping they don’t remember that prayer. I’m not ready to deal with those questions.

And the thread running through all these things has been an ongoing health challenge with our little girl. I’ve shared here before about her surgery as a baby and why this is so hard for me. She has a kidney abnormality, and I’ve spent a huge chunk of time over the last month and a half sitting with her through tests and waiting rooms and visits to specialists. The good news is it doesn’t seem as serious as they initially thought; the bad news is there are still a lot of question marks, things we just don’t have answers for yet. So we wait and plan for a few more doctor visits and we wait some more. I don’t know how this story ends yet.

I don’t share all this for any pity or dramatics. I share it because someone else out there needs to know they’re not alone in the unravelling of hopes, in the quaking of faith. I share it because I’ve mastered the art of smiling and looking like we have it together, and I don’t want to be that person.

I share because last Saturday found me locked in the bathroom, sobbing on the floor, everything in me just wanting to give up because it’s too hard and the strain I’m experiencing on so many levels feels too intense. I found myself on the brink of throwing hope to the wind. Do you know what a terrifying brink that is? It almost seems cruel. Because what is life without hope, yet how do you hope when you’ve been met with disappointment again and again? You feel like you can’t win.

And I am telling you, I was completely and utterly at the end of my reserves to muster the ability to just keep going. I do not have it in me. But hope is a powerful force, and sometime it takes hold of you even when you can’t take hold of it. Say what you will, I know beyond the shadow of doubt it was God Himself that picked me up off that floor and gave me enough spark to finish that day. Then the next one, and the next one, and the next one . . .

I think of Jacob wrestling with God and saying “I will not let You go until You bless me.” That is pretty much my only prayer right now–to wrap myself around everything I have ever known and experienced about grace and hope and unfailing love (even if those things feel so hidden right now), to look through the tears and hang on tight and scream, “I will not let You go until You bless me. I will not!”

I realize in deeper ways than I have known before that so much of faith is truly not about feeling, but about choosing. I can choose to let go or I can choose to hold on. One day, I might choose for me. But right now, there are two precious faces that look at me every day with eyes full of wonder and hope, so for them, I choose wonder and hope too.

Can I whisper to you, friend also looking to get up from the bathroom floor and see beauty through your tears, choose hope with me? 

P.S.: I promise to not go so silent again. I have so many things I want to write and share. And later this month, I am celebrating seven years of marriage to the love of my life, and I am going to share both fun and serious things I’ve learned so far. Stick around?

P.P.S.: If you read all the way to the end of this, you deserve a prize. Have a piece of chocolate or glass of wine!

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Filed under Change, Faith, Grieving

Knowing Myself

Image by Jennifer Upton

Image by Jennifer Upton

It began last July. I could feel the change in my bones long before the visible signs appeared. I even said it out loud to someone I trusted:

I feel a shift coming. A transition. But it doesn’t make sense.

It didn’t make even a little bit of sense. The restless was intense, but I was trying to tame it because any significant change seemed unlikely. Every aspect of our life seemed rooted – the good and the bad. There were commitments, relationships, plans.

But here we are, not even one year later, and the entire landscape of our lives is completely altered. I wish I could tell you it was all pleasant and lovely, but it’s not. Because when things are deeply rooted, it can be intensely difficult and painful to get them uprooted.

And it still hasn’t made sense. Until I read these words from Brené Brown this morning:

I did believe that I could opt out of feeling vulnerable, so when it happened – when the phone rang with unimaginable news; or when I was scared; or when I loved so fiercely that rather than feeling gratitude and joy I could only prepare for loss – I controlled things. I managed situations and micromanaged the people around me. I performed until there was no energy left to feel. I made what was uncertain certain, no matter what the cost. I stayed so busy that the truth of my hurting and my fear could never catch up. I looked brave on the outside and felt scared on the inside.

Slowly I learned that this shield was too heavy to lug around, and that the only thing it really did was keep me from knowing myself and letting myself be known. The shield required that I stay small and quiet behind it so as not to draw attention to my imperfections and vulnerabilities. It was exhausting.

– from Daring Greatly (*emphasis added)

I have read these words over and over today. Someone else wrote them, but oh, do they feel like they came right off the pages of my heart. There it was. Epiphany. (My one word for the year – so far I haven’t had any of the epiphanies I thought or hoped I would have, but never mind.)

Everything that has been stripped away is something that kept me from knowing myself and, by default, kept me from letting myself be known. And it had to go because it was also a year ago that I really started praying about and taking steps towards living creatively, towards “Wholeheartedness”, as Brené Brown calls it, even though I didn’t have the words for it at the time. But it is basically impossible to live creatively and wholeheartedly if you have buried the knowledge of yourself under layers of busy and performance and smallness.

So in spite of the oh-so-painful process this has been and will likely continue to be for a little longer, I embrace it fully because I want to know myself and not be afraid to let myself be known. I want a whole heart that results in a safe place for others to know themselves and let themselves be known. I don’t want to live exhausted and emotionally numb anymore. I want to live fully.

And now back to you – what things have you come to realize get in the way of you knowing yourself and letting yourself be known?

 

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Filed under Change, Creativity, Perfectionism

One Word 365: Epiphany

Image by Jennifer Upton

Image by Jennifer Upton

I love the new year – the official start to a new chapter in time.  I relish the opportunity to pause, reflect and refocus.

But the reflection has been challenging over the past few weeks as I face the reality of another year – a fourth year – coming and going without the change we’ve been fighting for, the miracle we’ve been looking for.

It has forced me to ask – is it worth it?  The goal-setting, the dreaming, the migrating back to hope.  Is it worth the effort when you’re already discouraged and weary?

I am craving clarity, focus, something to hold on to.  I wanted my one word, but nothing was coming.  Until a story sister mentioned epiphany and another one said sometimes you have to just take hold of what you need, claim it as yours.

Epiphany is a sudden realization – a flash of recognition in which someone or something is seen in a new light.  It usually comes after a long struggle or search, wrestling with a problem or concept until the light shines and clarity comes.  Originally, this clarity or insight was believed to only come through the divine – a supernatural enlightenment.

And so, with trembling hope, I am declaring 2014 the year of Epiphany, where light pierces the darkest clouds.  After the long struggle, I am believing for sudden realizations bringing fresh perspective.  I want to see myself in a new light and for the many puzzle pieces I have struggled to make sense of to be basked in a glow of understanding only available through the Divine.

I expect surprise.

I expect awakening.

I expect revelation.

I am choosing to empty the disappointments and open myself wide to drink in the illuminations, to savor the epiphany.

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Filed under Faith, Hope, Miracles