Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Long Road Home

Sundays always leave me wanting and restless. The lists start, I flip through my Bible aimlessly searching for wisdom, my fingers twitch to write, my eyes dart amongst the book piles of half-read/need to be finished/want to read again, and the bed calls to me...taunting me...."rest" it whispers...but then my mind whirrs....
 
I am shocked by how my mood keeps pinging between euphoria that this three year purge fest is almost over (all hands raised in thanks to God) and twinges of regret over not documenting it better/did I get rid of too much/too little....and then there are the days that are hard where finding a Valentine's card I made a treasure of sends me into an emotional tailspin that it takes hours and then a good night's sleep to recover from.

Some days I question whether or not I will make it. Seriously.

I have a bone bruise. Google it if you are confused. I kicked my business partner last week (which is a funny story) because he accidently hurt me to which I instinctively kicked him and he instinctively protected himself and so my shin made contact with his steel-toe boot and the pain was so intense I actually went into a little bit of shock. Yesterday I had to give Gail a heads up about it so she wouldn't accidently rub it during my deep tissue massage and me instinctively kick her and come off the table. She was concerned due to its appearance...and what she felt...to the point that as I am laying there all vulnerable on the table while she examines my shin...I started thinking about blood clots and a friend of mine who had died when I was in my 20s of one releasing and going to their brain....and then my brain was "off to the races" so to speak. *Deep Sigh*

Anybody else?

For the love....please tell me that someone else out there has a brain that works like this....It is exhausting right?!?!?!...and in its own way, HILARIOUS!

I digress...

....and that is a heck of a digression if I do say so myself. ;)

God is taking me the LONG way home.

Some people learned about God's grace and salvation and loving others as children and they just "got it" and they lived sweet lives with their own amount of highs and lows, trails and tribulations, but for the most part...they learned it and it "took" that very first time. VBS and Sunday School for the win.

I found a drawing from Sunday School or VBS this past week dated July 8, 1973. I would have been 2 years old. There are stickers, my hand sketched around, my name and date, and a little saying, "Thank you dear God for our gifts."
 

...insert all the tears...

Yours, not mine. I didn't cry. Not one single tear.

I stared at that little drawing that I had OBVIOUSLY made a treasure of...and I placed my hand on that drawn out hand and I wished to go back there for the briefest of moments...so I could whisper advice to that little two year old, "Listen up...listen intently...let it soak in."

Then God whispered, "You did."

....insert ALL the tears...

Mine.

I have written so much about the lessons I am learning...that I have learned these past 3-4 years that I often forget to note the lessons I had in my heart all along...

Like gratitude.

I may not have trusted God consistently for my 44 years, but I have always been grateful. It is that very gratitude that I believe helped me to look up to God that day on the floor and stir the embers of beginning to trust him again. Wholly. Anew.

That makes me chuckle because it is crazy to think how grateful I have always been for God and given him credit in my life, but yet to realize that I was not ever fully trusting him. I didn't trust him. I didn't trust that he had my best interests at heart. I didn't trust his heart because I had only half-assed given him mine. That thin red string between us though ended up being my lifeline on that cold January day, and it is a string that has grown stronger...into a sturdy rope that I know will be tested in the days and years to come.

I got interviewed (I say that lovingly) by a reader this past couple of weeks. They had sent me a litany of questions in a message, curious of this journey of mine that they were watching from afar. It took me a few days to reply because I knew I needed to respond fully, honestly, and with ALL the words. A simple few lines was not going to do the job. I am so grateful for the message and the questions because in answering them it helped me work through a week of purging that was painful and bleak. She helped me remember the whys and wherefores. She helped me remember that this has nothing and yet everything to do with me and my heart. She helped me remember that God is all in this...from the timing to the items to the memories to the tears to the act of giving something away to the act of gifting something to someone to the trash. There is beauty in all of it. Not just lessons but beauty. God is showing himself to me in both what I have treasured....what action I am choosing to do with it...and what I am keeping. God is showing me strongholds I have around forgiveness, or lack thereof, for others....strongholds about money....strongholds about giving.....strongholds about position and praise (both in giving and receiving)...strongholds about what I value to what I believe...strongholds still in how much I am willing to trust God FIRST (not second, third, fifth, or last)....strongholds in how I love others, or sadly how I don't. Strongholds. Everywhere. Still.

*Deep Sigh*

I have been "working" intensively for three years and some days it is as if God and I just sat down together on that pine floor four years ago. Me with a tear-stained face and crumpled body; God with a loving arm around my shoulders.

I miss some things. I miss certain people. I miss some of my old habits. I miss hate. I miss anger. I miss having someone to blame for anything and everything I don't like. I miss excuses. I miss quick-fire reactions. I miss balls-to-the-walls approaches. I miss fire and ice. I miss fun.

I miss all of those things right up until the point that God gives me a touchstone moment and takes me back to one of those "things I miss" and restores it, heals it, or simply just makes it brand spanking new.

I lived out of wounds. Open, puss-filled wounds. I lived, reacted, operated out of, spoke from...wounds. Even my love...the goodness that has always been in me, came from wounds...unhealed, childlike parts of my heart. I loved out of desperation. Even my love was laced in anger...a deathly quiet, suspicious anger that others didn't know, but I am convinced they felt. I didn't trust them and at their core they really didn't trust me. If you can imagine a little girl barely up to your waist quietly terrified then you would be close to meeting the girl that resided in my heart up until four years ago. That frightened, hurt little girl was the boss of me for 40 years....and sometimes she still rears her little curly head up and spouts off, but in the four years since I confronted her...God has systematically been healing her....and as a result the woman she grew up to be.

That little girl has grown up.

Finally.

God has been giving me touchstones since right before Catalyst this past October. When I reference a touchstone it is where God takes an old memory (person, word, song, etc.) and he replaces it with a new memory so that when I see, hear, etc. I only see the new and no longer the old. It is something I have felt him do often these past (nearly) four years, but since October they have been coming FAST and FURIOUS. So much so, that they take my breath and leave me needing to sit down and take deep breaths nearly meditating for a bit on what happened...other times I am with someone, and I simply stand there staring at them dumbfounded and they look at me quizzically having ZERO idea that God is inside my heart and mind at that very moment making a new memory. How do I describe this? It is like when you watch a sci-fi show and someone is healed - there is a gaping wound and then poof nothing...or as I tried to describe to Sherri the other day, when ET heals the little boy with his finger (all lit up)...that, THAT is what I feel/see in my mind's eye when a touchstone moment happens. It is equal parts weird, intense, surreal, heart-wrenching, loving, breathtaking, beautiful. It is God.

I need a good cry. I need the kind of cry that you feel deep in your soul and when you are done crying...no more tears will come...you feel refreshed and renewed.

I need one of those.

God has given me this unique story of a life with him...of restoration...of redemption....of roads taken....roads missed. It is a story of healing and forgiveness. Mine is a story of transformation...and someone who took the long road home (no matter how long my life ends up being on this earth) and somewhere along the way grew okay with "owning" it.

Today I look at that little girl's pencil drawing of her hand, and I see God sitting there with her, holding her heart tight, and whispering, "I will never leave you." and he didn't...and he won't.

Sometimes the long road home is learning to trust that the God you love with your whole heart and believe in with your whole mind has always been there...INSIDE of you.

Sometimes the long road home is winding you back to YOU.

Sometimes the enemy bruises us...like a bone bruise...not always visible to the naked eye, incredibly painful, impacts how we walk and act, takes FOREVER to heal, but in the end it DOES heal.

Restoration.

The long road home is a story of restoration.

My long road home is a story of restoration.

To the little two year old girl...and every variation of her over the last 42 years since...I love you. Thank you.

Thank you God for restoring me to you....to myself...to who you always intended me to be. Whether I have 40 more years or four minutes, I am grateful to be loved by a good, faithful father like YOU.
 

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sitting In The Rubble ~ Chantilly

Tonight I started purging my master bathroom. I blocked out just an hour after work and before church as this is a room that I fully set-up and organized as soon as I moved in...so I am thinking...this is going to be quick and hiccup free...no emotional upheaval in toiletries.

Ahhh....

Why do I even bother?

First, let me just say that I am so past the shame part of this purge. I mean seriously. The fact that I can get two boxes of donations and a bag of trash out of a Master. Bathroom. For. The. Love. is so beyond ridiculous I dare not even bother reacting....see how I am not reacting?! :)))

*Breathe*

Then I came across this...
 
 
Cue the crooked smile...and then teary eyes...
 
This is a used (and not by anyone I know) body powder that I bought at flea market because it is the brand my Ma Ma used and when I remove the lid and breathe deeply I am transported back to her bathroom in Memphis with the cast iron claw foot bathtub and pink bathmat and the little shelf she always had her powder sitting on....and when the memories start washing over me in waves, I can feel her wrapping a towel around me as I stood up out of the tub and the delight in her allowing me to use her powder until I was covered in it and smelled like an old beauty parlor. I was the luckiest and most loved little princess girl in those precious moments.
 
I have a problem...one of the reasons that I am in the predicament I am in is that I have had an unrealistic belief that the responsibility for being the keeper of ALL the treasures was mine and I could not fail. Period. That isn't the problem though, well not the biggest one. The problem, my problem, is that I have an uncanny ability to transport myself into memories based on smells, sight, etc. Everyone has this ability, but I have taken mine and amped it up a notch. I have bought houses based on a smell, moved based on a 30 year old list, bought and/or held on to treasures to the point that they became strongholds in my life, but mainly I have been selfish. I have held on so tight to these snippets of the most precious of childhoods (mine) that I have suffocated the memories, stagnated my emotional growth, and isolated myself from others who might benefit from my sharing my memories or treasures.
 
Let me explain how difficult this is to write...
 
The tears are STREAMING down my face as I type.
 
You might read that and think maybe Heather is being too hard on herself. I'm not. Don't give me an inch on this.
 
There has been no room in my heart for new memories or new experiences because no one could get past the ghosts that had taken up residence there. The ghosts I kept snug and warm and fed treasures too...bath powders, music, land, a quilt, photos, books, and even a Bible.
 
I keep getting thank you notes and messages from people as I am mailing out about a half dozen packages a week to friends, family, and even strangers. Some I haven't seen or spoken to in years, but I will come across something and God will whisper...send it to _____. Other items I mail are things that I purchased for someone, pictures I took for someone...and sadly I just never got it to them. I had good intentions in those cases, but...well...no excuses. In these past few months, I am getting to some harder stuff...things that require a letter or message to explain, and I am forcing myself to take the time to sit down and write to them (electronically) or with good old fashion pen and paper. I want to share my heart with the receiver...why I thought of them...I want them to know there was nothing unintentional or casual about me sending it to them. I have been surprised at the responses.
 
I digress...
 
To systematically go through every single item you own is insane. I admit it. This isn't a path I chose as much as it chose me...God chose for me. The truth is that I needed this....desperately. I had a lot of junk (internally) to go through and often I have found that there is a direct correlation between so much of the internal to something external in my life. Funny, huh?! God has a sense of humor and don't ever think he isn't creative when it comes to delivering a lesson.
 
Tonight I am sitting here cross-legged in my floor looking into the bathroom that sat me here and spun my heart....all because of a pink box of powder.
 
So here is the kicker. Do I keep it?
 
I do.
 
I am.
 
Quite simply. It brings me joy.
 
I have been doing this purge for three years (officially/unofficially started in December 2012), and I will complete it 12/31/2015. I set neither the start or the finish and all of that is for another blog I plan on writing at the end. Bottom line, I came across this book a few months ago titled "the life-changing magic of tidying up : the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing" by Marie Kondo, and it is FASCINATING. The core of her process is this..."Discard anything that doesn't spark joy." If that has you scrunching your face a little...buy the book, read it, and when you get to p 181 where this sentence starts summing it all up it will all make a LOT of sense. Trust me. I wish the whole book began and ended with that sentence, but as luck (and learning) would have it, it doesn't. It delves into the whys and wherefores behind the joy...behind the holding on....and it helps you find the "pattern in your ownership of things"...
 
#micdrop
 
I read that section MONTHS ago and tonight it suddenly made sense to me.
 
Crap.
 
I mean. Holy. Crap.
 
So, I have been part of a launch team for a new book, Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey, and to say the least...I recommend it...HIGHLY! So our team got a heads up that Sarah had put together a special Spotify playlist for the book and I am including the link HERE: Out of Sorts Playlist so you can go and check it out yourself. Well....I am listening to it yesterday and Nichole Nordeman's The Unmaking comes on, and I. Die. My first thought, thank you God...this is just for me....and it is because it is the perfect theme song for #threeyearpurgefest :)
 
"...This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars..."

I have been sitting in the rubble for four years. Four. Long. Years. The first year, I sat in shock and pain. These past three years I have MOVED. Literally and figuratively. I really hope you take the time to listen to the song, read the lyrics....I think there are a lot of us who need The Unmaking...done to us by God. As someone who believes they are on the edge of the wilderness (season), I feel qualified to testify that there has been tremendous beauty in this season....deep, deep beauty. God bent over and met me fully on that floor and he has never left me as I have crawled out of the rubble.
 
So here I am still crawling out and the latest rubble is a simple thing of powder....powder.
 
Chantilly.
 
Ma Ma.
 
That little white house on Holmes Street in Memphis.
 
Pa Pa sitting at the kitchen table with the red and white checkered tablecloth in his white v-neck t-shirt and khaki pants, peeling an apple in what seemed like one swoop.
 
A creaky twin iron bed with the white chenille bedspread.
 
God whispered....remember. I am here. I have your heart. It's okay.
 
The Unmaking. This is tough stuff. It is like learning to walk again, but what I am doing is learning how to feel....with my whole heart...to lean into God ALL the time...not simply when the pain is too much to bear alone. To let go of the ghosts. To make room. To figure out what truly brings me joy and what simply suffocates me (mind - body- space - time - energy - money).
 
Tonight I filled yet another trash bag (don't ask how many there have been in three years) and fixed up two more boxes of donations.
 
...and on the shelf in between my hand towels and wash cloths sits a pink box of body powder because there is a lot of joy in the memories it gives me..no longer what I have lost, but what I was so beautifully gifted...and it is okay to mourn (even after all of these years) and it is okay to remember, but it is best to FEEL the joy.
 
Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)