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.
 
Putty.
 
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 me....here 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 vulnerable...exposed...and 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.
 
....yet....
 
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 name....like "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 wondering....do 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 process...as 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 there...gives 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 yesterday...one 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.
 
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 years...you believe him. You simply BELIEVE. It is oh so complicated and yet that simple and beautiful.
 
So....today 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.”

I'm Coming Home

When we arrived in Israel, our guide for the 10 days met us at the airport. His first words, "Welcome home."

Home.

I had forgotten that until  "I'm Coming Home by Skylar Grey came on iTunes (link in name) just now. I remember smiling politely, as one does when they are in a new place with new people. Oh how those words would ring true in my heart just 10 days later as we packed to leave.

Home.

There are words in the English language that my human heart and worn spirit takes issue with whenever they are spoken in my presence or I come across them in a book. There is no word more complicated for this girl than "home" and so how fitting...

*Deep Sigh*

If you search this blog, you will see there are 46 posts since 2011 with a theme around "home" so as my family can attest, I have proof that I have ALL the words about "home"...and those words are merely the musings of a girl in search of one...in search of what home means...desperate to reconcile the conflict about it in her heart.

You might say I have some "stuff."

*Awkward Laughter*


There was a point while we were in Israel that I simply wondered if I was destined to simply roam the earth. Maybe there was no simple Point A to Point B for my life. I am happiest in two places....Sis' compound (internal joke)...okay three places...anywhere w/Sis and her family...and anywhere I have never been. Travel feels like home to me. Is that weird? Am I weird? Don't answer that.

Last night I met up with a friend and she appeared to be looking deep into my soul...searching for something. Do you have those friends that know something about you that you don't yet know, and they just look at you waiting for it to be revealed to you??? Yeah...me too. My friends freak me out on a regular basis. The double-edge sword of this whole "being known" thing...you are known and sometimes better by others than yourself.

I digress.

I thought 2016 was going to be the easy year. I mean...FINALLY....an easy year after four BRUTAL ones. Nope. This year has been like an archeological expedition. We finally found the site (only took four years) and this year we brought in the heavy equipment.

Good. Grief.


....and this is where I stopped typing yesterday.

I couldn't even.

*Deep Breath*

I just listened to a beautiful sermon on I Kings 19. The title of the sermon was on defeating discouragement and depression, but all I heard was "the journey of restoration" because I am a girl committed to not only my own restoration, but other's....

Whenever I hear a pastor mention that God uses tarnished vessels for his glory, I feel a competitive spirit rise up inside of me as if to say, "Yeah....but he hasn't seen ME." (I hear my Sis getting angry right now.) The deal is though...he has SEEN me. AND...isn't that the point?

SO.....Here is what I loved about Israel.

I can't be too broken for it. Israel is the epitome of "hot mess" with its complicated history, complicated present, melting pot of ideas on who and what Jesus was/is, war and religion, politics and commerce. It is like when Jesus broke the bread, he wasn't simply symbolizing the breaking of him for us...but the breaking of him OVER Israel (with all that could symbolize). It isn't simply the home of the Jews....it is the home of ALL of us....for ALL of us. The whole complicated, broken lot of us.

While in Israel, I bought a piece of artwork that I am sitting staring at right now...with fresh eyes. It is painted on Israeli stone (all the buildings there are built with it) and it is of the parting of the Red Sea. there are people all along the middle of the sea and they are facing the wall of water. Now there is certainly some artistic license with the story but who are any of us to say someone or someones didn't stand in that same posture that day...I digress. So I am sitting here staring at this piece and I see myself. It isn't simply about walking through, but also of standing up...to fear....to the wall....of water.

....breathe...

Sometimes we can't cross over into home until we stand up to what is keeping us from it.

What is keeping me from home?

You?

I'm coming home....and I don't have a clue what that means, but I feel it. I feel it rising up inside of me. I feel the wave coming. I feel the knowing.

....and just like the words of the song..."...no matter what it takes..." means no matter what and so that reads (to me) as more work. The journey of restoration is partly physical and partly spiritual (thank you Archie for that this morning). God meets us where we are....

I'm not giving up.



Thank you to Israel for being a "spiritual marker" for me...and that Jordan River....

...a story for another post.

For now I am reveling in the fresh commissioning for the next leg of the journey. The leg I didn't even know about until right this very minute. Right. Now.

...and that is how it works.

Don't mind me laughing nervously over here. ;)

"He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
 Psalms 23:3