grief, healing, lessons learned, moving on, reinventing

If I Don’t Say It . . .

If I don’t say it, it’s not true. If I don’t say it, it didn’t happen. If I don’t say it, I can sweep it under the carpet. Right? As much as my reticent Scottish ancestry would like to believe that, it’s not accurate. Feelings can only be suppressed for so long; events happen whether or not I verbalize them. 

This past two years (more like seven), so many things have happened that I don’t want to acknowledge. But I’ve learned that acknowledgment and acceptance don’t necessarily equal approval.

By accepting that certain things ARE, I free my heart to figure out how to live with their realities without losing my mind.

But how on earth do you accept losing your second chance at love, your health, your finances, your job, your church, and your dreams for your family? Prayer, prayer, and more prayer! Then . . .

You get up, dress up, and show up! You put one foot in front of the other. You cry. And you cry some more. 

Then you dry your tears and do the next thing. But the thing about crying is not allowing yourself to wallow indefinitely. So many bitter people wallow forever and never get through. They are stuck in the Fire Swamp of despair—like the quicksand in Princess Bride, but without hero Westly. 

Whatever you do, don’t keep it all bottled inside! From experience, I can tell you that doesn’t work. Forty-eight years is a long time to keep a stiff upper lip. When you keep it bottled up, it bubbles over—”out of the abundance of the heart, [her] mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). And that’s just not a pretty sound.

Feelings have to be traveled through. There is no around. Going through does not mean getting stuck in them, though. It means processing those feelings, so you can heal. Healing comes from going through, not from stuffing. 

David struggled with this very issue when he was being pursued relentlessly by his enemies. He was honest with the Lord about his emotions, but he didn’t stay there. Many of the psalms document David’s struggle with accepting the hard stuff of life. One of my favorites is Psalm 79. David begins by telling God what others have done against him. Then he lets the Lord know what he’s feeling. “How long, O Lord? Will you be angry forever?” (v. 5). He is honest with God about his feelings; he doesn’t keep them bottled up inside. Rather, he gives them over to the Creator of feelings who knows best how to soothe them. He next asks for help: 

“Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name’s sake! (v. 9).

But the real sermon in this psalm is the last verse. David gives thanks to the Lord WHILE he’s in the middle of his mess. That’s what we need to do, too.

For me, writing is often the way through hard stuff and its accompanying emotions. What’s your way through the quagmire of messy life?

anxiety, change, lessons learned, reinventing

The New Midlife Crisis: Not Just for Men Anymore

In the good old days, we’d hear about men in their 40s and 50s leaving their wives, buying fancy sports cars, and running off to Mexico with 20-year-old blonde bimbos. We’d shake our heads sadly, judge him loudly, and say, “Oh, he’s having a midlife crisis. His poor wife!” And that would be the end of it.

I’m pretty sure there’s a new midlife crisis in town. And it’s not a 55-year-old bald guy speeding down the road in a red Mazda Miata with a young blonde in the passenger seat. It’s the moms with empty nests; it’s the victims of the 20-year-ditch club (women divorced after being married to the same man for 20-ish years and raising a family with him); it’s the resumes with the 18-year gaps. They’re still driving beige minivans; they’ve crammed what’s left of their belongings into a two-bedroom apartment; they’re still cooking meals for a family of six, but setting the table for one. They’re hopping from job to job, from church to church, from activity to activity yet feeling unfulfilled and lonely.

But the new midlife crisis is also hitting successful career women, moms with kids finishing up high school, happy wives, and lifelong church members. What’s up with that? We’re the richest country in the world with more disposable income and time than ever before, yet we’re unsatisfied with our lives.

At this age (40s-50s), we should have figured out what we want and acquired it. We should have learned our lessons and moved on. We should have the experience to know what we’re good at and to work at it. 

As Ada Calhoun wrote in “The New Midlife Crisis,” Gen X women all over America are experiencing a depressing shift into this period in our lives. It’s not just women going through upheavals and transitions. It’s women who look like they have it all together. 

I could cite multiple reasons for these feelings of panic and crisis, but that’s not my main point. If you’re feeling useless, rootless, and helpless to do anything about it, you’re probably not interested in the why. You’re just interested in the fix. Like yesterday. 

So, what’s the real answer? I don’t know! But I did some poking around to find out what the answer is because I, too, want the fix. Like yesterday.

First of all, don’t do anything rash or stupid that you might possibly regret later. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Second, cling to the truths you already know from God’s Word. Like these:

  • Our main purpose in life is to glorify God.
  • Cling to Christ and continue on–Philippians 3:13-20.
  • Wait on the Lord, and He will give you new strength–Isaiah 40:31.
  • Read the book of Ecclesiastes; Solomon’s musings will make you feel less alone.
  • Read Psalms 105-106 and other biblcal passages that review all of the good things that God did for Israel and reflect on what good things the Lord has done in your life.

Third, try a few practical things as well:

  • Journal–get all those angsty feelings out of your head.
  • Strive to eat healthier–most of the time. Hey, a girl’s gotta have her chocolate from time to time.
  • Start ramping up the number of steps you set as your goal on your FitBit.
  • Talk to your girlfriends. I guarantee that you’re not the only one trying to figure out hot flashes, teens/20s drama, parent care, and career crises.

So, am I fixed yet? Nope. But I know where my focus should be: on Christ, not on myself. And I know I just have to keep going because one day I’ll look back on this period in my life and be grateful for the lessons God taught me through it.

What about you? Where are you in this journey called life? (Sorry, more Prince!) Are you feeling the crunch of a midlife crisis? And what are you doing about it? Tell me about it!

change, divorce, moving on, reinventing

Identity Crisis

Us-passportWith my recent divorce, I decided to revert my last name to my maiden name. My married name has all kinds of negative connotations, and I don’t want to be associated with that name or that person anymore. As my girls are in their late teens, they’re old enough to realize that I need my own identity and that they’ll soon be changing their own last names.

Names identify people with other people. Names identify people with certain groups, ethnicity, regions, religions, and jobs.

What I didn’t realize when I decided to change my name is what a humongous hassle the whole process would be! So many, many places needed to have it changed. And, of course, half of them couldn’t just get it right the first time–like the DMV and my bank. Oy! Then there’s the whole email address change. I’m pretty sure everyone on the planet has my old email address. And persists in using it. Furthermore, it’s associated with all of my online bills and every single site I ever signed into in the entire World Wide Web. If one more person asks whether I just got married, I will scream! This whole process was so much simpler (and happier) 22 years ago when I did it the first time.

Throughout this whole process, I feel like I’m having an identity crisis, and I don’t just mean having trouble remembering how to sign my name. I’m not married, so I don’t want my former last name. Even though my father is an honorable man, and I am proud to carry his last name, I am not under his protection anymore as I was when I was growing up. With whose name do I want to be associated? To whom do really I belong?

I belong to God, first and foremost.

The Lord says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are MINE” (Isaiah 43:1).

As long as my heavenly father knows my name, it doesn’t really matter what my earthly name is. That’s comforting.

 

healing, lessons learned, reinventing

Brokenness Made Beautiful

                                                                                 “The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

     I’m broken. What good is broken? A broken bowl lands in the recycling bin. A chipped glass loses its place in the cupboard.

     Broken is ugly.  I kick a broken seashell aside instead of adding it to the sandy collection in my pocket.

     I’m so glad that God doesn’t have the same attitude. Instead of casting aside broken people, he lovingly gathers up the pieces and brings them into his workshop.

     Gold, on the other hand, is valuable in all its forms. It can make even ugly things beautiful. But before gold can become useful, it has to be refined. The refining process cleans away the dross and makes the gold malleable. The refining process is painful for the gold, but it’s necessary. It’s the same way with our lives. We’re a rough nugget of gold, and in order to use and beautify us, God has to refine us. The painful trials and challenges we go through in life have the potential to make us pure, malleable, and beautiful, if we allow them to.

     God then takes our broken pieces  and refined gold and turns them into something even more beautiful, strong, and useful than before. This process is beautifully illustrated in the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi, which means golden joinery. The gold adds value and strength to the ceramic piece. The vessel then becomes more valuable and desirable.

He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the Lord An offering in righteousness. ~ Malachi 3:3, NKVJ

     Life’s trials and challenges, while seeming like a hammer swinging in a china shop, will eventually turn us into vessels of beauty for God’s glory.

     Lord, help me to remember that your purpose is to take my broken pieces and to perform kintsugi with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

change, reinventing

Who Do I Want To Be?

Snapshot_20130523

Last night, I began my first official week alone in my new townhouse. First thought: panic! Second thought: I can do whatever I want! Third thought: Wait, what do I want?

Of course, I had to mention it on my favorite social media site, Facebook. I got quite a few supportive comments, but my friend Alice summed it up best: “You will always be mom, but this week you are YOU….now it’s time to find you.”

That got me thinking. Who am I really?

My mother’s comment was along the same lines: “Decide who you want to be and start aiming in that direction.” Ok, but who do I want to be?

A whole list of what and who I don’t want to be sprang to mind immediately, but as I started writing in my journal, a list to aim for appeared.

I want to be ~

  • strong
  • confident
  • independent
  • dependent on God
  • peaceful
  • happy
  • friendly
  • healthy
  • purposeful

The last one on the list was the hard one, though, because I’m not really sure what my purpose should be yet.

As I was talking to a friend today, I realized one thing that’s not on that list is rich or anything that has to do with money. And that’s ok! Other things in life are much more important.

So, what do y’all think? What am I missing? Am I headed in the right direction?

change, reinventing, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

The Power of the Journal

journal and penWords have power. Sometimes when we can’t speak the words out loud, we can still harness their power by writing them. Sometimes just reading the words of Scripture can speak their power into our souls.

Words reveal truth. My writer-daughter says she often doesn’t know what her characters will say or do until the words are already written. Me? I like to plan out every word. I start with an idea, then move to an outline, and then begin the actual drafting.

My journal, however, is a different story (pun intended!). I sit down with a cup of hot tea, my Bible, a pen, and my well-worn journal. Occasionally I know that I need to vent my feelings about a particular event or conversation, but often I just know that I need to release my bound emotions. And out come all sorts of emotions and thoughts that I didn’t even realize I had. Writing–and then reading over my own writing–enables me to process my emotions more effectively.

My journal also has the power to reveal wrong thinking patterns. When brought to light, I can pray more specifically for healing from these damaging emotions. I’m currently participating in an online Bible study utilizing a new book, When a Woman Finds Her Voice, by JoAnn Fore.  JoAnn leads by example and encourages readers to release their emotions appropriately in order to find healing.

For so long, I’ve kept so many emotions and details of my life hidden because of shame and fear. I’ve been told, in fact, that it was difficult to be my friend in the past because I seemed too perfect. I wasn’t trying to be perfect; I was just trying to be liked. I was hurt by that comment, but I needed to hear it. It validates my longing for a like-minded community where I can safely, without judgment, unburden my soul to find healing.

I’m tired of being perfect. I’m ready to journey toward emotional freedom. What about you? Are you ready to join me in unbinding my emotional mess? Are you ready to release your own emotional baggage?

FindYourVoiceLinkup

moving on, reinventing

Redecorating

Sometimes, reinventing means doing some redecorating because visuals are reminders. With some Christmas and birthday money, one of the first things I did was to buy a new comforter and make new curtains for my room. I wanted to make it feel like my retreat, not a place to reminisce.

While I loved the lighter, brighter colors, they made my ancient dresser look downright dowdy. My dad painted that dresser for me when we got our first apartment, complete with country stencils. Before that, it graced my parents’ room for as long as I could remember. Twenty years is a long time between paintings, and my dresser showed the wear and tear of four moves, two kids, and lots of makeup and dust. So, I bought the forbidden spray paint (hey, no one was around to tell me that I couldn’t do it myself) and went to town.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

And then I put the same old stuff on top of my dresser. In the same pattern.

Isn’t that what we do with our lives sometimes, too? We think we’ve done some sprucing up, like a new haircut or a new outfit, but when we open our mouths, out comes the same, old yuck. Instead, we ought to “be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds, that [we] may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). I’m working on changing my mindset through Bible studies and relying on God to help me settle into the new normal and a better reinvention of my heart–a bit of redecoration of my soul, as it were.

As far as my dresser top goes, I bought a piece of shiny, smooth Plexiglas to protect the new paint job. (Side note: Plexiglas is not the same as glass. Don’t put your hot flat iron on it.) Then I swapped out my jewelry box and put my international decorative boxes on display. Voila! A new and improved look to the same room, and it didn’t even cost too much.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

What about you? Do you need to do some redecorating?

about me, divorce, reinventing

The BIG, UGLY Thing

Jo Ann Fore

 Deep breath. I can do this. I have to get the BIG, UGLY Thing out of the way before we can go any further on this blog; otherwise, I’ll be the same, old me. I want to be a new me, even though none of this year’s yucky things are things that I have chosen. Not even a little bit. I don’t know about you, but I like choices in my life. And I’m not talking about the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad versus the Grilled Market Salad. But I digress.

The BIG, UGLY Thing is an impending divorce. There. I said it. When I was growing up–in a pastor’s family–I always felt like divorce was a bad word. I still feel like it is. I don’t want to be divorced; I really don’t. But I’m not being given a choice in the matter, so I’m learning to accept it. I couldn’t even say the word for months.

So now you know. The foundation has been laid for what’s to come. Anyone else out there with me? Anyone else going through or already been through a BIG, UGLY Thing like divorce?