Do you ever get upset when someone steals the baby name you've been saving for your own future child? Not that I'm expecting, or married, or even dating. I don't even know that I'll ever have children. I certainly wouldn't consider myself to be a girl who obsesses over her future potential children, but I do have a couple of names saved up, and NO I'm not sharing them! One has already been stolen...I can't risk it!
So my New Year began with the intention of writing. After all, I told you I would. Unfortunately I've been very stuck -- having a lot to say but not really wanting to say any of it. At least not for anyone else to read.
As I told you in my previous post, my processing can be very messy and downright frightening sometimes. I usually find my way through it, but it can be ugly along the way. So you have been fairly warned.
The New Year has been hard for me. I'm glad for a new year...God knows I need one. But honestly it's brought more sadness than hope. The reality of the last 12 months are hitting me hard. I'm trying not to fall apart but it's a very real challenge for me right now. A wise friend said that maybe I should take a couple days to fall apart, take a deep breath, and try again. I've done similar things before, but for some reason in the thick of it all I can remember a darn thing! Thank goodness for friends...
I know that I can't possibly move on from this place unless I deal with my feelings about it. I have to feel my feelings, accept them, and then take a step forward. I don't really want to, and it's not going to be pretty, but they will only come back to haunt me if I don't deal with them.
So, for a limited time, I'm going to let myself 'fall apart'. I'm not going to try to keep it all together. I'm just going to deal with my feelings and move on.
And I encourage you all to do the same. Not to fall apart, of course, but to feel your feelings, accept them, and move on.
So I clearly haven't written in a long time. I tell my friends it's because I was busy planning a wedding and settling in to a new job. One dear friend challenged me and said it was probably because I didn't want to share anything I had to write.
How does he always know?
Now that I'm on the other side of things that I don't want to share I'm back to writing. And yes, I will delve into the things that I didn't want to share. Somehow it's easier to share things once you've processed through them. I'm a messy processor and can sometimes frighten even myself with the places I go while processing. I am in no way done processing the last year of my life, but I'm in a place where at list I can talk about some of it.
Those of you who have loved me and supported me through this...thank you. You're amazing. I love you all.
The older I get the better I come to understand what God has gifted me with. I think we don't always realize our gifts because they come naturally to us. For example, I didn't realize that cooking was a gift until I met a person who really couldn't cook.
I have been struggling lately with using the gifts God has given me. I know that I use some of them every day at work and with interactions with other people, but I know I have gifts that can also be used within the church. The reason I struggle with this is because I have been on the 'inside' of the church before and have seen some of the not-so-nice things about it. I have heard the criticisms, and sometimes the judgement. I know people have differing opinions and and that they often feel the need to impress them on other people. People who take on leadership roles in the church are especially open to the criticisms. Because of this I haven't been eager to get involved...at least not just yet...
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in church listening to our pastor preach when he said something that really struck me. He was talking about some of the challenges of ministry. He shared a story about his first experience as a church pastor and how some of the elders weren't too excited about the length of his hair. Obviously as a woman people aren't going to tell me my hair is too long, but you get the point. There are always things that people will judge as 'not Christian enough' for those who lead/teach/serve in the church. In order to do what God had called him to do and has clearly gifted him to do, he had to focus on God's approval and desires rather than the approval and desires of other Christians.
That may sound obvious, but I've thought I was using my gifts for God my whole life and clearly got sidetracked by other people's opinions. I know I have many gifts and I am so very grateful for them. They enrich my own life and other's lives, but I know God is calling me to use them in a more obvious way.
Now is the time to get back in the game...to risk the criticism and disapproval of others. Because when it comes down to it, it's not the approval or desires of other Christians that is important. It's the desires of God, which is sometimes very different from the desires of other Christians. I challenge you all, as I am challenging myself, to truly use our gifts for God and to maintain focused and His desires and not our own or other people's.
If you know me then you know I have a tendency to overanalyze things. It's a part of me that makes me good at my job, but challenges me in my personal life. I want to know things. I want proof, or at least support, of nearly everything. I have a healthy sense of doubt when I hear or read supposed 'facts'. I immediately want to see all the research that backs up the 'fact' before I will agree that is, in fact, fact.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for me) life isn't all about facts. There are millions of things in this world that can't be explained by research. Things like feelings and spirituality. I know some of these things can have a tangible, factual basis, but for the most part these things are abstract. Things like trust, attraction, hopes, fears, feelings of closeness...I could go on and on.
So when my overanalyzing self starts evaluating abstract things I can get worked into quite an anxious state. Yesterday was one of those many times. I went to sleep feeling rather unresolved. This morning I woke up with determination to deal with my anxious, overanalyzing self.
When I get this worked up I often have to go back to the things that I Know, both factual and existential. Here's what I came up with...
I Know that I overanalyze everything and I Know that I was born and bred to be a worrier. So I started pondering worry and anxiousness and was instinctively led to several passages in the Bible about how God will take care of me. I Know that God has led me to where I am. I Know that without a doubt. And if God has led me to where I am, then I Know that God will give me the tools/strength/wisdom/patience to deal with whatever comes along with that.
It seems so simple. It's something I've Known before in my life, many times and many years ago. It's funny how we 'forget' the things we Know. Sometimes I feel like God might as well hit me over the head with a 2x4 because I have to keep learning the same things over and over again, but I'm glad He doesn't. I'm glad He leads me back to a place of Knowing. And I will do whatever I can to keep Knowing this for the rest of my life.
I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Nearly every person I talk to had a different expectation for his/her life that what actually became of it. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe my life was too good while growing up. Or maybe not. I know plenty of people who had expectations of life during childhood and all those were shattered before even becoming teenagers.
I have a feeling that everyone has a schema for 'life' and that it doesn't ever turn out that way. I expected to be a stay-at-home with two kids by now. Instead I'm 29, divorced, engaged, and scared about what another marriage holds. Marriage didn't turn out the way I expected it to. I'm pretty sure marriage never turns out the way we expect it to. I'm pretty sure life never turns out the way we expect it to.
When I was 23 I separated from my first husband. Things were bad. I was young. I was devastated. I really believed I would be married to him until the day I died. I couldn't believe what had become of our relationship. My boss-at-the-time was going through a separation with her husband. They had been married for more than 20 years at that point. She shared some advice with me that I will never forget...
She said she had a vision about a home. She had ordered rugs to fit the rooms inside. She waited and waited for her rugs. When the rugs finally arrived they were the wrong size. They were not at all what she had ordered, but they were what she had. And even though they weren't what she had expected or planned, she used them. And her house became beautiful in a way she hadn't imagined. She said to me, "Even though it's not what you planned or expected, it can still be beautiful."
That story and that comment have stuck with me ever since. Life is not what we expect it to be. I grieve the loss of my expectations on a regular basis. At some point I believe I will be done with my grieving. But for now, I must grieve the loss of my expectations...and know that my life can still be amazingly beautiful even though it's not what I expected.
All the wedding planning has brought me face to face with some things that are very difficult for me, mainly a lack of trust for significant others and fear about what is out of my control. I've been attempting to face and overcome these fears this week. Hopefully my experiences will help some of you and hopefully some of you will have some thoughts that help me. So here goes...
I'm a recovering control freak. I say recovering because I believe it's a lifelong process to give up my intense desire for control. If you know me at all this is not a revelation. I like to have control. I like to be in charge. Empowerment reduces anxiety. This isn't rocket science and I'm sure many of you understand. The more control you have over a situation, the less anxious you are. Some people are naturally not anxious. They can easily go with the flow and take things as they come without a worry or care. If you are one of those people, I envy you. I'm not sure if I was born with a natural bent towards anxiety or if I learned it. My guess is it's a combination of the two. Regardless, I'm pretty tightly wound. To alleviate my anxiety I plan ahead, make sure I have extra time for things, and make sure I know EVERYTHING I can. I try to relax and 'let go', but this is a very difficult task for me.(I'm open to suggestions on how to do that better)
"What does this have to do with trust?," you may ask. Everything if you ask me. I'm engaged to the love of my life. And I'm finding myself afraid for the future. Afraid that after we get married he will change. Afraid that there's something secret and hidden that won't come out until after the nuptials. Afraid that his priorities will change and I will no longer be one of them. My fears are not based on anything that he has ever done. My fears are clearly because of things I've experienced in the past. Things that I never want to experience again.
I realize that this has nothing to do with me trusting my fiance and everything to do with me. There are questions that I wanted answered but these answers are unknowable right now. I hate that! As I said earlier, I want to know everything. It calms my anxieties. I came to the conclusion yesterday that there was no way I would be able to have these questions answered before we get married. Ugh!
So clearly I'm stuck. I can't know the answers that I think I need to know. What can I possibly do? I began to realize more and more that this isn't about me trusting Larry. Larry is amazing and has done nothing to warrant any of my fears. In fact he's done everything to prove to me that there's nothing for me to be afraid of with him.
If all this is true then the answer has to be outside of me trusting Larry. And it absolutely is. My fears are about me trusting God. If Larry is the man that God has chosen as my partner, and I truly believe that he is, then I have to also trust the God will see me through whatever we may face in marriage. I have to trust that God will meet the needs we can't meet for each other. I have to trust that God will give us the wisdom and patience to work through whatever difficulties may come our way. I have to trust that God will give us the grace and compassion we need to be partners for the rest of our lives.
That's a tough pill for me to swallow. I want so badly to protect myself from hurting. I want so badly to know that our marriage will be amazing. I don't want to give up every part of me and commit my life to someone until I know I'm not going to get hurt. But there's no way I can have a healthy relationship if I don't. It's not fair to me and it's not fair to my partner. So as scary as all this is to me, I have chosen to trust God. If I encounter pain because of what He has led me to, then He will see me through. I don't want to experience pain, but I know that God's grace is sufficient for me. His power is made perfect in our weakness. So here I am...laying down what little power I had...becoming weak so God can work however He chooses in my life and in my future marriage...trusting...