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Fear of The Unknown And Not Feeling Known: What Do I Do With All Of My Anxiety?

20 Aug

Frustrated. Sad. Anxious. A clamor, a panging, a feeling that I was forgetting something majorly important. My engagement ring? Well, yes, it was at home in the box, where I’d left it safely the night before, only to be abandoned in my morning haste to beat the traffic that coagulates near Downtown LA on Thursdays mornings after 7:15. But something else? What?

Sometimes pre-wedding anxiety is like that. You just have a constant feeling you’ve left something to chance and that it won’t be okay. Weird, right?  I’ve had too much caffeine. Not enough actual food. In fact, have I eaten at all today, save those two candies in the church office? Hmm. It doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter. What mattered was this: after the rush, after the haste, after the pounding head and spinning wheels and 29.2 miles in 70 minutes, I was here. Here. To breathe. Breathe? Really? Yes, breathe.

I often find myself feeling most at home on beaches. I took this shot on a cold day in South Carolina when I found this deserted beach.

I often find myself feeling most at home on beaches. I took this shot on a cold day in the Carolinas when I found this deserted beach.

I knew what I needed. A trip to the beach. A different beach that I had only been to once before during a Spring Break several years back when visiting my friend in North Carolina.  A North Carolina beach.
And so I sat there in the counselor office, closed my eyes, and we went there. But not just the two of us. I invited a friend along. One it felt like I hadn’t seen in awhile.
He came from a far off place in the distance. We usually meet on tropical shores but today, it was a warm winter afternoon with a slight breeze on that beach in North Carolina. The one where the wispy grass blows calmly, the seagulls congregate in a lazy circle, the water is shocking and colder than you remember, but a comfort all the same. We usually sit on a log together and chat, but I sit all day so I decided we’d walk on the shore. The sky was more clouds than anything. No blues, just soft, muted grays that reminded me that this wasn’t paradise, but it was a place where all slates were wiped clean. Simple. Truth could be revealed here.
He saw me and acted surprised. But not in a “Make you feel guilty” way. More in a “You’re the only person I want to see today and I’m so glad you showed up!” way. He got closer, not a care in the world, dipping his feet in the water, getting his clothes wet like an excitable 5 year old with rain puddles aplenty, too many to resist.  So he jumped in and out of the waves, waving at me? And then his face grew serious. Not in a scary way. In a “Where ya been? I’m so glad to see you!” way. He approached and I exhaled, the first time in weeks.
And we began to walk. I was hesitant. I told him of my fears, still scared that I would say too much. I hemmed and hawwed, skirtted around words, which I never do.
“I’m scared of a new life where I don’t feel known.”
Not just announcing a feeling but the other Unknowns. Feeling alone. I was wondering, wondering if he was going to go to San Diego with me since I had first really met him and grown with him in LA. It felt honest. It was. I was. For the first time with him, my old friend who knew me better than I knew myself. I was saying everything that had been bottled for far too long. Not champagne but feelings bursting forth, a fountain of truth was emerging.
I talked a bunch. He listened. Then I began to listen. I felt him calm my fears. He showed me pictures of when I’d been so scared before.  Brokenhearted. So lonely. He reminded me that he had been there that time. I had been hopeless, I didn’t see a future. He was now showing me now that I have one. That there are plans laid out. Where I will still have choices and friends and where my love with my future husband will grow into that beautiful thing that I believed in when I was a little girl. I will have a place to call home. Not just a physical place, a place where I will be stable and rooted.
A place that will start with Him. Not my husband him, but Him Him. I won’t create it, although I’ll help. I will claim the gift he is giving me. Like the Israelites when they came back to the Promise Land. I will belong. I will be free. I will lead because those gifts don’t go away with a location change. I will look back at this moment. I will remember how deeply I felt and that what I was asking for was courage and faith. I can’t conjure those up on my own. I can’t dream them into being. I had to ask. I had to confess the places where I had forgotten that He is Lord and I am not. I had to let go of me and hold tight instead to Him when the me part ceases to make sense.
p_00044I’ve been wondering how to feel this “joy” people talk about when they are engaged. Mostly I feel stress and like planning a wedding is a full-time job. I’m not a fan of big decisions or “you HAVE to do it this way.” When I left the beach, it didn’t matter. I knew in this way that you know things after an encounter with the Living God that it was ALL. Going. To Be. Fine. I was going to thrive. I was Set Apart. I was Known and better than anything, LOVED.
It was the peace that surpasses understanding. Finally.
It was the easy burden, the light yoke. I get it now! 
It was the flowers of the field ,not worrying, it was the moment when you laugh because Jesus looks down at his wrist where you think the watch will be and it’s not there because he invented time! “Why wear a watch?” he asked. I laughed. A real gut busting laugh….
I’m now back to my quiet couch in South Pasadena, where I will be for three more months before this new unknown, but less scary now adventure begins. The sky is a briliant orange and pink. A tad different from that serene beach calm, but still calm. He’s showing me life and life abundantly. And I’m starting to believe it again because I had forgotten! It is for freedom that we were set free. And so I do what I learned to do and I. Just. Breathe.

Using Social Media Passive Aggressively To Veil Our True Emotions, My Foot In The Mouth Disease, or Part 2: Love is Kind

27 Jul

Love is kind.

Try it! You won’t be sorry.

It seems obvious, doesn’t it? Love is kind? Of course it is. But it’s much harder to live it out, especially when you suffer from foot-in-the-mouth disease like I so often do. Sometimes I think my emotions have more of a reign on my tongue than they ought, and I want to stop myself from blurting out something that comes straight from my frustration or texting my confusion or emailing my pain.  Instead I act before I think and in turn have to go back to the person and apologize. It’s painful. It’s humbling. I’ve had to do it a lot lately. I’m not done yet.

Love is kind.  If I love people, than why can’t I be kind?

Love is kind. Even when I don’t feel like it.

 Love is kind when I’m not.  

When I screw up, because love is kind, I know my friends won’t ever get to the point where they won’t talk to me again.  I know that apologizing for the ways in which I wasn’t kind will likely be in my future and grace will need to be given to me due to the fact that I have a short term memory about what love is.

Love is kind but not on Facebook this week. I don’t know what is going on but a bunch of people are on the rampage. I’m not sure why everyone is getting so upset.  For a place that’s supposed to be about social connection, it’s more like social destruction. People are spouting political and ideological opinions and even those I agree with are starting to get a little vocal it’s definitely starting to get old.

 

Is it ever a good idea to have a political debate on Facebook? Is it ever loving to tell people you’re “friends” with that they are totally wrong, crazy, and off-base via the cowardly veil of social media? If we really want to have a political debate and talk about the issues rather than agreeing to digital finger pointing, why not do it in person? Are we too lazy to be kind?

It’s not kind to hate people, but it may be easier than loving them.

 

No where in 1 Corinthians does it say “Love is easy. It’s painless. It’s going to make you feel good all of the time. Most of the time when you love, you’re going to think that it’s so simple and fabulous that you’ll want to do it all of the time. Love is the road more traveled. It’s what everyone chooses all of the time.” Um, no. I wish it said that sometimes but it doesn’t. Kindness comes with a price.

People sometimes think I’m crazy when I say that loving people is harder than hating them. I think it’s easy to shift blame, let anger sit until it becomes bitterness, displace it, and let it grow until it manifests itself into  full-fledged yelling and pictures of your support or boycott of a fast food restaurant on your Facebook page. Or maybe it looks like a smear campaign of your least favorite political candidate. Or name calling. Or something worse.

But getting back to the point of this…love is supposed to be kind. I know I haven’t been as kind as I want to be this week. I’ve shifted blame, gotten mad, let my anger boil over into words I didn’t mean, passive aggressiveness, conversations I knew should not be had via phone, Facebook, texting, etc.

But guess what? Love is STILL kind.  Do you know how I know this? Because of stories like this where victims of tragedies can forgive people who tried to kill them.

I might not always be kind, but I’m so thankful that Love is.  And I’m thankful that God,  the lover of our souls, our creator and our sustainer invented love and kindness.

Proverbs 18:21 in The Message says: Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.

Can we just remember that before we say something we don’t mean, post our opinion and broadcast it to 500 of our friends, get angry without realizing the deeper emotion behind it?

Are you hurting? Do you feel unheard? Are you lonely, bored, angry, tired, or hungry? I actually started asking myself these questions lately before I react and it’s helped. So I think twice more than I used to before reacting. And in moments I don’t, there is grace.

Thank God, there is grace.

Completely Honest Thoughts at the End of A Long Week

30 Jun

I’m up too late again. But maybe not. Maybe this is when all the traffic and noise has gone away and I can finally be free to think and feel and process.

I’ve had a lot to process but not much space to do so. With all this change happening, I haven’t really been able to ask myself a key question: “How do you feel?”

It’s easy to go through life and be numb. Emotions are too hard. Relationships take too much time and investment. And if I’m honest, lately I don’t really want to engage, I just want to coast. I want God to show up and I don’t want to have to work for that relationship. I want friends to call me and somehow know that sitting in traffic is lonely. Looking at a clock and wondering what time I’ll make it to that appointment all the way back in Pasadena when I’m in Beverly Hills stresses me out. I long to run with friends, have events already planned, and the permission to just have fun. Not talk deeply, persay. Maybe pick up a golf club and drive some balls. Maybe bowl. Maybe hike or run. Or finally, through some vigorous exercise or something get to the bottom of this nagging feeling that something is left unfinished and all I can hear are the whispers: “How do I finish it? ”

In those moments, I reject all that I have learned and it’s like I put my earbuds in and tune out to the world. I can see people around me, just like the cars on the sidestreets in LA (especially on San Vicente near Olympic and Fairfax at about 5:42 every night). I can watch police pull people over. I see wealthy men yelling at a homeless guy for no apparent reason other than that our world is a broken place and who really knows why people are jerks sometimes? Elsewhere a woman gives a dollar and her last piece of bread to a different homeless guy. What does it all mean? I feel a cool breeze you can only really feel on the West Side of LA because the East Side feels more like a hairdryer but without the wind. It’s just plain hot.

In the midst of all of this change, I’ve numbed myself out. I’ve been turning to food for comfort. I’ve never done that before. But something about salt and vinegar chips spells comfort. Reverting back to the fast food of my youth soothes me, if only for a second. And then I start to wonder, what hunger am I trying to feed? What pain am I trying to avoid? What would happen if I said no to myself again when it came to stopping by Mcdonalds for a midnight sundae? In those moments I feel a sense of rebellion because I got away with something (breaking my plant based diet) and yet a sense of shame knowing that I’m trying to cover something up but not really aware enough to put my finger on it.

These could be anxious ramblings at the end of a long week. I could need to give myself grace to eat some fries once in awhile. I don’t know what appetites I’m trying to satisfy but I do know that when all of this feels up in the air, all I can keep turning to is Jesus. He is my sole-provider. No friend, no person, no conversation can ever take the place of who he has been and will be in these moments of uncertainty. He is my security and my life. He is my fortress and my shield. I shall not want. And I shall be thankful for all the things he’s brought me through.

Troubles, pain, sorrow, uncertainty. I long for a day when the brokenness I feel is completely restored. It will never happen in this life and yet, I ask God for the grace for some of those broken places to be brought to him. ‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus

I hope to remember that the next time I’m feeling numb and disengaged. Trust is a process. It’s an active process. But before I reengage with that fully, I may just follow the advice of someone I trust and go to a quiet place and just read a book. No striving. No self improvement. Just me and words on a page that will melt off of it into my head stringing into happy thoughts, songs of a life that isn’t mine. Situations I don’t really have to face because I’m just reading about them. Time to just get away…

My Phone Is Smart But What About Me?

18 Jun

People with smart phones often come across as distracted. I see them in the elevator at work, in the lobby, walking down the street not paying attention to traffic. Eyes glued to a screen, squinting, often looking perplexed. It’s for this reason that I’ve avoided getting a smart phone for so long. In a culture that has us traveling at a break neck pace toward individualism instead of community, we can easily create our own little worlds with our favorite music, background, photos, apps, contacts, Facebook page, blog, and more. And in that attempt to connect us quicker with our favorite potential Amazon purchases, we lose a piece of ourselves. That is concerning.

And yet today, after years of postponing, I got a smart phone. I did it in a way that I’m proud of because I bought a used phone at a cheap price and I got a plan where I can get everything I need for less than I was paying for my dumb phone and still have no contract. It’s not an iPhone, but I’m using my new Windows phone as a training ground for now. And I feel good about my purchase. Except for my hesitation. What if I lose my awareness and become a drone hooked on the piece of metal and gorilla glass in my hand?

I just came off of a weekend where I spent a ton of time talking to people in face to face conversations in the car. We talked theology and played games. We told heartbreaking and heartwarming stories. We hiked the Grand Canyon and didn’t fall in. We discussed this hypothetical guy named Bob and wondered aloud about his soul in different scenarios.  I saw live elk and watched them eat leaves off of trees in our campsite for 30 minutes. And at no point when I took that self-induced break from my computer and phone did I feel like I was missing something more important than the moment I was in.

And that’s just it. As I embark on my new journey of having a smart phone and trying not to get obsessed with it, I want to remember to take time to step away. I re-learned yesterday in a moment of humility that God is so much bigger than I am. Than all of the little pieces I try to control. Bigger than the Grand Canyon. Bigger than the stars in the sky and our questions about aliens or angels. Bigger than our feeble attempts to control our little worlds. Even if we can do it in the context of our hand held computers, God is ultimately in control. And that is very comforting for someone like me who likes to pretend I am when I can make my background purple or download a panorama app to take amazing pictures.

So here’s to owning a smart phone but being smart about that ownership.

Here’s to taking time out to notice the little moments and continuing on my journey of awareness.

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