Breaking Up + Building Home

I just got back from Georgia and it felt a lot like seeing an ex for the first time since a break-up.

It was all the nervous tension and trying to figure out how to act and how to feel. At first it was this bittersweet mix of formality and familiarity. We’re used to do everything together, but it’s been a while and everything is different now.

I lived there for two years and made that place my home. It’s comfortable and easy. It’s laughter and inside jokes. It’s not having to tell the back-story or swim through all the surface stuff.

I miss being known and knowing where I belong. I miss being pulled into a hug and held there. I miss someone just showing up at my door. I miss someone reading my thoughts from across the room. I miss the things that took so much time to build.

It’s hard coming back to that.

You’ve moved on, and you know it was the right thing to do. But when things ended on good terms, you can easily fall back into those conversations and into finishing each others sentences. Then it just gets painful. Life, time and geography tell you that you can’t sit next to each other anymore.

And let me tell you, Georgia looked good. He looked real good. His build was strong and his hair was perfect. His green eyes were playful, he wore a well tailored suit, and brought a lot of sunshine and memories of some of my favorite times in my life. He was confident and steady.

As for me, I was a mess. I was not what you imagine or hope to be when you run into that former love. I was not a glamorous picture of success with perfect windblown hair and a five year plan. I was a sleep-deprived mess of a woman who had just lived out her own real life SNL skit involving a flat tire and three police officers.

For some reason, I came packed with the worst of my wardrobe. My skin was freaking out. I was stuffing my face with Skittles and Goldfish (which I guess could explain the skin issue). I was also trying to plan out speaking in front of people and how to finish assignments that felt like a foreign language.

Still, Georgia was inviting. He still knew how to make me laugh and took me to my favorite restaurants. He knew all the right things to say, all the right ways to pull at my heart. He reminded me of those former glory days, back when summer evenings were long and spent by the lake. He brought back winters with coffee on the couch and Josh Garrels on the record player in the living room.

It was hard to walk away.

I wanted to turn that car around and fling myself into the arms of that southern town and say “Please, take me back! I was a fool for ever leaving you behind!”

But it was a lie and I knew it. It was desperate and crazy. It was not the healthy, wise, or sane decision.

We know when it’s time to move on.

God, people, circumstances, and life let us know when our hearts need to move forward and I’m learning how to listen.

About halfway back home, a sad song came on my playlist and like a real break up,  I started spilling my guts to God. I kept mulling over all the reasons why my life right now looks so much less than what I had back then.

Because I mean, the most consistent person in my life right now is the man at the Chick-fil-A drive-thru window who serves me my yogurt and coffee every morning.

And believe me when I tell you, I think he is just as disturbed by his consistency in my life as I am.

Building a new life and new relationships take time and they require giving your heart. It’s hard to give your heart away again when what you had before was so good. Especially when there was really no seemingly good reason to end things other than it was just time to move on, things didn’t fit anymore.

Because what happens if I do this all over again and things just stop fitting?

What if I find something good again and then I have to move on and go start over with another blank apartment, another set of streets I can’t navigate, a table with empty seats? What if I have to even go find a whole other Chick-fil-A man who can’t learn to accept the fact that I’m just going to spend an ungodly amount of money on breakfast food?

One of my bosses gave a sermon this week and said something that hit me hard:

“We say ‘I’ve been hurt in a relationship, I’m never going to date again!’ instead of saying ‘Lord, show me the qualities that make for healthy relationships, so that I will know what is truly worth hurting over.”

Things end. But Georgia was healthy and it was worth hurting over.

Maybe I won’t be here forever, but I’m here for now. I want to build things that are worth hurting over.

Someday, if I ever move away from this place, I want to come back and have that momentary second of foolishness of wanting to jump into its arms again and ask it to have me back. I won’t do it, but I want to have been so recklessly selfless with my love that I’ll want to. I want to be shaken by the memory of what it felt like to wade through all the nervous first encounters, awkward conversations, DTR conversations, stupid fights, moments of wishing I could leave, stupid inside jokes, nights around a bonfire.

I want to build something worth hurting over if I ever have to say goodbye to it.

When I moved away from home I cried when I left my mailman. Right now, I don’t even know my mailman, and it won’t really hurt if I have to say goodbye to my Chick-fil-A man. But I need it to. I need to be teary for the day when he will no longer be MY Chick-fil-A man.

I want to build a life that’s steady and full of the kind of love that cries about my neighbors and the things that become a consistent part of my life.

Because I need to build a life that’s radically ordinary, beautiful, and full of health. I’m learning it will help prepare me for the someday permanent people and places, for when the time and person comes and I find myself making promises and covenants to stay.

(P.S. the Chick-fil-A man is old, married, and is not a romantic interest in my life.)

Advertisements

The New and Good Year

I think most of humanity is in agreement about one thing right now: saying goodbye to 2016 will not break our hearts. I’m pretty sure that the guy who started the campaign to save Betty White is all of us right now. We all feel that nothing was off limits to the insanity of the year, and we’re all just ready to do whatever it takes to get to 2017 without taking another big hit.

That being said, 2016 was a year that I think I learned more than most of my other years combined. When I look back, I think I could fill an entire stadium with pages of lessons I picked up along the way. I’ll leave you with a little bit of what this year taught me. Through the good, the bad, the really bad, the unimaginably tragic, the incredibly scary, the weirdly ironic, and the unbelievably shocking, 2016 left me with some things I needed.

  • There’s a moment to grow up. You’ll know when that moment comes. You finally stop making decisions that are magical and start making decisions that are fruitful. You start realizing your decisions need to require you to think about other people, about investment. You learn that your feelings, your whims, your desires are not the most important things in the world. You can’t live for them or make your decisions by them because the consequences have never been and will never be worth it.
  • If living alone is possible in your single years, do it. It’s pretty wonderful to live in a house full of people laughing and splashing coffee all over the countertops, but there’s something invaluable about learning to grow into your own space. There’s something about coming home to silence and sitting with your thoughts. There are prayers you pray in that quiet that you’d never pray with other people running in and out of rooms. There are moments you can slide down and sit on the hardwood floor with tears in your eyes and without fear that someone is going to come barreling through the door. There’s just a peace and safety to work through all the questions in a real and raw way. I think solitude is one of God’s favorite medicines.
  • Your experiences are not always the truth. Your experiences are true because they happened, but what you believe about them and the stories you tell yourself may not necessarily be true. We fill in the gaps and the holes of our hearts with stories that make us feel better, and sometimes that’s the only way we know to survive. We tell ourselves the relationship ended because we loved them too much and they just couldn’t handle our love. We tell ourselves that our parents left us because they hated us, because we were never enough for them. We fill in those things left unspoken with stories, and the emptiness we sit with starts to feel less daunting. If I can figure out the story, I can craft a solution or write a really good ending. But sometimes, you don’t know what that story really is. Learning to accept that and letting go of the need to answer those questions brings a lot of freedom.
  • There is a fine line between conviction and stubbornness and one of them means standing alone. A convicted person knows that they do not stand alone, that they are accompanied by God and by truth. A stubborn person fights everything and everyone (sometimes including God and the truth) to be proven right. Whenever you find yourself in an argument ask yourself if you’re being convicted or if you’re being stubborn. And if you’re being stubborn, you’ll most likely end up standing alone.

  • There is no substitute for time. My sister told me this years ago and I think I’ve learned it more in the past few months than ever before. You cannot rush the process, you cannot shortcut your way to growth. There is no Miracle-Gro formula for your health. You can try all the juices, cleanses, whole30 diets, quick-fix fads, but the reality is that consistency will always be key. Time produces change, growth, and results. You can’t rush health and anything that pressures you to probably won’t work.
  • You become what you behold. God and I had a very serious conversation about this last night on the way to Target. I am a chronic fixer, and it is something we’ve been working on for quite a while now. I see pain in another person and bless my well-intentioned heart, I just cannot take my eyes off of it. I want to help them, to see them through that pain, to love them right on out of it. But what if I just started choosing to see the good in them, to call that out, to love on that part of them with such a fierceness that it grows and pushes out the pain? What if I really just believe that it’s light and Love that drives out the darkness, not my problem solving abilities? Because you know what I’ve learned? Focusing on the problems in other people just weighs me down with problems, but focusing on the good in and around them brings out the good in me. If we focus on pain, hate, differences, sin, heartbreak… that’s what we become. We become consumed with that very thing that we obsess over and it takes over our lives. But if we fiercely grow and water the good, it always overtakes the darkness. Love always wins. True, time-taking, good-loving, turning away and not focusing on condemnation love is always gonna win.

2017 is just around the corner. It’s going to have its problems, it is going to have its battles. There might even be moments when the Twitter and Facebook explode with some kind of disagreement that makes 2016 look like the year of child’s play. But 2017 will become whatever you focus on. This year, I’m praying to focus on the good and I’m praying that I’ll learn what that word actually means. Today it meant a hug from a stranger, a really good salad, and a walk downtown in a city that I would have never thought I’d end up in. There was good in 2016, and I hope for these last few days of the year those are the things I focus on.

Nevertheless, God protect Betty White.

 

 

 

When The Holidays Are Hard

Some days I am still in the kitchen looking for napkins at that Christmas party. I can hear the laughter coming from the back of the house, my heart swells with the hope as the background music fades to the next track.

I immediately smile as I hear the younger version of myself laugh. Nothing was untouched by the lights that year, anything and everything was possible. All our troubles seemed miles away.

What I didn’t know was that by the next Christmas all of that hope would feel long forgotten and it would take years to get any of it back.

Fast forward to last week when I got a handwritten letter in the mail.

It was from a dear friend across the country and her words were full of that same kind of hope, risk, excitement, uncertainty. I found myself thinking about that Christmas party and about the year that followed.

I replayed what it felt like to let my heart grab on to things that were never meant to be. I let myself be taken back to those twinkle lights and the cold winter air. I let my heart stir in that hope that built me and broke me. While I can’t say I regret that time in my life, the memory of it sometimes still feels heavy whenever the holidays roll around.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I get all warm and sappy whenever I hear it playing over the speakers in the mall, or when it greets me in the car on a dark winter morning.

I wish I could go back to the 40’s and sip coffee with the writers, Hugh and Ralph. I would ask them to tell me about the day they pulled that crumpled melody out of the trashcan. I would ask about the stories that caused them to write those words and that tune.

Let your heart be light…

Around this time of year, I have to remind myself not to get weighed down. It seems so much easier to get heavy when the days get shorter and the nights get longer. And there always seems to be so much pressure to get happier when the red ornaments come out and the big mugs of hot cider start getting passed around. The thick obsession with holiday cheer can weigh me down faster than anything else. I don’t want to miss it. According to every one and every thing, these are supposed to be my happiest months. I often feel rushed to get myself together before December slips away.

I’m figuring out that we need to learn to let our hearts be light, but that we don’t need to hurry it or force it.

Some days it is okay to remember the Christmas party that broke your heart and to grieve the chairs those people no longer fill. But then you have to let go of that weight, sweep the floors and make new invitations. Keep throwing parties and keep filling up those chairs.

Let your heart be light. Allow it to let go, allow it to hope for better years. Go and see the lights, sniff the fresh pine, watch all the best and worst Hallmark movies, help your grandmother decorate her tree, make plans to find the perfect wrapping paper. Let your heart be hopeful and expectant, even if there are hard memories and prior years that still bring pain.

Sometimes I feel like Dickens really got his stories mixed up. He really should have started off the Christmas one with that whole bit about how it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Because some days I’m still in that kitchen and I am heavy with the weight of what Christmas used to be, might have been, appears to be for everyone else. One minute, I am one pine-scented candle away from weeping in Target and the next, I’m singing Holly Jolly Christmas and flailing around in snowman pajamas.

Most days this really is the most wonderful time of the year. Still, Ralph and Hugh knew that there would be those holiday days we would need a melancholic song that would help us mourn, while simultaneously giving us a swift-kick-in-the-rear with a challenge like let your heart be light. 

I’m not sure if those guys knew it, but a different kind of Christmas light is the only thing that can help us with the heavy weight. That Light came in the middle of the night to a bunch of people on the run, who were probably crying over old Christmas parties, and whose lives looked nothing like Hallmark movies. He saw all the sadness, darkness, pain, loss, loneliness they were in and He came.

And when He took his first human breath, I think that was really the first time the world heard what are quickly becoming my favorite words of the season: let your heart be light.

 

 

I have one less pair of pants and I now need to hide underground, but it will all be okay.

The ceiling literally caved in. I came home a few weeks ago to big chunks of my ceiling laying in the floor.

Then came final exams, a crazy list of things to-do at work, a roach in my bathroom, getting incredibly sick, and then accidentally and unintentionally stalking an old(ish) man.

Then came the world’s worst migraine that lasted for a week, which led me to an allergic reaction, which then led to me throwing my pants away (of which I have no recollection of).

Needless to say, my life over the last several weeks could have been a sitcom. I seriously think television networks could benefit from following me around.

In the middle of all of it, I found myself exhausted, terrified, frustrated, mortified, and amused.

But I also came to find out that the world didn’t end.

Somehow all the assignments that needed to be finished were completed, the speeches that had to be composed were written. The designs, deadlines, and e-mails were all taken care of.  I woke up this morning to realize that though I have one less pair of pants, and I now need to hide underground for a few years after the stalking mishap, that it is all going to be ok.

I think sometimes I forget that God works things out. He makes a way. Granted, I have to do my part sometimes, I have to be responsible with my time and my energy. I have to cooperate with wisdom, but it always gets done and works out. And even when I screw it up, His grace can and does still meet me.

I so easily take that for granted. I have a crazy and stressful week, I survive and then I just move on. I don’t always stop to mark the moment and say, the next time everything explodes and I’m a wreck of a human being who is staggering into doctor’s offices and beating a roach with a broom at 2 am, I should remember that God was with me this time and it all worked out.

I guess what I’m saying is that you’re going to be okay. Whatever the weeks and months look like for you right now, you’re going to make it and you’ll make it through the next time after that as well.

Think about all the times that you swore it wasn’t going to work out, you wouldn’t finish it all, you wouldn’t survive, you wouldn’t be okay. You’re here, you’re breathing, you made it. Maybe it didn’t all turn out the way you thought it would, but the world didn’t end and you’re still moving.

Take a minute, just stop and remember that you can’t control it all and that you don’t have to. He’s got this. The one who is in control of everything has always and will always have you, and He will work it out. 

The Days That Make up The Years

Fourteen years ago, sometime in the earliest hours of the morning, I was sitting on my mother’s lap when she said, “he’s gone.”

I’ve never forgotten that moment, never unlearned the pain of losing someone I love.

I don’t think my grandfather would have ever imagined that such a little girl would carry a silly, wrinkled, ice cream obsessed man into even the smallest spaces of her life. But I did and I still do. I still think about him every time I see a peppermint, turn on a computer, or flip past the tv show Jeopardy.

Lately, my mind has been taking me back to the days when I thought God was big guy with dark black hair and a blue sash.

I thought He sat in a blue wingback chair and wanted me to be successful and smart.

But if you were to ask me what I believe about that now, I would pour you some coffee and tell you that I don’t really have the answers I thought I would have by now. That night, fourteen years ago, I would have hoped I’d have figured my life out by now.

If you were here next to me, I would tell you about a man who had a faith that I could see, but never got the chance to touch.

He never tried to offer answers, never in my childhood did I hear him trying to beg or convince others to believe. But he lived with a quiet, steady belief of a God who is not easily explained. I loved that he never tried to explain Him, and yet, somehow I always knew my grandfather believed.

I think even as a child, I knew that you couldn’t have joy like his or overcome the fear he’d battled without some sort of rooted belief that God was there, that He hears our prayers.

Welcome to the whirlwind.

The storm that will hit you when you finally have to admit to yourself that you don’t really have all the answers. When you realize that fourteen years later, sometimes your view of God is not as steady as it used to be, back when you thought He was the Big Guy in Blue.

Sometimes, He is quiet.  He rarely explains himself.

I’ve started to think He’s okay with the quiet parts of our faith. With the wrestling and wondering about how we got here, where we’re going, and where He stands in the middle of all of it.

My faith isn’t always loud, doesn’t always have words and I think He’s big enough to work with that.

I don’t think God is bothered by the fact that I ask so many questions. Or that sometimes I don’t have the strength to ask them at all. I think He’s okay with that fact that some days I just want to learn the art of a perfect latte, or walk aimlessly around department stores.

He never put pressure on me like I thought He did. He doesn’t sit up there waiting to use me if/when I become smart & successful. 

And days of wandering, smaller paychecks, and messy hair don’t make me a failure.

I think He can handle my mediocrity. I think He can handle the sigh I make when I slam the snooze button and pray to forget the hard things.

There’s a lot of change that has been happening and I don’t really know how to make sense of it. I don’t have any idea how to take some of the steps I’m going to have to takeIn this moment, I wish my grandfather could be here, so that I could ask him about what it takes to move on, about what it takes to swallow your fear and decide to keep walking.

If I could, I would make you a fort in my room, the way we did at my grandparents’ house. I would give you vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup, and pop in Beauty and the Beast. I would refuse to let us fill our time with worrying about how it will all turn out. We would just love the moments of our lives, not knowing that the day will come when people we love will be gone. I wouldn’t tell you that we might wake up fourteen years later with a life that looks nothing like we planned.

Because most of the time, God doesn’t want us to figure it out. He just wants us to live.

If He had told the nine-year-old me that my grandfather would die, I would move to a different state, and given me the daily contents of my life at twenty-three…I’m certain I would have panicked.

Because I wouldn’t have been able to see or know the good in all the other days. I wouldn’t have known all the people who have stepped in and taught me how to stand, the laughter that steals the breath right out of me, the plane rides that take me to places I never knew existed. I wouldn’t have known about the late night eating of cake, the long talks in the kitchen, the days when hope holds my bones together.

Because the fear tries to steal the joy. It tries overshadow all the goodness in our days.

We’re not going to figure it all out.

And I don’t think it’s worth trying. We just have to live life, enjoy it, wrestle through it, love the people around us fiercely. We have to realize that our lives impact people. That a 73-year-old man can be branded on the heart of a 9-year-old girl, and he can forever change the way she sees the world.

We have to stop demanding that God give us the answers we desperately seek. Because He knows our frame is too small to hold the knowledge of all that is in front of us.

We have to know that there’s goodness. Even though I know there will be sadness, pain, loss, days when I wish I could hold people that are no longer here. Still, there is such goodness ahead. 

We have to learn to be okay with quiet faith, with being human, with plans that might not make us look smart or successful. We have to learn to love the process, the days that make up the years, the joy we are privileged to hold when new babies are born, weddings are celebrated, autumn is welcomed once again.

We have to trust His goodness, even and especially in the unknown.

We have to know that God’s always had us, and He will always get us through. We have to trust that there’s joy and good living ahead of us.

If I would have asked my grandfather then, and I think even if I could ask him now, he would tell me this: I can bet on a belief that says there is so much goodness I’ve yet to see.