God's love

Letting go and making space

Last week was the second week of advent: peace.

It seems almost laughable these days and unfathomable for myself personally last week (grumpy, unsettled, out-of-sorts.) Who do I know who would claim they are experiencing peace? Tis the season, if you are a parent of watching our kiddos do all the things. Piano recitals, Christmas concerts, season wrap ups. What a joy it is to watch these people we are blessed to parent growing into who they are. Yet also what an overfull season of everything merry happening, leaving little space for quiet and contemplation, whether you have kids or not. No room to find this thing called peace. No one I know free from personal hardship of one form or another.

Secondly, the world is currently a bit of a dumpster fire. We are becoming further polarized, finding it hard to agree on much of anything in real life. Injustice is everywhere. Humanity can seem a hard race to be a member of if one only pays attention to the headlines instead of the faces of those around us.

Online it is easy to find agreement with all the people we ‘like’ to surround ourselves with who think the same way we do. We forget we are all people. Mind, body, soul. More in common than we think when we take ourselves out of the excessive news cycle and into conversations with each other.

I sign off of most of it - not wanting to be ill informed, not wanting to fail to recognize my privilege, not wanting to turn a blind eye to injustice in the world but also finding myself useless when information is just overflowing. No more room. I find myself turning back to a smaller focus ~ connecting with the people God has called me to love and learn from; which certainly is not the whole internet, my whole acquaintance group or even everyone I am related to.

I am slowly learning to do the part I am called to do and trust it is enough to bring about this much longed after peace on earth. I am slowly learning to let go of things I’m not called to.

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Letting go. There it is again. I’ve been hearing the words ‘let go’ whispered over and over for months now. I was puzzled, let go of what? I am tired of things being rooted out and let it slide by, too exhausted to get curious. Afraid of what getting curious might ask of me.

Because apparently I need to be hit over the head with something to pay attention (or possibly made mute like Zechariah) the words ‘let go’ were physically spoken to me, to my agitated spirit during this week of (non)peace just passed. I see this as either hilarious or as a deeply moving experience depending on my mood, but mostly both. I was getting a massage from a new therapist who I had only seen once before. I asked her a question about an especially tender spot and she replied with ‘You are holding on. What would it look like to let go?’

Let go of what? (She told me a few things). And why?

Strangely I am circled back to peace. I cry on the drive home. What does peace mean anyway? Inside contentment? Time to sit and be still? Having our needs met? Absence of violence? Who can define this promised peace?

I’m wondering if peace is possibly about listening. About obedience. About trust. Could peace be letting go of whatever needs to be let go of? Unreasonable expectations. Something that has overstayed it’s welcome. Control. A toxic person. Pretending to be okay. A season of life. A dream you had for someone other than yourself. Exhaustion. Responsibilities you don’t need to take on. What other people think about you. A substance. Fear.

How can there be room for peace if there is so much being hung onto ~ let go, let go.

Advent means peace has come despite my perceptions. Peace ~ the Prince of Peace has come despite my fear, despite my eyes that have trouble seeing, despite my limited imagination. I’m letting go - making room to receive this peace he left with us. I am making space in my soul to receive the good gifts advent promises us. Trying to be like Mary and saying yes to (only) what I am asked and becoming a place for peace to abide.

Healing, hope & slowness

Well it has been a good long stretch of quiet here hasn’t it? I used to be a fast processor but not anymore. These days the thoughts ooze slowly through my soul, taking time to steep while I fold the daily load of laundry, drive car pool, read books aloud or teach fractions. Everything takes more time  than it used to.

A few months back I started swimming again, lap after lap after lap, to wash my swirling thoughts away. Kicking to try and find clarity. It started from sheer survival - our schedule this fall with Aaron traveling more than he ever has before was frankly a bit much. My own exercise (other than my daily dog walk) went to the wayside taking with it a good chunk of my unanxious mind. My parents came for a visit and could see I was hanging on by a thread, I think. My mom had a come to Jesus type talk with me about taking care of myself and based on her verbally brainstorming for me I finally figured out that I could swim a decent amount in under an hour - in and out. Several of my kids activities take place at our local rec center with a pool, if not there is one close to drop offs. So swimming it is for now. The blue of the pool and quiet of my head under the water brings me a much needed peace. You could say it is what is saving my life these days.

I still constantly find myself having feelings about how long healing takes. Here I am a year and a half after looking at myself, unrecognizable, everything I felt I was shattered into a million pieces on the ground. A year and a half is not a small measure of time, and maybe it isn’t a long one either but I certainly thought I would have ‘finished’ processing healing already. Back to my fast processing and high coping self, of course having learned all the lessons and experienced all the growth I needed to in order to be a more enlightened person. (I wish I were joking.)

A year ago I wrote that healing takes more time than people want to give you and now I year later I am writing that it takes more time than you want to give yourself.

I remember when my therapist chatted with me about sectioning off a period of time in which to focus on my healing and my family. A period of time in which I would say ‘no’ to anything else. I landed on six months. I thought I was being ridiculous and gracious to myself to set out that long period of time.

Now I sit here with open palms, no set end date because I am much more intimate with this process. Two steps forward and one and a half steps back. Reminding myself to keep clinging to God who works all things for good. If there is one lesson I don’t want to loose there it is.

 

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Our culture tends to glorify ‘celebrity style overcoming’ and perhaps rightly so. When you are staring down a scary prognosis it is exceptionally encouraging to see people who have overcome ‘quickly’ with joy and enthusiasm. We want to believe we can self-help everything and to some extent we can. To some extent God gives us bodies and brains to help ourselves - sometimes a miracle looks like getting off our behinds and doing what God has made us capable to do. We can get our buts to therapy or yoga, we can seek out the wise treatments and therapies and modalities. But only by God’s grace does all the stuff work and we find ourselves on the other side - ‘healed’.

And then.

Then you still feel broken and lost and exhausted. Here comes the part of the story that doesn’t sell anything, so we don’t hear about it. This is where you find yourself siting in your ‘healed’ brokenness, feeling like you have messed up because this is supposed to be the easy part, the celebration.

This is the part where you get used to waiting. You get used to showing up and doing the right things to keep healing yourself even when it feels futile. Then you stop doing them and realize - nope not yet. I still need those things. At least for now but also, maybe forever. There are things you don’t get used to: feeling like a stranger in your own body, like a stranger in your own mind. You know there is more healing to come, you loose all pride you had about considering yourself low maintenance, resilient and being a high achiever.

You wish you could contentedly and serenely use prayer to let this draw you closer to God and wisdom and love (some days this happens). Instead, it is more likely you get irritated about life’s petty crap, about your unknowing what to do now, about how everything has changed and yet; nothing has.  You find yourself too agitated to make sense and plop things on a sticky note into your ‘God jar’. Not much here is pretty or presentable.

You listen. You listen a lot because you don’t have many coherent thoughts to share. You sit in silence. More silence than you ever imagined. You try to get comfortable with knowing you only know about two things for sure, while 1001 thoughts swirl around in you. You wait some more.

You move slow, slower, slowest. Sometimes you falter and shame yourself for your slow process but mostly you give yourself more grace than you ever have before. You rest more than before, because you still have to even 1.5 years later. At best this feels like progress (I’ve learned to rest!) at worse you feel like you will never be as healthy as you were.

And God. You still need to cling God. Because you aren’t as desperate as you were before, but you are other things instead. This was perhaps the most unexpected part. You are so grateful for your everyday ordinary life and also so many things are still being rooted out. You still feel sad, angry, frustrated, annoyed, tired and just done already alongside of grateful, grateful, grateful. More questions, more wresting, more learning. You are still in need of a savior and you are still in need of hope. Hope. The light. Rest from all the change and growing and learning. A glimpse of new life, an end (at least for now) of things dying away. You are aching for the bloom.

And then - and then it is advent.

Quiet. You find so much quiet and stillness. This is a natural posture for you now. Sitting, quiet. Being present. Palms open. Praying for eyes to see hope, hope everywhere. Perhaps more will die away but you are also open to receive. There is no magic. No single moment where you wake up and think ‘this is it I have bloomed’. Not yet anyway. Instead you listen for the next step, then the next, then the next. Slow, quiet, listen. Slow, quiet, listen.

This is the heartbeat of the healing.