Friday, January 6, 2017

Flying Away

I'm flying to Chicago this afternoon for a couple of days sabbatical via my counselor's stern and direct orders.


...but Heather is losing it a little....that said, my dear C7 friend Sherri was gracious enough to take me in and love on me for a few days to resuscitate my grieving heart that is buckling a bit under so much healing/grieving this past nine months of much pending in 2017...and some people in my professional life that I continue to struggle with emotional boundaries with (so basically my heart is being crushed daily).

As I said to the C7 this morning, I need this sabbatical like an alcoholic needs alcohol....or any addiction for that matter.


So...of course we get our first snow of the winter season overnight here in Arkansas. Our offices are closed with some stragglers in and out so with my day jacked up TOTALLY....I was at the airport 2 1/2 hours early because 1) that is who I am (I overheard my business partner tell his daughter today as they drove me to said airport), and 2) I am going to Chicago; got it?!?!?


Me. A funny hat. My laptop.  - Writing @ Airport

So...I am sitting here at the airport having just finished all the work I brought with me and I am staring out the window so very hopeful for these days away. I have been strong for as long as I can. My give a damn is busted. I am wilting under the stress and strain of my life.

In the past four years, I have "run away" like this exactly zero times. ZERO. This is a new act of bravery for me....simply running away for a bit to get rested and restored for the next rounds of battle. I would not have done it if my counselor had not been so firm, so for that I am grateful.

There is a song called Take Heart by Hillsong United - check it out HERE. Some of you might remember my addiction to that song that grew out of my Haiti trip in January 2014 when I ended up (due to weather) in a rental car with two people I did not know driving to Dallas throughout the night so we could all make our first flights out. This song came on during the drive and I ended up hearing it on repeat that entire trip like an anthem.

I used to have a Haiti playlist on my iPod of all the songs that had hit me like that and during one of the many iPhone "patches" my playlists got zapped. Ugh.

I digress.

As I started writing this post, I felt this song on my heart so even as I type here at this little table in the airport next to a frost covered window, it is blasting in my ears. Oh these words.
"...So take heart
Let His love lead us through the night
Hold on to hope
And take courage again..."

Who else needs those words washing over them today???

I need to "take courage again" for the next leg of my journey. Faking courage is no longer working for me. At. All. I need that the Jordan River...where I can feel the Holy Spirit so full inside of me that it is oozing out my pores. I need THAT. Today. Again. I need restoration.

My counselor says I need to grieve and let go of some stuff in order to make room.

I believe them.

About 3:30 in the song, it starts this refrain that is so powerful. You simply nearly weep listening to it. I encourage you to do so...even with that disclaimer.

Sorry...digression. This song takes me somewhere...else.

I think it is hard for a lot of us to raise our hand and admit that we need to step away for a hot minute and collect ourselves. I hope this gives you hope and strength to do just that if you too are here on the edge of falling over.

I am grateful for many many things but in this moment I am most grateful to a God who is guiding my path even where I do NOT want to follow....and for friends that step into the gap when called and say, "Come. Let me be your safe space to meltdown." #bless

The humor in some of this is that I left the hot mess of my business. The hot mess of my home (grateful no one can see it). The hot mess of "projects" with deadlines that have zoomed by me....and I am SO uncomfortable in the leaving, but what is a girl to do?!?!

I have to go.

I have to fly.

Take heart. God is right here in this scary hot mess you find yourself in....and if you listen, he is whispering to you love and wisdom. You alone can act on it.

Be brave. Fly away.

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Learning How To Quit

What brings you motivation?
I'm in the midst of learning what brings me motivation.
Because it is changing.
What once served me oh so well is falling short for me now....and not by a little, but by a country mile.
This morning, ill served or satisfied by my traditional morning routine, I caught myself scrolling through videos and photos one of my niece's friends is posting from #Passion2017 and I found myself envious. Deeply.
I missed Catalyst last October due to issues at our firm and I didn't realize how bitter I was about it until I watched with an ache in my heart thousands of college kids studying/listening/worshipping in Atlanta. Ugh. Catalyst is my Passion Conference. Or maybe I just wish I could hang out with college kids more because that age is so awesome. Or maybe I am just hungry for more...
I ended up watching the session that Beth Moore taught and sitting there thoroughly convicted throughout. After I jumped up and sat at my desk to map out a day (in one of my two new planners/dream journals for 2017 - oh stop - I have a problem - I own it - LOL). Out of the two, the one I grabbed first was the one that daily asks deeper questions about how you want your day to look and feel, gratitude, etc. It is a new one for me, and I will be honest...I chuckled a little when I opened the box. Cheesy. Yet...I need a little more cheesy in my life.
I am barely hanging on.
There I said it.
I texted Sis last night and told her I am right there on the edge....just barely hanging on. There are about six things...and by six I mean two...that I want to quit right now. Quit. I have expended all of my heart, brain, energy....and I am just over it. Over. It.
I can't though...I mean I can, but God has me wrestling through to the end. Finishing well and all that.
...but I am done. I mean my heart is just done. It can't even fake giving a damn.
I want to learn the lesson of how to finish something well BEFORE I get to the "my give a damn is busted" stage.
You have to give me this though....I squeeze ALL the flavor out of that stick of gum before I toss it.
*eye roll*
Bob Goff has this "..quit something every Thursday..." and Donald Miller writes about it HERE. I have been intrigued by his theory for awhile now, but it also makes me incredibly nervous. I mean...I am no quitter. Why is that though? I have a lunch appointment on Friday that I am actually attending for someone else as they are double-booked. The appointment is at a place I turned down last year to be on their board. A few people have brought it up to me in passing...heard about the ask and my no through the grapevine. Seriously. (rolling eyes NOW) Are they trying to make me feel guilty? OR am I simply allowing myself to feel guilty? Probably a little of both.
The truth is that I have come a long way in saying no and selecting a best yes out of a range of great things, but....BUT the truth is that there are still habits, people, things in my life that I simply need to flat our quit. Quit.
I am no longer motivated by those things and faking it is killing me a little inside.
I know. I know. Dramatic much?!?!
Yet....think about it. How much of your mood is zapped by those things that simply no longer bring you joy or purpose??
There are things I really want to do in my life. Callings I feel very strongly in my life.
Sometimes it is not fear (though that is still a factor for me - don't kid yourself) that is keeping you back, but the simple choice to quit one thing so that your hands are open to pick up another.
I wrote about this already in 2017 (me sitting here at the beginning of day four) that I have a list of what I am calling "straggling" to dos. These are some things that right wrong or indifferent I have stuffed on shelves or in drawers and just did not deal with because it was too hard or too much or maybe I did just want to have that item hanging over me (why?!?!). I will tell you why....once you are done with someone or something...really done...then you are FREE to move on. As in really move on.
Sometimes it is not the fear of letting go or finishing. It is the fear of now I REALLY have to do "x" or step forward into "whatever the heck God is holding for me" on the other side of these things I will not finish...I will not quit.
So...I am not writing this post from a place of wallowing or self pity or woe is me.
I have made my list.
I am walking daily through the horse manure of that list, and I am NOT enjoying it...At. All.
...but I cannot go one more year of letting straggling to dos, fear, and past mistakes keep me from walking in freedom.
So this is more of a I am doing this. I hate it. You can do it. You will hate it too. It is good for us though. POST.
What is your motivation? What is God putting deep in your heart that you just cannot shake?
I know what mine is...and the more I ask about it or run from it, the more God puts people and places and moments and words in front of me to say, "Are you ready yet? I am waiting."
It isn't Thursday, but maybe you need to go quit something today...or make a list of a lot of things you need to quit and start tackling it one by one. Whatever it is that is weighing down your heart...your spirit....and in some ways hurting you brave and address THAT today. There is freedom on the other side of quitting those things that no longer serve us....and maybe some things that never ever really did.

I love you. I am sending out a lot of love today because this sh*t is hard. Growth sucks. BUT goodness how he loves he loves me. Trust that. Trust him.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 : Looking Back & Moving Forward

I am sitting at my my desk...with two hanging files...shadow files from my years at Nations Bank/Bank of America and U.S. Bank. Even after the #threeyearpurgefest I hung onto them because there was joy in seeing some of the old notes people had written to me over the years, my original application for Nations Bank, newspaper clippings, etc. I haven't looked at them since I purged my office in December 2015. SO...I am sitting here staring at them and I do NOT want to keep them any longer...but I am struggling to let them go. Does that make sense?
I feel like 2017 is going to be a year of letting go of the straggling items that even in three years of purging followed by a year of deep healing and excavation, I still held on to.
*Deep Breath*
There was this deep and lovely conversation between old and new friends after New Year's Day lunch yesterday where I was amused talking about lessons learned. Sometimes you don't realize that you have learned anything (really) until you are in a conversation with others. I was taken aback at my own honesty about parts of my story, challenges I have overcome, and those painful habits I still wrestle with....even after so much.
My friend Lesley was telling us about these tests her team was taking and how the instructor (?) had told them no matter how much you learn and grow, there are core things about who you are that you cannot change....they are literally Who. You. Are.
Now....I think I hid it well, but my heart sank a bit at those words...really?!?! that really true??
I know that is true though...I have learned that in counseling. There are things that I do because I use them to cope, and there are other things I do because that is simply who Heather is...but here is the much of  who I have been (and continues to be) buried under all of the coping tricks. In fact, I dare say that I know more today about how I cope than I do what parts of me are truly just Heather.
Grief. That hurt.
Imagine being 45 and figuring out your core....eye roll...I digress.
One of my coping mechanisms is change. I use change as a defense and coping mechanism. People hate change, so I in turn love it...and use it to my advantage...because I find it thrilling. Shake things up and while everyone else's heads are spinning, I can get things done. I have the upper hand because my feathers are unruffled. My energy level is a 10 on a scale of 1-5. If I keep changing and moving, I don't have to deal with anything. Ever.
Ever. Ever. Ever.
I held onto some of this crap (straggling items) last year not simply because parts or all of it cleared the joy test, but mostly because what happens when I have none of the straggling items left? What happens when I don't have the emotional time bombs of a file folder or a box or something I should have gifted to someone a year ago? What happens when I write that final thank you note from the sale of a piece of property? What happens when I really give away that last size 8 (beautiful) skirt (or the bling bling heels that go with it), not because I will never be that size again (as if - eye roll), but because that "style" time in my life is over....and it is just collecting dust. I am looking at 2017 and feeling the deeper challenge of purging things that don't really give me joy but simply keep me from feeling the grief in letting those items go....those last things that belong to a time and place, a Heather, that I no longer am...and no longer need to be.
This is the time I realize just how much like Lot's wife I truly am. I too would have failed the test and looked back....pile of salt I would be...
I am addicted to the looking back and it is keeping me from moving forward.
....but why???

I guess that is what we will get answered in 2017...because there is more of me ready to crawl into the photo above and get going than is not....but the "not" is heavy and is as much old wounds still unhealed to old habits to old ideas to three pairs of beautiful shoes that I have no (real) use for to a stack of notes that need to be mailed. It is time to drop the straggling items and habits that are holding me back. It is going to take all that I have learned these past years, it is going to take friends holding me accountable (I see what you did there Lesley - calling me out at lunch yesterday), and it is going to take a deeper level of bravery. USPS and Waste Management....get ready.
The open road awaits....and yes I am having a flash to "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" film. So...I just started playing the song from the soundtrack that I love so very much (and listened to on repeat a lot during the purge)....Stay Alive which you can listen to HERE....those lyrics though....LOVE.
Dawn is your eyes.
2017 is here. Day 2.
What is hanging on from year's past that you need to finally move on from?
What is keeping you from the future God designed just for you?
What demons are buried inside you have ignored too long?
This first week of a new year is a great time to ask yourself all of those deep, important questions.
I know I am....and there are these two files....

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Peaceful Abandon (aka 'Peace')

I got distracted.
I am supposed to be finishing another post. A post I started 365 days ago. A post that I continue to wrestle with and through....*Arrggghhh*
...but I got distracted.
I put a lot of stock in traditions and people. I am the kind of girl that goes back to a well too many times (not one too many times - WAY too many times) expecting a different result. I expect people to change. I expect my feelings to be valued. I expect my work to be respected. I expect that if I show you mine, you will show me yours....vulnerability that is...
...but that rarely happens...and we always want the tradition or person to "show up" for us even after they have shown who they are...again and again. We want those qualities from the people least able to give them to us. I pound my head against that wall again and again and again and again....
So this NYE I am sitting here disappointed again to have bruised my head on the wall again of expectations.
There is this song called Floodplain and it just started playing while I was typing. So typical. God sends the song. I recommend it (and the entire album it is on by Sara Groves) and I recommend reading the lyrics HERE
Some hearts live on the floodplain....that is the heart of the song.
Mine does.
I am frankly a little sick of it. I have spent 2016 figuring out how to live in this space where my heart resides. Most days I feel better, stronger, but then the moments or conversations or days hit that rock me back on my heels and the floodplain turns to quicksand for my heart....and I sink. Fast.
I thought I would end this year feeling stronger, but alas I am sitting here sinking....someone hurting my heart after I opened up mine...again. I just deleted the word stupid. I am not stupid. I mean I feel stupid, but I am not. What I am is slow to learn when the well is dry. I throw my trust and love and expectations into a dead sea (lower case but thinking of the actual).

Dead Sea, Israel 2016 {the beauty is deceiving}

I was in counseling a few weeks ago and they asked, "Why do you believe (so and so) is going to change?" I just sat there...and wept. I know right?! WHY? Because I don't want to believe that all of the time and energy I have invested in that person is for naught. Because I care about them. Because just once, I want someone to come through for me.
....and there it is.
When is the boat coming for me?
*ugly crying*
If there is anything I have learned after nine months of counseling it is that I didn't have one single clue just how deep the wounds of my childhood many areas of my life those wounds touched....or how much unspoken, unfelt grief I had boxed up neatly on shelves...not until a few of those boxes got unruly and reared their head early this year. That is what happens. We contain our grief and pain. We stuff it in closets and corners. We numb it. We mask it. Until....we don't.
The truth is that it isn't the 45 year old woman, executive, writer, friend, sister, aunt, entrepreneur....that is hurt as I sit here today. It is the nine year old girl abandoned oh so long ago who resides VERY much in my present life. That little girl went to the well yesterday and today. That little girl was rejected/blown off/passed over/misunderstood. That girl is brokenhearted.
....and I don't know what to do to help in this moment....except to let her grieve. More.
I am going to finish that post I started 365 days ago. I am going to finish it because there are clues for me in the writing of it. It took me three years to unbury myself from all of the stuff (physical) I used to make me feel safe.
When I was four years old, the twins were born. We had an International Scout. The year was 1975. My parents sat in the front. The twins' were in car seats in the backseat with my older sister sitting in between them. In the back, my father would pack our luggage in a "C" shape and then my toys on the inside of that, and finally there would be blankets/pallet for me to sit on. I would sit back there packed in (snug as a bug in a rug) able to sleep or play the entire drive whether we were headed south to visit one set of grandparents or to Memphis to visit another.
I just digressed BIG time there.
I used stuff to feel safe. I packed it in deep and tight around me. At the end of last year, when all that stuff was gone I was left with just me. Exposed.
Counseling has been a gift and remains the best one I have ever given myself, but it has also shown me that I have a lot packed deep and tight inside of me. That shit isn't coming out easily is fighting like a wild animal, and even when I can finally drag pieces of it is leaving fresh wounds...cuts and bruises as it tries to hold on. The devil tries to hold on. Lord knows that the devil does NOT want me well. At all. I get it. Some days I don't want to get well. It is simply too hard. Screw the boat, I will walk. I am done. You know...that kind of charming attitude. *eye roll*
Today is one of those days. I am tired of being hurt. I am tired of grieving. I am tired of showing up. Again and again. Everything old is new again like a broken record or the movie Groundhog Day (which I have never seen to the kids' dismay). Nothing ever changes.
...but it does.
I just spent three and a half hours making sure it fact....change.
I am writing the hard things. Using ALL the words. Letting my heart break. Grieving. Rejecting the urge to numb.
....and my heart feels a little lighter.
I am reminded I will survive...not by my own will...but by God's.
I wish I could end this year and dust myself off and call it good. That was the naïve girl that ended LAST year. This woman knows that there are more mountains ahead of me. I have a lot to learn. There is more growth ahead for me. I have more work to do in counseling. There is more yet to unpack...and yes, oh yes, more to grieve.

The Peaceful Face, Jerusalem, Israel 2016

This peaceful face. I'm sitting on the balcony of our hotel in Jerusalem amazed by the day we have had...surprised at myself...I got baptized this afternoon in the Jordan River where the Israelites stepped in to cross over into the Promise Land and where Jesus asked John the Baptist to baptize him. It was significant and surreal. I wrote a post longhand on the bus as we left to head to Jerusalem..., and I will share later when I have time to type it all up. That said, sometimes God tells you when it is time to symbolically step out of the wilderness...and as a God who loves stories and symbolism, he gave me a giant helping of both today. I am grateful to a God who loves me. Jesus who saved me. Family and friends who love me. It was the most beautiful and perfect day and I never want to forget the feel of that cold and muddy Jordan River as it washed over me. Full stop. Restoration. This time. This baptism. Just me and you Jesus - US - our relationship - my heart...and a whole crowd of witnesses.
I have been working on my word for 2017...even my counselor has requested of me ("homework")...and the word "peace" kept coming up over the past couple of weeks...and then "abandon." I rejected abandon because my first thoughts were of counseling and the end of that very first session when the counselor looked at me and said, "You were abandoned." and I proceeded to break out in a full body red rash and thrash in my seat. Yet when you Google it, those are the verbs - the action of the word. What about as a noun? It is a state of being.


I went and found the above photo from Israel and low and behold "peace"ful was the word I used to describe myself (included above what I posted with the photo on Instagram).
...and there it is.
Peaceful Abandon.
Okay 2017...with great intentionality I am going to enter this new year and claim peace with total abandon. Not peace outside of me (though that would be nice), but peace WITHIN me. I will do the work to claim the peace that lies within me. I will continue to do the work in counseling. I will do the hard things. The uncomfortable things. I will stop going to the well....and until then I will give myself grace when I expect more than I should from myself and others. I will seek to rest myself IN peace.
I am nervous, but let me say this...I have never felt as peaceful as I did in Israel. I have felt at home in foreign lands...happy and the like, but Israel felt like my soul was at rest. Our guide said to come to Israel is to come home. I thought that was some sort of shtick when he first said it after we boarded the bus at the airport....but especially now I realize how true that was for my soul. As I enter 2017, the memory of that feeling gives me something to hold onto...that peace for my soul IS available to me.
What a promise for this woman...and for the nine year old inside of me.
...especially for her.
What a post to end the year with....YIKES!!!! What a year though....God I should have expected nothing else than you to wrap up this insane year with a giant lesson. I am so grateful to be loved by you. Thank you for coming for me as I sat in tears earlier this morning...stunned. Thank you for whispering...write. Thank you for sending the music and the words that restored my soul. Thank you for not letting me sink in the quicksand that came for my heart. Thank you for being who you are...sovereign and holy and Lord God Almighty. I leave 2016 at your feet. Humbly.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A December for the Ages

I saw this photo the other day and after I stopped laughing...I shared it. A. Lot.
When I slid into January 1, 2016, broadside, I had ALL of the emotions you would expect someone to have who had just completed a three year purge of everything they owned....ALL of them. Mainly I had a lot of joy because 2016 could go nowhere but UP right?!?!!
What. A. Joke.
My counselor wondered out loud last week if my "word" for 2016 had been "brutal." Nope...I never got around to naming 2016 (which is unusual for me), but if I would have been hopeful or simply "hope." Brutal though?!?! I think not. I had seen brutal. I had lived brutal. I had survived brutal.  
Excuse me while I take a moment and laugh a little more.
Of course when I started 2016, I never imagined that 75 days later I would be sitting in a counselor's office. Never. Not even in my wildest imagination or fear.
...but by February the euphoria was gone, and I was left with a whole lot less stuff, and a big ole' hot mess still raging inside of me.
What. The. Holy. Heck.?!?!?!
That is what happens (as I have learned) after you get rid of the distractions, protection measures, and the are left with
Another thing I thought would be different in 2016 was December....especially as I got closer to it. Here I have done all of this work on myself for nine months...gone to Israel and walked where Jesus walked and taught...had some pretty heady strategic plans lined out for the firm I co-founded four years ago....and a whole list of other stuff checked off....
So....December was going to be awesome. I was going to finally get to savor the season...get a new advent study to really invest in this year (last year I had tried to do too many at once...I knew that)...not let the year-end to dos at work take me out....get my shopping done early...and on and on....
...and I did...get a lot of that done, and yet....
Something is STILL missing.
I don't know what to tell you.
I think there is still more for me to let go of....*Deep Sigh*
...well I am back.
I just went and completed a personal to do that I have been dodging for days and days. Dodging because it is a big step in both the letting go and the walking forward with open hands and the trusting....all of the trusting. Man, I really suck at that.
*More Laughing*
The truth is that for me bravery is taking on a whole new look. Bravery is in the things I don't say...I don't do. I am choosing trust in God over trust in my ability to 'make it happen'. I am marinating in the silence and the loneliness and the grieving....NOT because I enjoy it, but because I am trusting that God has me here for a reason. I am working to no longer apologize when I am sad or mad or even a combination of the two. I am not a freak because I feel deeply. There is nothing wrong with me because I have a lot of stuff to grieve....and that grief for me looks and feels strange...because it is strange to someone who has expended a whole lot of energy to NOT grieve or fake it (which I am feeling pretty confident right now that the faking part was worse).
So....the truth is that this December has felt pretty brutal, even ugly, to me. My heart feels vulnerable in new ways (that I don't like). I am lonely on a level I, as someone who has lived alone since the age of 18, cannot put into least not coherent ones. I feel unknown and unseen in new ways. I also feel misunderstood...even by those closest to me. I am missing the hope that this season nearly demands.
I am not alone.
Whatever your reasons or feelings...2016 is going to a year a whole lot of us are ready to say bye bye to....just 12 more days.
....and that is okay.
There are years...seasons...that you wish you could relive again and again....and then there are others that you are simply grateful you survived them the one and only time.
I will probably write a year-end post...I usually do...and let me say that it will be chock-full of all of the great things that have happened this year...there have been some big time blessings, highs, etc., but I would be remiss to not acknowledge that I am not going to be altogether sad to see this one go.
I want to be hopeful for 2017. I imagine I will be the closer it gets. Right now, it is simply good to acknowledge the pain of this one....and the fact that December doesn't feel like I wish it did....and that there are lessons in that too.
Important lessons.
Also, I am still praying about a word for 2017. We'll see....
I do have one surprise I am working on....

....but that will have to wait. ;)
I am going to try and write more this week, but if I do not....Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Embracing The Changing Seasons

"...and the rains came and the last of the leaves fell...and fall rolls into winter...just like that...Beautiful. Seasons change. Whatever one you are in...savor THAT one." - Heather Nelson, 11.28.2016
I have an EXCEPTIONAL counselor.
I don't say that enough. Just like everyone else on the planet, I believe myself to be "one tough nut to crack" and just like everyone else on the planet, I am putty in the hands of a skilled/wise/caring counselor.
So....I arrived for my weekly counseling session today knowing I was going to spend the entire time spewing about the fact that I feel squishy and unsettled. Read that as squishy. S Q U I S H Y *insert eye roll*
My counselor laid out some HARD truth with me today.
SQUISHY is your present normal.
Deal. With. It.
Well....let me whip out my credit card in jubilation as I get to pay for this abuse. ;)
Good. Grief.
The truth is I am not sure healing is the hardest part of counseling and all that comes with it...I am pretty sure navigating all of your relationships as you heal is by far the HARDEST part.
I feel like an alien in my own body a lot of days.
...and not the cute ET kind.
I mean...who am I? what am I? what do I want? what do I need? how do I feel? #forthelove
When the counselor asked me today if I had noticed the cycle, I felt the fear rise within we go. I was fully braced for some "crazy" (in my mind) diagnosis. I knew it. I need to be put in an institution. Yup...I said it...because that is where my mind went. Because. I. Am. Certifiable. *eye roll*
So....everyone can put away the straight jackets. That solution is "too easy" for me. I am not crazy.
I am broken.
I am healing.
I am re-learning who I am.
I am letting go of all of the defense mechanisms that have kept me safe...and I do mean safe....since I was a little girl....and I am....
Oh. My. Gosh.
...I am it is unnerving. Completely and totally unnerving.
I am going to digress for a moment. ;)
I think the aha for me today was I really thought I was over that part...I mean I have felt exposed and vulnerable for a good long while now...even before starting counseling earlier this year....but there is a difference. Vulnerability has levels just like anything else. Vulnerability to me with 20 walls still around my heart looks (and feels) a LOT different than vulnerability today when I feel like the only thing between me and anyone on the street who walks up to me is maybe a blue tarp (with holes in it). I am learning to let more of me just hang out and who the hell am I to know what that looks or feels like to others....hell, I don't know what it feels like to ME.
I digress.
*eye roll*
So....there is another aspect to this too.
Not everyone in my life is as healthy as I am (dear Lord Jesus I just cackled out loud even typing that). I mean...Lord, bless my own heart.
It is true. The healthier I get the more I am keenly aware of others around me who are both healthy....and let say...not so much...okay they are just NOT. So...not only does that lead me to a new since of empathy for others....I also have to develop what my counselor casually (and by casual lets just say I heard this word, she might have used another) referred to as the "bubble" that I now have to operate in within toxic environments and/or relationships that I may or may not be in from time-to-time. I am thinking it needs a "Heather's Healthy Bubble" - nope....that sucks. I need to work on that. ;)
So...a bubble. This is the place where I stay healthy...operate from a healthy place...and whatever crazy (did I say crazy? I meant toxic) is happening around me....I am immune.
If this works, don't worry....I am going to patent it and make a fortune and feed the world.
So here I am sitting at my desk at home before church dumping all of these words out into this blog and you really hit publish on this post Heather????
I do.
Here is why.
I promised back in February of this year when I hit the proverbial wall, that I would be honest in my writing about this I had worked to be honest through the prior three years of what I lovingly refer to as my wilderness season. In some ways, I am still there....still learning and growing and healing. I am smart enough to know that all of that, to some degree, continues past the wilderness...but it is profound what God has brought me through thus far and I would be a liar and a fraud if I didn't acknowledge that. I am not who I once was, and that is not of my own doing - but solely a result of God's relentless pursuit and mercy.
This is part of it. All of it. The concerns that you are crazy and unfixable, irrevocably broken beyond repair. The anxiety (though I am in a lull period there - don't jinx it) and the sleepless nights. The cold wash cloths covering your entire body to power-walking three miles around downtown NLR and LR to keep yourself from either a) losing your mind, or b) committing a cold, calculated murder. Tears, oh the tears. Yoga. Breathing. Learning to breathe. Working through the regrets, the loss, past mistakes (lets call it what they were - sin), forgiveness - myself and others. All the new words. The new lessons. Boundaries. New and renewed relationships. Destroying walls....and now...The Bubble.
Perfect. The Bubble.
There is tremendous joy in this process, and I want to note that here too. I mean, I just feel like I got pounded...and yet here I am writing and smiling. There is joy in the fact that I am 45 years old and I am learning....I am getting better. I am not shrinking away from the hard work, the hard facts of my story, the hard parts of who I am...who I became....who I want to be. I still have dreams. I still have wants and desires. I still want good things for myself and those I love. I still want to be an encourager to others. I still believe in the promises I hear from God. I still believe in healing. I still believe I can be healed....even more than I have been healed thus far. I believe I will survive the squishy. I believe I am going to rock vulnerability, and I pray that all of this HARD and the telling of the HARD helps someone out them hope. I almost typed a whole lot of words, but I didn't because the point is not to tell someone how to "fix themselves"...the point is to simply pass the flashlight back to them and let them God together figure out what they need for them. Every story is unique. My story is unique. It belongs to me. It is mine and mine alone. Only God knows the full extent of the path I have walked this past 45 years. He is the one who has held my hand (even when I was unaware) and who no matter who enters and exits my life, will hold my hand until my last breath....and then there is the rest of the story....
So...that is where I am at....learning all about my new bubble. LOL
...but seriously where I am is grateful. I have a great counselor. A couple of awesome cheerleaders who are holding my hands through all of this...not to mention a whole crowd of witnesses who encourage me daily. I am not alone in this...but mainly I am learning how to lean first into God. Letting him catch me...catch my heart, my spirit, my mind, and even my body....even and especially when I just feel like I am too much for everyone.
...and that is the overarching lesson today. There will always be bad days, bad people, and bad seasons....but those don't have to wreck me or my life. I can be healthy even in the midst of unhealthy situations and/or people.
I am hopeful.
*It is Advent and Christmas and I am all about both...especially the music. I just downloaded two new Christmas albums is Christy Nockels and it is BEAUTIFUL, but this song click HERE moves me for reasons I don't fully understand yet, but I feel like it is supposed to be on this post....even though I am not seeing the connection...somehow I have to believe God does. So I hope you will listen to the song titled "Wrap This One Up" and check out the entire album on iTunes. I recommend the whole thing. I hope to write some posts on Advent since I am doing it again this year (only my second year) and loving it. I have a journal full of writing...I promise to share some of that here. Until then....Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Gift to Breathe Again - I Am Found

I finished a post this morning, and after working to give birth to it for at least 10 days....I thought I was free to go about my life for a moment. I headed to brunch, maybe a manicure afterwards, but other than that I planned a relaxing Sunday to just breathe.

Well...wasn't that clever.

I was driving around with the top down (and let me add how heavenly that is) and suddenly Sara Bareilles' Breathe Again comes on....and the words wash over me as if I am hearing it for the first time (though truth be told it has been well over a year since I listened to it)....and I look up...and then I pull over, turn around and capture the photo below.

I see you there God.

I see you. I hear you.

When I heard this song the first time, it was an old song already...and it fit perfectly because I was newly brokenhearted. The truth is that when I feel sorry for myself, I swear I have spent more of my life brokenhearted than wholehearted....anyone else??? Well, if this has been or is currently true for you, let this post give you heart...I heard the words afresh today....BUT not from the stance of a brokenhearted woman.

I am breathing again. I am on the other side of heartbreak.

"...Facing the ghosts that decide if the fire inside still burns.
All I have, all I need, he's the air I would kill to breathe
Holds my love in his hands, still I'm searching
All I have, all I need, he's the air I would kill to breathe
Holds my love in his hands, and still I'm searching for something
Out of breath, I am left hoping someday I'll breathe again
I'll breathe again, I'll breathe again,
I'll breathe again, I'll breathe again,
I'll breathe again, I'll breathe again..."
I have already faced those ghosts.
The fire inside of me DOES still burn.
God has restored even this. Even. This. God has breathed the breath back into my lungs. He has held my hands. I am no longer searching...because I am finally found.
While in Israel, I had the opportunity to opt to be baptized in the Jordan River...and not just anywhere along it, but where it is believed the Israelites crossed over...and where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Ummm.....I had both arms in the air faster than the options came out of the tour guide's mouth. Aren't you already saved? baptized? Ummm....yes and yes...actually twice on that second one....which is why....
This was SO personal.
I got saved in grade school and baptized by my beloved youth pastor late one Sunday night in the dark (literally) with my little broken family there, my knees knocking, but I was determined. Read that as determined. Bless my heart. *Tears* I can feel that young girl's heart beating out of her chest. I loved Jesus. I loved my family. I wanted all the things I was raised believing in and yet our family was already a broken hot mess and the worst was yet to come, but I still had hope...and I was clinging to Jesus with all I had....all I had.
Fast forward to my mother's remarriage and an option for our "whole" family to be in church again, but there was one caveat...I would have to be "re-baptized" or "baptized into" that church. I believe that would be the second thing I would hold against God (I just didn't know then I was keeping score.); I was furious and felt tremendous shame. I wasn't good enough. I was already convinced and here it was...confirmation from a church no less. My heart burned.
So....imagine me...after these past four plus years of wilderness...with the option of the Jordan River in front of her. It was if the whole trip was suddenly all about me and Jesus. He made a touchstone out of the Jordan River, and I was somewhere between awe and just completely broken. You have NEVER seen a woman more ready to dive in...that is until my toe hit the water it was ICE COLD. There was even a heart in the stonework in the changing room to remind me who was talking over me in the most surreal few minutes of my life. I was undone, and I hadn't even laid eyes on the Jordan River yet. So after the shock of the cold water, I locked eyes with my pastor suddenly feeling all of five years old. Bless his heart at one point he asked me if I was going to hold my nose quizzically to which I suddenly noticed I was holding my nose...nervously, I blurted..."I have NO idea what to do, it has been awhile." It was comical, but also telling. Something in me was resisting the release. Then he started dipping me back, and I will never forget....I FINALLY let go. I felt my whole body relax and fall back....and then I was up and I didn't need a photo to prove it, but I raised both arms to heaven.
As I wrote in my journal that day, "It was the most beautiful and perfect day and I never want to forget the feel of that cold and muddy Jordan River as it washed over me. Full stop. Restoration. This time. This baptism. Just me and you Jesus - US - our relationship - my heart...and a whole crowd of witnesses."
See....sometimes you are on the floor in the fetal position convinced you will never ever breathe again. Your life is too messy and broken. You have failed one too many times. Then one day, you quite literally step into the Jordan River and Jesus says...THIS...I say who you are and who you are not Heather Ruth. No one else. No. One. Else. And for the first time...maybe the VERY first time in your 45 believe him. You simply BELIEVE. It is oh so complicated and yet that simple and beautiful. I heard those old words that once reminded me of all I had lost and today all I heard was all I have gained...I looked up and saw that God holds my love in his firm hands. I am not too broken or too messy. I am found.
Found. Fully renewed. Fully restored.
It is time to breathe again.
Matthew 3:13-17 ~ The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”