Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Beauty In Leaning Into My Anxiety

I have anxiety.

That sentence alone takes more courage to write than I am comfortable admitting....which is to say I don't like that I have anxiety, and I like even less admitting that I do. So...there is that.

Anxiety was something other people had....right up until the moment my counselor used the word in a session with me....to describe what was happening to me. Me?! Me.

I have mentioned it a tad here and there, more alluding to it than owning it. You might say that I looked at it as something else in my life to be managed. Some days, like anything else, I was winning the battle, and others....not so much.

My coping mechanisms for my anxiety are as varied and awkward as I am. Funny, huh?!

There is the stuffed monkey I occasionally have to sleep with....awkward.

There are the ice cold washcloths that I have to apply to my chest, and if the attack is bad....my entire body.

There are the numbing mechanisms that range from a glass of wine, a glass of scotch, a cigar, a bacon double cheeseburger, a cherry sprite with light ice from Sonic, a M&M blast no whip from Sonic, Popeye's fried chicken, or just a fried food smorgasbord.

I have spent the past year and a half adapting healthy "coping" mechanisms and limiting or wiping out my "numbing" ones. I have learned a lot about my body, my mind, and I have tried to be open that I am working to re-learn what is "comfort" and what is "numbing" - and ALL of it makes me feel like a big loser because can't I just be normal.

*insert eye roll*

I can't. Neither can you. There are crosses we all have to bear, and this is one of mine. The truth is I have had functioning anxiety probably since I was eight years old. That too is hard to admit. The truth is that in the brokenness of my life back then, anxiety manifested, and coping mechanisms were born, and some of them helped to save my life....and others led to bad habits that I am now alerted to in my 40s and working to unwind as quickly and in the most healthy manner available to me.

Here is why I am writing this....

The enemy is coming at me now, TODAY, in new fresh ways that it has taken more than a hot minute for me to catch on to. So today I am laying down a fresh line in the sand RIGHT in the throes of what can only be described as an ongoing anxiety attack that is picking up steam by the day. I am actually typing right now even as my chest is exploding and my mind is ON FIRE. I am in the middle of an act of defiance. This is me giving the enemy the bird. So to speak.

This morning I watched Sarah Wilson talking about her new book "First, We Make The Beast Beautiful" and fell out in the floor. First, let me say, I am not sure how I even got to You Tube and the video. I was on her site looking at some travel photos because we all know that I have the world's worst case of wanderlust, and I follow her because she travels and blogs and takes amazing photos. She is also known for quitting sugar, but you know I don't follow her for that - don't even play. See above paragraph regarding my numbing mechanisms. Anyway, I watch her video and find a couple of snippets from the book, and I just am tripping out. Let's be honest. Tripping. Out.

Then for some reason, I go and find this book I have been reading entitled "A Theology of the Ordinary" by Julie Canlis which I started last weekend and for whatever reason did not finish EVEN though I talked about it ALL weekend. It is a great, fast read, and I highly recommend. Check out Amazon to snag a copy.

Anyway, suddenly the conversations I have been having with "my people" (and they all know who they are) since January of this year (and really for a LOT longer than that) just started falling into place.

I have been doing this ALL wrong.

The writing.

The counseling.

The creativeness.

The consulting.

The work.

The storytelling.

The....fill-in-the-blank.

Somewhere along the line my anxiety (or the enemy - you determine for yourself) had convinced me that while all of this STUFF coming at me like a tsunami was of God, I had to somehow corral it, guide it, get fixed (i.e., counseling) for it, manage it, run it....oh and fix myself too don't forget....because the eyes were on me, or they would be. It was about me.

Jesus Wept. (here is looking at you Jon)

I am not sure how I got that all distorted and jacked up, but I did because as soon as I got done with church (great lesson out of Thessalonians) - I sat down and sent the most long-winded dissertation to two friends that I knew would stop me if what I had "heard" was too far gone. Then, because something in me said, "Don't wait one minute longer." I didn't wait for their reply - I started lining up and out what was going to be needed to launch some of this creative hot mess that has been bubbling for so very long.

ALL the while, my anxiety rumbles on. I took a hot bath....resisted the urge to go buy out Popeye's and prayed.....and it would not let up. I got out and checked my messages knowing it was too soon for a reply....I mean one of them is in France.... #forthelove ....but it wasn't. Both of them...BOTH had replied...."Keep Going" and then I posted on my writing page. If I am going to be held accountable - that group is going to do it. Ten seconds, "the text" - if you don't have a Lesley in your life, you are missing out. I could see her silly grin through the text. She knew.

So here I am in the middle of an anxiety attack that is NOT letting up, and I am crying joyful tears - writing ALL the hard words - saying just enough that I am now accountable and not too much to ruin the surprises that will be unfolding. AND I am going to be okay. Why? Because God has me...he has my heart.

*as I wrote that I just got a text message from someone who saw a heart in a tree and sent it to me*

*another text from a friend starting counseling soon; first appointment made*

I hear you God. You love them. You love me.

Breathe pretty girl.

We are all out here living out our stories, and I for one think the beauty of life is in the sharing of those stories because God is ALL in them. Every wink to every laugh to every anxiety attack. He is in the icky sticky, the messy, the beauty, the loss, and the growth.

I am done fighting this anxiety. The fight is a distraction from the cause which is new creative growth. I am done fighting against what God is putting inside of me. I am opening the floodgates come what may.
 
"The Spirit gives us gifts to add to the body of Christ, so that the whole body can be on its mission together (Eph 4:12, Rom 12:4)." {from A Theology of the Ordinary}

On mission together.

I am leaning into that promise which results in me leaning into my anxiety.

How about that?
 
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. // Genesis 50:20

I have always admired Joseph faithful perseverance, but this verse is a reminder to me that God has the final say over my life, my circumstances, and yes....even the gifts he has put inside of me.

So here is to embracing what the world says we need to fix about ourselves and letting God use it for whatever his will dictates.

I am leaning into him.

It is time for the enemy to take a seat.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Writing. An Offering.

Hello.
 
I think this is how you start a blog post when it has been two months since you publicly shared....Here.
 
I have missed this...yet THIS seems to terrify me these days. Do I share EVERYTHING (or close to it) that is rumbling around in my heart, my brain, my soul? Do I work to keep things private, tucked close?....read that as safe. So, instead I have done nothing. Micro-blogging here and there...on Instagram and my Facebook writing page. Mainly I have been writing privately - journals, notebooks, my computer, and even in notes on my phone (imagine typing over a thousand words in one single note?! I. Did. That. There is something different though about writing here...in this sacred space where long ago I started writing.....just because...for me.
 
Who knew?
 
So here I am.
 
These days I am equally terrified and joyful of the steps ahead of me, but this living in the present is not for the faint of heart. At least not like this.....healthy.
 
Healthy. Who knew I would ever use that word to describe myself. I am though. Truly. I am as healthy as I have ever been, and no one is more truly surprised than me. Healthy has its own troubles though....as I am learning. I am struggling through those as artfully as I did unhealthy, which is to say that I am ALL the awkward and like a giraffe fresh from the womb wondering what in the world these four sticks are underneath me.
 
*deep breath*
 
The truth of the matter, and I didn't realize it until I left counseling, drove to my favorite park, spit out a little micro blog post on Instagram, and then took a breath. It was if just peeling it back a little wasn't enough today. So I started a list of ALL the things we had discussed in counseling....was something there unsettling me...still?
 
Then I started writing....
 
"....if I am honest -
 
I don't want to do anything. I am tired - literally. And living on purpose, healthy, and intentional in all ways is exhausting.
 
When can I sleep without a giant to do list over my shoulders?"
 
 
...and now we are getting somewhere....the heart of the matter.
 
....and here is the rest of it.
 
I am doing too much.
 
....and if you are really honest....so are you.
 
Why are we doing too much? I don't know EXACTLY as I am sure it is a little different for everybody, but I started reading this little quick read this weekend called "A Theology of the Ordinary" by Julie Canlis, and it is freaking. me. out. in all of the best ways.
 
There is a part I read aloud to a friend this weekend....in talking about Moses post the big Red Sea moment it reads....
 
"Moses must have been fairly disappointed upon realizing that, after leading a people out of Egypt, his work had only just begun."
 
{I want to pause and let that sentence sink in....}
 
"For four hundred years they had been steeped in the cosmology of the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Without doubt they were God's people - but which story would seem to reflect reality? the one about humans being made in God's image? or the one they were living - that humans were created by the gods as slaves?
 
{Whoa.}
 
"So Moses was faced with a monumental task: not only to free the Hebrew slaves from Pharaoh, but from Pharaoh's story. His task was to re-story* their understanding of who they were, who God was, and what the world was meant to be."
 
{*emphasis added by me.}
 
Pick. Me. Up. Off. The. Floor.
 
Where had I heard that before? I went searching. Of course a favorite author of mine, Mary DeMuth, has written about it....and after reading through her new website, I knew she was ahead of me on this path learning about the power of re-story, but I digress.....
 
So....I am relating with Moses in new ways....both on a professional level as I see a lot of this in my work, and most certainly in my private life as I am beginning to realize I am having to re-learn who I am anew....who am I healthy? so to speak....
 
So who am I? Who are you?
 
Well....sometimes God takes us to our knees, then he strips us down to the foundation and the studs....and then - and sometimes only then - does he begin to grow us back up. What that looks like for each of us is COMPLETELY different. Our God is nothing if not personal in how he relates to us.
 
So here I am being completely honest....God took me to my knees, we definitely found the foundation and the studs, and he has even started growing me back up....but there....well, I guess just like the Israelites, I am weak, and I have unfinished business to attend to. I have a few gold idols stuffed away in an overnight bag that I need to dispose of....and they are some biggies. Like the BIG ones. The ones I just couldn't bring myself to deal with....because.....I am weak, and it is okay to admit that.
 
So....for all of my growth, healing, and blessings upon blessings....I am still undone by the things I haven't let go of....EVEN though I know in the depths of my heart, I will be happier and more free on the other side of laying them down/giving them up.
 
So here is the funny thing, and yes, it is okay to laugh in the midst of deep growth.....If I wasn't continuing to grow, I wouldn't even notice the fact that the idols are still in my bag. The truth is I keep noticing them because they are keeping one leg in the past. I don't get that leg, unless I let go. There is no shaking it off. I have to cut it off and Let. Go.
 
My counselor asked me today, "What keeps you from being fully present with both legs right where you are?"
 
Hmmm.....I had to have her repeat it. Not once, but three times.
 
My heart knew what she was REALLY asking, but my mind was feverishly trying to figure out how to dodge the question.
 
*How is that for truth?*
 
The end.
 
The end keeps me from being fully present. I cannot say "The End" to those items, people, places, etc. that have made me who I am today - for better or worse - for I know that to lay an idol DOWN....truly means I will not ever take it back up. Can I let those idols go? Even more, can I forgive myself for the role I played in the life of those idols?
 
Deep thoughts for a shallow mind fresh out of a counseling session.
 
Important thoughts though.....for God has given me a taste of healing, and I want more. Do I want it more than I want the other? Isn't that the real question we all have to ask ourselves? Isn't that where the rubber meets the road? We want God, Jesus, healing, restoration......but just as long as we don't have to give up TOO much or change TOO much. I am guilty of those thoughts, the late night negotiations with God. I am also guilty of holding back these final slivers of trust that I have secretly (in my mind) withheld from God....can I trust him with these deep wounds, these specific wounds that have become idols all unto themselves? Those wounds that will break wide open when I lay them down. Will they be my undoing? My heart's undoing?
 
....and so who am I to judge the Israelites? After 430 years in slavery, maybe we can have a little empathy that being re-storied took a hot minute. Maybe we can have a little empathy for Moses in leading them through the process. Finally, our God is patient and loving....and he knows us. The gifting and the idols. He loves us and he is gracious in how he waits....and waits. While we keep running....
 
So, the final a-ha of the night.
 
Writing is a part of my worship. I just finished that last paragraph and "Broken Things" by Matthew West was playing, and I opened up my arms, palms up, and I offered up ALL of these words to God. I did all of that without pause or thought....because these words, these words are from him, coming through me, and I lay them down to him as an offering.
 
Heart Rocks, Haiti // Hearts...My Love Language w/God
 
Thank you God for giving me this outlet to process ALL that is happening inside of me. I am humbled if it helps just one. I am equally humbled if it helps none. It is his to use as he wishes. Where you go I will go. That is the promise.
 
SO.....this is ALL the words. So. Many. Words.
 
It feels good though....it feels good to write. Here.