Saturday, February 21, 2015

my right now.

We are 6 weeks in to spring semester, and I'm utterly exhausted. Classes are great, albeit tedious; it's just the weight of it all that's killing me. Time is moving ever so slowly this semester, and I haven't decided if that's a good thing or not.

I mentioned in my last post about how much of a struggle the last half of the year was. I finally feel like I can talk about it (real talk: I'm at a point where if I don't talk I think I might explode). I struggle so much with vulnerability- both in writing here and with people in person. This post has taken over two four weeks for me to finish writing, because I was afraid to put myself out there. I was so afraid of people's reactions. But then I realized: this is mostly to help me. I need to write about it, because for me, writing will make me feel better. I hope by writing it'll help someone else too, but even if it doesn't, I need to do this for me for once.

However, over the past few weeks there have been so! many! posts (like this one and this and this  and especially this) that have cropped up that have nudged me in the direction of sharing. Even though I don't want to (and I've seriously stopped this post at least a dozen times over the course of 4 weeks. Sigh). So what I'm telling you is: bare with me. It's long, but please read it all if you've read this far.  And please, if you read this and have ever thought, "met, too"-- PLEASE reach out (in person or on here, whatever works for you). It's hard for me to talk and write this out, and I don't think I'm alone in it-- but most days, it feels like I am. 

I've always had a precarious relationship with my mental health. It's always been a struggle, but it's always been something I've dealt with alone or with a few select people. 

My mental health issues went to a whole new level last fall, however. 

I was on a retreat, having a fun time away from school for the night. I went to bed around 3am; about an hour or so later I was still awake for no apparent reason.
That's when the panic attack started.

Now, if you've never experienced a panic attack, or don't know anything about them, here's one fun fact to know: panic attack symptoms can be easily mistaken for symptoms of a HEART ATTACK. Yes, heart attack symptoms are unique to everyone (especially in women); however, the basic heart attack symptoms and the panic attack symptoms I had at 4 in the morning were the same. 

It was slightly terrifying, to say the least.

My heart was pounding loudly and fast; every time I tried to lay down and forget about it, it got louder.

I had a lump in my throat and felt like I couldn't breathe. I was shaky and absolutely terrified, thinking I was dying or was going to die.

It was hellish. I had never been so scared in my life.

I quietly walked towards the bathroom to look at myself in the light; everything looked okay, but yet I still felt like my heart was going to explode out of my chest. I walked back to the bedroom and climbed into bed, unsure what to think: at this point I didn't think heart attack because I'm pretty sure those are fast acting types of deals, but I had no idea what else it could be. I got back into bed and tried to focus my energy elsewhere (it kinda worked). I finally was able to get some sleep, and woke up with everyone else around 8:30. My whole body just ached--every inch of me was sore. I was still totally clueless and feeling out of sorts... I sucked it up best I could and attempted to enjoy the rest of the day's plans.

Then it happened again, later that night--only worse.
I tried lying down, took a shower to cool off, walked around trying to calm down-nothing worked. I had no idea what was going on.

I went to my RA friend in the lobby and talked about possibly going to the hospital to get checked out. A parent (it was parents' weekend on campus, PTL) overheard me and introduced himself as a doctor (but really, he was a guardian angel). He asked me what had happened, took my pulse, and asked me questions. He said my pulse was normal and everything seemed okay. He asked me about my caffeine intake that day (... a lot. More than normal), and suggested cutting down (I quit cold turkey the next day). After talking to him, I felt a lot better (at least in my head, my heart was still freaking out on me). I sat down in the lobby the rest of the night, until I felt decent enough to head upstairs and attempt to sleep.

Fast forward to Monday. Our on-campus nurse was pretty concerned and ordered an EKG to make sure everything was OK with my heart. It was then she asked me if I'd ever had panic attacks. My thought was, "what do I have to panic about?!" I left the nurse's office upset and confused... still unsure if something was scary wrong. I decided to look up panic attacks online, and realized how many of my symptoms matched up. So I went back to the nurse and talked to her again. She gave me medicine to help if/when I felt like an attack was starting, and recommended melatonin to sleep.
EKG came back normal, to my overwhelming relief. So, the only clear choice at that point was panic attacks- something I'd never imagined dealing with.

And they kept happening, almost nightly.

After a week, I went back to the doctor for a follow-up. With the amount of panic attacks I was having, she diagnosed me with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD-which my counselor confirmed when I started therapy in January). At that point, she didn't prescribe me anything else, but gave me some tips about how to deal with the panic attacks, and requested I go to the counseling center. I didn't put that on the priority list (though now I wish I had), simply because I didn't have the time (or didn't want to make the time, truly).

On top of the panic attacks, the crippling anxiety began... even more devastating than the panic attacks themselves.  It was a cruel cycle: I'd get anxious about panicking, then I'd end up having a panic attack.
Part of my anxiety was (is) that something else was wrong with my health. I still wasn't sure that it was just mental since I was having so many physical issues... every ache and pain triggered my anxiety and caused me to spiral. My brain just wouldn't shut off; I couldn't stop the never-ending thoughts that were sending me into this fear. It was like a voice track playing in my head, every time I had an ache or pain, or something felt off... my brain just would go off the deep end.  My brain and my body are at war constantly... and for awhile, I wasn't sure which one was going to win out.

I've gone to bed every night since October convinced I wouldn't wake up the next day.

That is the most terrifying sentence I've probably ever written. It's most definitely the most terrifying thought I've ever had (and have continued to have).

This fear has crippled me in every sphere of life. It made me physically sick, and unable to sleep-- I doubt I slept 3-4 hours a night most of November and December (and if I did, I didn't sleep until 2,3,4am). Most mornings I was still awake when my Mom was getting ready for work, all because I was terrified about sleeping. I had panic attacks just getting into bed. My (illogical) thought process was this: if I don't sleep, I can't die in my sleep. If I wait until the night is over, I'll survive. (Nights are still hard. So, so damn hard).

Like I said--it's a never ending cycle. The anxiety made me sick, which triggers more anxiety... and repeat. It made it impossible to want to get out of bed and function mentally or emotionally- I didn't want to spend time with anyone or do anything.

 I spiritually was scared out of my mind-- seriously, when your prayers every night end with, "please, don't let me die in my sleep"--SOMETHING. IS. WRONG. I also dealt with the whole, "I trust Jesus yet why am I anxious" debacle, which is a whole other post. Seriously: I love Jesus and trust Him a whole lot (some days more than others). But, this is not a spiritual problem I'm dealing with. It's all mental.

 I knew this by now, of course. I knew I needed help out of this hell. But I didn't know what to do--it was December, in the middle of winter break. It was the midst of Christmas stress and whatnot.

I was in my own mental hell, with no way to crawl out on my own.

I had spoken to a few people in small details about it (people like some family, my best friend, etc), but I never told them the extent of my issues. I don't think anyone knew how badly things were, because I've been able to keep a straight (albeit tired) face most days.

 I finally scrounged up the courage to talk to someone about everything; she helped me feel less crazy (because trust me, it is hard to not think you're crazy when this crap is going on) and has walked with me in all of this since then. I'm thankful I had the strength to finally reach out--but more importantly, I'm thankful I had someone's hand waiting when I finally did reach out.

It's February (almost March!) and here I am now, almost 5 months after this all started. As soon as I could, I started counseling at school-- and it has done wonders. It's taken a lot of vulnerability and strength to talk this out, but I am starting to feel better and have more better days. My panic attacks and anxiety are starting to become manageable, thanks to both counseling and the introduction of anxiety medication (at the recommendation of both my counselor and my doctor). Medicine nor counseling are a cure all (for me or anyone); however, both right now are helping me immensely, and I'm so, so thankful.

There are still days and nights where my panicking and anxiety overpower my medicine (like tonight) and I struggle with sleep and being able to control my thoughts, despite the tools my counselor has given me to help. Some days are going to be hard, and I'm just going to be anxious-- and right now, that's OK.  I'm taking it  day-by-day, and it's in no way going to be "fixed" for me anytime soon. Or ever, really.

But I'm getting better. And right now, that's really all I can ask for.

(if you read this, thank you. really).

Free by Switchfoot

Mess of Me
both of these Switchfoot songs have been on repeat lately... Jon Foreman must get it. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Let's All Be Brave {My One Word 2015}

Well, 2014 is officially over. I'm not too sad to see it gone, honestly.

2014 was an okay/good year until mid-September/early October, when all hell broke loose. My mental health kinda just fell apart... and it's been unraveling ever since. Panic attacks and anxiety have been my life since October, and it's absolutely crippling. I don't talk a lot about it on here (because speaking this stuff out loud scares me, AND because my anxiety's never been so severe), but I'm working towards getting on the upward swing of this stuff. I'll write more about it soon, because I really need to write it out, but that's a future post.

I'm ready to put it ALL behind me. The stress, anxiety, and struggle of 2014 has been enough to make me ready to close this chapter. However, what lies before me might even terrify me more than what 2014 did to me...


Writing that year just gives me goosebumps. 2015. I can't believe it's here.

I haven't been this anxious about a year in... well, I don't think I've ever really been this anxious about a year before.
The year I graduate college.
The year I become a licensed teacher (I hope. *gulp*).
The year I grow up and become some semblance of an adult.

The year everything changes. College is over, a grown-up job must be found, friends move or move on... it's overwhelming looking at everything this year has in store.

It's terrifying, this unknown territory. In May, all the friends I came into college with will graduate and move on into the real world; in December, it'll be my turn to do the same (after student teaching).

The little voice in my head is saying I'M NOT READY I'M NOT READY I'M NOT READY FOR THIS!

Usually, I'd believe this little voice. But this year, I'm determined to change the voices in my head. 

So, for the 3rd year, I'm doing my one word resolution-- one word for me to believe in, to set my goals around; I think having a one-word mindset instead of a list of to-do's to check off really help me grow and change the way I think. Honestly, I think my word chose me- like it has in years' past.

2013 was about being and feeling beautiful, and relearning what beautiful means.  

2014 was about love-loving myself, loving others, and letting God and others love me.

**Sidebar: LOVE IS FREAKING HARD. Especially when your brain turns against you mid-year. Really freaking hard to love yourself and be vulnerable when your mental health goes to hell in a hand basket. But I digress; I really think love was the perfect word for me this year: in the midst of my mess, I learned to love myself, warts and all. And through music (Ellie Holcomb and Mary Lambert=love)and Bible studies and what not, I started to really let it sink in how much God loves me in the middle of my mess, too.
Even when I can't feel it for myself,  His love is holding me tight and steady, and despite everything, it won't let go.  Hallelujah for that. /end sidebar

And 2015? 2015 is brave. It's time to be brave and courageous about what the next chapter has in store.

Like I said earlier, this word chose me. I am not a brave human, by any means. I'm the biggest scaredy cat known to man; I'm afraid of everything, and worry constantly. I don't have a courageous or adventurous bone in my body. How on earth could I be brave?

Truth is, I can't-- at least not in the adrenaline-pumping superhero-esque definition of the word. I can never be that kind of brave, nor do I want to be.

But I can be brave, right where I am, with what I have.

It all started with a book... Let's All Be Brave, by Annie Downs. I've mentioned Annie and her book before; I adored her in person, and the book? Life changing. Hands-down the best (and most needed) book I read in 2014.

I was planning on reading the book over Christmas break; however, after Q Women, I kept seeing the book and feeling a nudge to read it right then... even when I had a million other things to be doing. I kept ignoring it, but about a week after the conference, I caved and started reading.

This book. It's a game-changer, y'all.

 I didn't want to put this book down- and I usually don't feel that way about non-fiction. I highlighted so much in this book, I went through 2 highlighters. (Seriously. It was kinda comical).  Her style of writing made me feel at ease, like we were having deep talks and swapping stories over coffee; her stories were relatable and funny, and our struggles similar.

But her thoughts about being brave? Made me rethink what brave truly means.

"I'm here to ask you to please do the thing in your heart that scares you to death."

"You aren't headed out to find courage. It's in you, it is blooming, and it is with you as you travel and say yes to things that seem scary. Remember, it's not only the X that matters; it's getting there."

"When God tells you to be brave, he will make it work. It' won't be perfect. It won't be easy. But it will be your story and your best story."

I never thought about bravery in context to my everyday life; I thought bravery was reserved for the fearless, those that sacrifice and do scary things every day. I never thought that God made me, this anxious girl that's scared of her own shadow, to be brave. I honestly never thought I had a reason to be.

Until this year.

This book came into my life at the perfect time. In the midst of my life changes and transitioning, when my anxiety is at its peak? These are the words I need to hear at this pivotal place in my life. At first I wasn't really sure what I needed to be brave about-- but now I realize how much bravery I'm gonna need to simply make it through this year.

To enjoy my last few months on campus, instead of being sad that this chapter's coming to an end.
To (try to) enjoy my classes and soak up time with my favorite professors, instead of rushing through to cross the finish line.
To spend time and talk with friends--both those graduating and those that graduate after me-- instead of focusing so much on getting out of here I forget about the friendships I've made here.
To embrace the changes and transitions that are about to come, instead of letting worry about the future overwhelm me.
To figure out how to not let this horrible anxiety and panic cripple me like it has been for the past few months. I'm tired of letting anxiety rule my life.

I don't know what being brave is going to look like for me. Asking that of God kinda reminds me of when people ask God for patience: instead of simply giving patience, you get something to BE patient about. Yeah, I don't think I'm ready for that! :)

I do, however, know this: this is the year for me to truly figure out what brave looks like for me. It's the year I have to figure out how to use the courage inside me... no matter how un-courageous I feel.

Brave by Sara B- thought it was fitting :)

This is a year of firsts, lasts, and in-betweens; while I may feel anxious or fearful of what's in store, my hope is that instead of giving into fear, I find my courage and my brave. I don't know what that looks like for my life yet, but I know I can be brave. I just have to find the courage to start.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

the weary world rejoices {hope is alive}

Well, it's Christmas. Technically it's 2am on Christmas as I write this, so I should be sleeping, but oh well. (and no, I'm not up tracking Santa on NORAD, though it might be a good distraction tool from writing this....) 

Did anyone else try really hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year only to just not make it there? I tried. I tried really hard. I LOVE me some Christmas.  but there hasn't been anything getting me into Christmas this year. Christmas music is usually my jam, but I've barely been able to listen to it; I love decorating, but we barely did anything decor-wise (minus our tree, which Mom and I spent so much time arguing about getting one, I didn't care how it looked by the time we got it). We did plenty of Christmas baking, but instead of enjoying it, it felt tedious and nerve wracking; Christmas shopping was rushed, 2 days before Christmas (but I shopped with a friend, and spent over an hour in BAM so it was worth the wait). 

Add to that a newly-diagnosed respiratory infection (my lungs HATE me), on top of a sore/achy body from ridiculous amounts of furniture moving (new house probs), and my insomnia keeping me up half the night; I've just physically been miserable and exhausted every day since I got home from school. Talk about a winter break. Thanks, immune system! 

I'm thankful for the Christmas season and all it stands for, but this year, I'm just not feeling it. I just can't right now. 

Thank goodness the darkness only lasts for the night. And thank goodness when Jesus was born in a manger all those many years ago, He was born to save wretches like me. Even in the midst of my mess, when I'm at my darkest or in the lowest of lows. Before He died for me, He lived for me. He was born for me.

Sammy Rhodes wrote this earlier today: "Unto us a child is born. The good news of the gospel is the “us” includes messes like us."

He came into a broken, exhausted world to bring us back to Himself; a world so far separated from their maker that He had to become flesh to reconcile us to the kingdom.
 He didn't just come here as a grown man to fix everything, either; he started out his life as a helpless babe in a manger, and lived wholly as we do, being tried and tested along the way. 
And when He came, everything changed.

His name will be the hope of the world. ~Matthew 12:21 

A thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices. (O Holy Night)

Finally, there's hope. 
My world, my heart, is so weary--finally, something to relieve the weariness and stress. I need this hope right now. I want to not be weary for just a minute.  I need something to rejoice about. 
And now, He's here. No more searching or striving or doing to be 'right' with God; I can rejoice in the fact that Jesus is here, He is born, and He is alive-- and is the living hope I need to get me through. Because He was born, because He lives, so can I- and I can live  fully.

picture courtesy of @madewonderfully's instagram

Jonathan Merritt wrote this today:
"Christmas reminds us that miracles often happen on the dark nights when we have little more than a twinkle star to hold onto."

On this dark night, in a manger, with no room in the Inn; born to two bewildered parents who did NOT expect this wrench in their life plans; and yet, in spite of the circumstances, a miracle happened in that manger: a hope for the future, a hope for the whole world, was born. A living hope. 

Despite the darkness, hope is alive. Finally, there's something worth rejoicing about. Finally, my weary heart can rejoice: 
Hope is here! hope is alive! Jesus is born, and He is here to do amazing, beautiful things! 

He's the hope the weary world needs. He's the hope my weary self needs.

And He is, finally, here, in the flesh, to live out what love and hope really look like. 

Even in the midst of my darkness, that is worth rejoicing. 

Thank the Lord for hope. For Jesus, our living, breathing, hope, born into the world to fix the brokenness and bring light to our darkness. 

Hope is Alive by Ellie Holcomb
(typically I'd post a video with the song, but I sadly couldn't find one! Check it out on itunes, it's a beautiful song!)

After the silence of waiting so long

We hear a baby’s first cry

And into our midnight

A heavenly song

Whispers that hope is alive

Oh joy to the world on this holy night


So sing with the angels that fill up the sky

Heaven broke through and now hope is alive

He is right here among us

Our god is with us tonight

And hope is alive
In an old stable beneath the bright stars

A young mother is holding her son

Oh the beauty of feeling the beat of God’s heart

That tells us that we are not alone

Oh, our Emanuel has come
So sing with the angels that fill up the sky

Heaven broke through and now hope is alive

He is right here among us

Our god is with us tonight

And hope is alive
Into our aching , into our breaking

Into our longing to be made whole

Your arms are reaching, Your love is holding us close

Into our suffering , into our weeping

Into this need we have to be known

Your arms are reaching, Your love is holding us close

So sing with the angels that fill up the sky

Heaven broke through and now hope is alive

He is right here among us

Our god is with us tonight

And hope is alive
So sing with the Angels that filled up the sky

Those in the shadows have seen a great light

He is right here among us

Our god is with us tonight

And hope is alive

Hope is alive on this Christmas-- and the weary world rejoices! Alleluia! 

Merry Christmas! :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

and if not...

It's 3:30AM and I'm wide awake. Thanks, insomnia and anxiety (anxiety over what, you may ask? Once I figure that out, I'll let you know).
My brain just won't shut off. Why couldn't my brain be this wide awake during 8am classes or finals week? Rip off.

Anywho, tonight something's been on my mind that I figured I should write out; maybe then I'll finally sleep (or I'll take my panic attack meds/melatonin and pass out, whichever comes first).

Tonight I watched/listened to a podcast from She Reads Truth-- a Christmas party, with Ellie Holcomb (ah-mazing as always) and writer/blogger Angie Smith, talking about advent. It was great, and what I got from it is worth a post of its own; but that's not what I keep thinking about.

Rachael (one of the founders of SRT) was wearing this ampersand shirt:

if you're looking for me a Christmas present, this shirt is in the SRT store. #shamelessplug 
Someone during the webcast asked (on the youtube chat box) what the significance of the ampersand was. I (along with a few others) explained that it was based off Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 
It stuck with me the rest of the night, so I decided to re-read the story to refresh myself.  Apparently I needed it today. 

17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)

16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”

Even if not. If He doesn't deliver us, we still refuse to serve or worship another god. 

Is that a tough pill to swallow for anyone else? 

In the midst of their biggest trial, they remained faithful. They didn't backtrack when things got tough--they didn't change their minds and give in to the king just to save themselves. They remained true to the faith that God would rescue and redeem-- and even if he chose not to, they still had faith in their God, and refused to support any other idol. I love the message version: it wouldn't make a bit of difference if God actually followed through with their request: He was still God, and He was worth holding on to. 

At Q Women in November, Annie Downs asked something that resonated with me:

"How do you craft a life that brings God glory and brings you joy, even if God doesn't answer your deepest prayers?"

Even if He doesn't answer my deepest prayers the way I want him to; if my hopes and desires for my life aren't what I planned; and even if I don't understand what He's doing or why He's doing it:

He is still God. 
He is still good. 
He has the plan. I'm simply carrying it out the best way I can. 

Faith is scary sometimes;  I don't want to put anything into God's hands I can't control (control freak probs, I know). So how on earth can I live a life where my plan and His plan might not match up? How can I live a happy, joyous life if it's not the life I have worked out for me? 
 That scares the hell out of me, if I'm being honest. I don't know if I could be like Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego: I'd be running for the hills, if it saved me and my way of life. I don't know if I'd have their, "even if He doesn't save us, I still believe in Him" kind of faith. At least not everyday; there are some days I totally see myself with that kind of faith, then there are the low days where I just shake my head and scream "REALLY?" at God when things don't work out. 

I want to have that "and if not" kind of faith: that "even if it isn't what I want or expect, I still choose to believe" kind of mentality. I really do. He says we only need the faith of a mustard seed, yet somedays I feel like I need faith bigger than Mt. Everest to just survive. Sigh.

The ampersand became more than a punctuation mark to me today: it became a reminder that, even if life goes haywire, He is here, and He is good. 

And if not-- even if He doesn't do things the "my" way-- He is still good. So, so good. 

Give Me Faith-Elevation Worship

Ellie Holcomb-Only Hope I've Got

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Time to Rest...

Well, it's done. The semester from hell is officially over. Grades have been posted (not too bad, considering my 18 hour class load plus my mental state this semester); graduation has come and gone (saying 'see ya later' to some fabulous people sucks royally); now I'm chilling under my covers listening to Christmas music.

This semester felt like it was never going to end, and now... it's over. This time last week I was wide awake, frantically writing/revising an 8 page research paper on Wuthering Heights (I don't want to talk about it). How was that a week ago?!?
Over the course of 48 hours, I went from frantic, stressed, and exhausted, to... well, nothing. By 6pm Tuesday night, every thing I'd worked towards over the semester was finally finished. I didn't know what to think, or what to do.  I don't think my brain knew what to do, being stressed had become a way of life.

I've been home since Thursday; I spent an extra day after finishing finals running errands and relaxing, visiting with friends and not rushing around for the 1st time since August--it was nice to be able to do stuff at my own pace! Home has been great; other than venturing out for graduation and some errands, I've done nothing but sleep, read, and play online.

Originally, my plan for break was to come home and go straight to work at the daycare I worked at over the summer. I was partially excited: I missed the kiddos (hadn't had a chance to visit since I left in August), I was excited about having some extra Christmas money, and I was going to get to be out of the house for at least part of the day (I get reallllly stir crazy, PLUS me and my mother under the same roof for too long causes me to lose my sanity).
Come to find out, they didn't need me-- the process for me to get re-fingerprinted just for December was going to take too long, plus they don't have as many kids during the Christmas season, so they don't need as many employees.

 I was bummed for a minute, then I felt relief. Immense. relief.

 Because in reality? While I say I was excited about working, my brain and heart were both screaming: ARE YOU CRAZY? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELF? (my inner dialogue speaks loudly, in all caps. As I do in real life).

Jumping from an 18 hour semester to a 40 hour work week: not my best idea.

I was so exhausted thinking about it. And while there were plenty of good reasons to go back for a few weeks, I began to realize the cons outweighed the pros:
working 9-6 all day, 5 days a week, on what should be my time off.
working with small children, which almost always leads to me getting sick (I got sick the 1st week and last week of the summer working there. Seriously).
no time to do things I want to do, like visit with friends, bake and shop with my mom, read for fun, etc.
no time to do things I NEED to do, like Cozumel fundraising stuff and online paperwork, etc.

I need a genuine break from work, both school and otherwise. Even my mom said as much when I told her about the job; her actual words were something like, "why don't you use this break to rest? To actually take a break?"

What a concept.

I've been in a constant season of going, going, going, constant movement and busyness, that I truly haven't given myself a break-- even when I took breaks from school stuff to have fun, or when I came home for Thanksgiving break, my brain truly wasn't on break-I was always thinking ahead of what assignment was due next or what meeting or event was next on my schedule. This is the first time in a long time I genuinely have nothing on my plate-- no school work, no work, no meetings or events or anything of genuine importance. This could be the last time I have such a free, worry-less schedule for a long time.

So, this break will be a break of rest; a 3 week span of time where I have absolutely nothing planned, other than time with friends and family. And baking-- lots of baking. :)
I am using this break to focus on me; to recharge myself so I don't burn out again. Because the burnt out this semester was brutal, and I never want to let myself get to that point again.

There is a time to be productive and work your tail off: it's called fall semester 2014. Winter break 2014 is a time to rest, and to let my brain catch up on some much-needed recharging.

I have never been so relieved and to have plans fall through.

"My Portion and My Strength"-Ellie Holcomb
her album is my anthem for 2014. Seriously.

Friday, November 28, 2014

"This is the good life."

  Guys, I started writing this post over 3 weeks ago. THREE WEEKS! That's how ridiculously crazy my life has been this semester. Thank the Lord I'm on thanksgiving break (though I should be doing homework, but I digress. *sigh*)

 I've been a bit of a hot mess this semester. Okay, hot mess is a bit of an understatement.

   This semester has just been the worst. I freaking HATE admitting that, because I'm finally in classes I love and feel like I'm 100% doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I've loved my classes, and my middle school practicum was my favorite thing ever.
   And yet, I have never been this overwhelmed, stressed out, or exhausted in my life. I don't think I've ever been stretched so thin in school. It's been one of those semesters where EVERY THING is due at the same time, so it's been a constant going, going, going since practically August.
   Then October rolled around, which I'm pretty sure was the month literally sent from Hell to drive me to a breaking point. Somehow I dredged through, barely.
My life. Via the lovely Glennon (Momastery)
  Along came November, with a much needed week break of sorts. The 1st week of the month I had nothing major due (a rare feat!) and I was able to miss classes and practicum twice that week for two different purposes: an elementary school writing workshop, and Q Women Conference.

(This post would've made so much more sense if I'd written it 3 weeks ago, right after the conference, but again, life got the best of me. Sigh).

  ANYWAY. The conference was wonderful and was exactly the charge I needed to get through the semester. All the speakers were great, but one particular caught my attention.
  I'd heard Annie Downs' name before (one of the few names I knew from the conference) because I'd heard of her book Let's All Be Brave (which was in the conference swag bags, wooo!). I'd heard of the book through a blogger of some sort, and had put it on my to-read list (I've since read it, but that's an entirely different post for another day).

 She said many awesome things at the conference, but it was this that caught me in the gut:

I don't want to live in a passive state of waiting; I want to live in a chronic state of, "this is the good life."

Yep. Right. in. the. gut.

   Part of me scoffed and thought, "how in the living HELL can this to be the good life?"
Let me break it down for you:
~I am the most stressed I've ever been in my life (18 hours plus a school practicum does this to ya)
Thanks Glennon (again) :)
~My body and brain have decided to revolt against me because of the stress
~Insomnia and exhaustion have completely take over my life
~As much as I love what I'm doing in this season of life, it has been overshadowed by a pit of depression so deep I somedays don't know how the hell I'm gonna get back out.

   So... yeah. Not exactly a chronic state of living the good life right now. I want to wallow and mope in it, but honestly-- that's (obviously) not helping me much. I've been sitting around waiting for the next season of life to pull me out of this mess. It's not working.

   The other part of me, upon hearing Annie's words, wanted so badly to live in that chronic state of the good life. I NEED to be living in that right now. I want to believe that in my worst of worsts, living in that good life mindset is possible. But how? HOW?!?! How, in the middle of the hellish mess I've dug myself in, can I even begin to live as though this is good?!

(if you think I'm gonna be ending this post with a solution or anecdote of some sort, you are sadly mistaken. I wish).

    I think right now, the most important thing for me to realize is that I'm currently NOT in a place where I can confidently say, "this is the good life." I want to be there, but I'm just not. Admitting that is huge for me; I want it all to be perfect when in reality somedays it feels like life is crashing down on every side of me. My world is just spinning too hard right now, and as much as I want and need to live in a "this is the good life" mentality, I just can't right this second.

   But I can start. I can start taking baby steps to get me to this good life place. The key, for me, is in the waiting; I've been stuck waiting this semester out, hoping it would get better or easier, or maybe just disappear from existence (ok there have been good things I promise but the sucky outweighs the good). I have to remember that yes, life is hard; some days are blah, some days are wonderful, and some days feel straight outta hell, but whichever kind of day the Lord gives me- He's given me for a reason. And hopefully, He'll give me the next day too, whatever kind of day it is.
   I saw this on twitter and thought it spoke volumes into my life right now: "Today was a hard day. Reminding myself that hard days are days the Lord has made too (via Sammy Rhodes)." This is the day the Lord has made. Every day is a day He has made- good, bad, amazing, or ugly. And I should rejoice and be glad in it. It doesn't say to rejoice only on the good days; every day, no matter the day's outcomes or unravelings, is a day God has given me. It is a day I have been graciously given, so I should rejoice, be glad, and do my best to remain in that, despite the circumstances the day gives me. That's freaking hard, y'all, especially when the sucky days outweigh  the good ones.

A good life, I've finally begun to realize, doesn't mean all of my days will be good. Far from it. To me, it means that I'm trying to simply live out my life's work each day, in spite  what life throws my way. It means to step out and be brave, in the midst of my mess, and truly live- even when it's the last thing I want to do.

  It's gonna take all of the bravery and courage and strength I have to live this right now, especially on the pit days where I don't have the strength to get out of bed. But guys, I HAVE to--I NEED to. I need a reason to feel something other than numbness right now. I'm ready to feel His goodness moving in my life again, even if some days don't seem all that good. I need to live like it's the good life, or to fake it til I make it to that point where it genuinely is good. I don't know when that'll be right now, but I know God promises me that He will work everything out for those that love Him. That he takes my brokenness and mess and makes beautiful things from it. That's all I've got right now, but that's something pretty good to cling on to in this pit, I think.

So no, this post doesn't have a happy ending right now. I'm not magically in a place where the good life is my constant right now, nor am I in a place to rejoice and be glad, despite my utmost want and need to be. It's a work in progress that I someday soon hope to fully live out every day, despite the circumstances of my day. This is going to be the good life, even if the every day isn't. And that's a start, friends.
Ellie Holcomb-My Portion and My Strength (but really, go listen to her whole album. It's helped me so much).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The running and the returning || #SheSharesTruth: Hosea

 Life catch up: school, school, and more school. All of life is school when you're taking 18 hours! (Welcome to senior year, y'all). It's crazy busy and exhausting. Pretty much sums up this season of life, I suppose.

In the midst of it all, I've been keeping up with my She Reads Truth studies. These studies were a spiritual life saver this summer at home. Though I was often too exhausted to do much Bible study, I tried to keep up with them this summer. I was almost always successful. I'm still pretty successful during school, even if it means I'm reading at 1am in bed using the SRT app (which is awesome. if you haven't checked it out, you should).

And then they decided to do Hosea. Right as school was starting.

After my friend introduced me to Redeeming Love (which is based off Hosea- and is a topic I could write an entire post about itself!), I've had some interest in studying it, but I've been kinda hesitant.  If you haven't read it, Hosea is an intense book of the Bible. I'd never studied it in-depth for this reason. it was so hard for me to study, hard for me to understand-- especially at the beginning of my most hectic semester to date. As someone that didn't grow up reading and learning scripture, reading these stories (especially Old Testament) are a bit scarier for me. SRT makes reading these books and stories I'm not familiar with easier, but still... it's tough.

I learned a lot I needed to learn, even things I didn't want to learn. I was challenged, even when I didn't want to be, about things I didn't necessarily want to be challenged about.

And I was reminded of so, so much that I needed to hear.

"The book of Hosea is not about Hosea, it is about God’s relentless pursuit of an undeserving people." (Day 1)

 Even when I run. (Especially when I run).

 Even when I'm a hot mess.

 Even when I fail and flounder.

 Even when I don't want to trust or follow Him, when I'd rather do things my way.

 Even then, He still wants me. 

He knows me. He knows me well enough to know I'll run and keep running. He knows my messes and my struggles and my story. And yet, He still pursues me. He chose me to be His.

I will never understand it. I will always wonder why.
"The chasm of sin grows wider and we run faster, but our God changes not. He is still sovereign, even as we flee." (Day 5)
There have been so many times that this story has been mine. I think that's part of what makes it hard to read: I have been the unfaithful bride, running away from the best thing that's ever happened to me. I have struggled with letting love in. With being fully known and fully loved. I've shut myself off to love and letting people love me for so long.  I have created this bulletproof shield, keeping my heart and love from everyone (too much trust has been broken to give it to people freely).  In doing so, I've been too afraid to let anyone in- including God. 
This has been a work in progress, this idea of letting people (including God) fully love me, over the past year. It's so much easier to run the other way, to flee in fear of getting hurt. It's easier to put my shield up to anyone that comes my way.

And yet, God still pursues me. He wants me. His love is unrelenting- even when I'm gunning it in the opposite direction.

He waits for me. 
He loves me fully. He knows me fully. Even when I don't want Him to.
He chooses me as His love. 
He knows I'll return, and patiently waits for me to come to my senses and come running back where I belong. 
He relentlessly loves and pursues every part of me.

That's a beautiful, yet scary thought. It used to be more scary than beautiful, but the fear is starting to be left behind- slowly, but surely.

"We are sinful. He is steadfast.
We are fearful. He is faithful.
We are broken. He binds up.
We cherish idols. He cherishes us.

His love and affection toward us do not change, no matter the depth of our sin." (Day 5)

"Build me a home inside Your loving arms, the only place I ever will belong"
When I think of me and my running, I think of this song. It made me cry when I listened to it after reading this post.

How amazing is it that He waits for me to return to Him? He doesn't just wait, either- He is joyful and unbelievably ecstatic when I return to Him, even if I've run 100 times to the opposite side of the world to get away from Him. Nothing will subdue His love and affection towards me. Nothing.
"Whether it’s the first time you’ve run willingly out of God’s precious protection that comes from obedience, or it’s the five millionth time, the Lord doesn’t stand unmoved by your genuine return." (Day 8)

How unfathomable is it that He constantly pursues me, loves me so much that He wants to have a relationship with me? No matter what I do, or where I am, or how far I run... His pursuit and love for me stay the same.

He wants ME! He pursues ME! He loves ME! And that will never change. 

   It's overwhelming.  I've never felt a love this strong towards little ol' me.

It's amazing how much your life can change when you're being pursued and loved so deeply.

Earlier this week, we had Ellie Holcomb speak and perform during chapel. It'd take me an entire post to relay her whole beautiful message, but she spoke a bit about being fully known and fully loved. It's a hard idea for me to wrap my brain around- the idea that God sees my mess, my screwups, and my failures, and pursues me anyway. But He does. Because if anything else, He is a God that fully knows His children for who He made them to be, and fully loves us in spite of our mess.

One of my favorites by her, Love Broke Through. (I bought this whole album after hearing her in chapel).
"Your love has called me out
Out of my sorrow
Out of my broken places
Hope has been renewed
'Cause there in the darkness
Love broke through"

And another for good measure: The Broken Beautiful
"I know that I don't bring a lot to the table
Just little pieces of a broken heart
There's days I wonder if You'll still be faithful
Hold me together when I fall apart?
Would You remind me now of who You are?
That Your love will never change,
that there's healing in your name
That You can take broken things,
and make them beautiful
You took my shame
And You walked out of the grave
So Your love can take broken things
and make them beautiful"

The book of Hosea and God's constant pursuit of us teaches me that no matter who we fully are or what we have done, He loves us enough to chase after us, and lavishly extend His grace and love to us when we finally return. Hosea teaches me that His pursuit isn't because of what we've done or haven't done- it's because He simply loves us and wants us to be loved by Him. No matter how far or how much I run, He will still be waiting, still be pursuing, and still loving me. And to me, that's pretty amazing.

Thank you, Hosea, for reminding me of the depth of His love.

Thank you, Lord, for the running and the returning back to where my heart truly belongs.

Follow Me! :)