Letting Go

photo (31)I think I have to let go of what I’ve always wished for.

Isn’t Advent a season of waiting?

Waiting is hard. I’m not good at it. During the course of waiting, things that are unspoken surface: dreams, desperations, memories that I thought had long ago faded somehow come and and out of focus in differing intensities.

Waiting is the middle of the journey and I suspect it looks a bit differently for each individual. Some may be asked to trust God to do something new. Maybe it’s staying the course when everyone around seems to be moving on. Maybe it’s time to leave where we’ve always been. I would hazard a guess that we are all in the process of waiting for something or someone because we’re all traveling a journey of faith to get home.

I realized earlier that it’s possible this Advent season involves letting go of what I’ve always wished for and involves waiting for God to meet me in my grief.

Here’s one of the statements that stuck with me from a reading: I am come to find you wherever you may be. I will look for you till the eyes of My pity see you. I will follow you till the hands of My mercy reach you, and I will still hold you till I bring you back to Myself, and reconcile you to My heart. (Charles Spurgeon ,1861)

Maybe it’s time to allow myself to say goodbye to what has never been, to what is lost, even if it was just in my mind. What I couldn’t do before: to let go of the home I wished I had, the family I wished for, the life I thought I would have. I’m never going to have a family and maybe that’s okay. Maybe it is okay to grieve what was then and what will never be and believe that God will be there in both, as well as here now. Not be consumed with the longing and the grief and yet not avoid them either.

Maybe in the saying goodbye, in the letting go, true peace can be found.

Deeper

 

Hope

I really don’t like the holidays. Fraught with memories I’d rather forget, and missing more acutely those who gone. But I’m trying. I put up a tree and even threw some decorations on it (pictures maybe another time). I wrapped presents and put them under the tree. The nativity rests carefully on the coffee table as a reminder of what’s important, what the holiday really represents.

I feel like a fraud though looking at all of it because I know the truth about my own condition:

I don’t feel much hope these days. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I’m tired of being alone. I’m broken, perhaps even unfixable.

And when I think of my friends suffering with horrible diseases and struggling with their own brands of brokenness and heartache I sink deeper. What’s the point of it all?

No matter how I pretend…

Obi Nov 14 2013While we’re entering the most wonderful time of the year for most people, we’re entering the darkest, hardest part of it for me, and no doubt countless others who suffer through the holidays hoping to survive them somewhat intact.

For me, it’s not just the physical darkness that makes it so bleak, it’s the memories full of pain and horrific actions, and death and frozen ground, and grief, what seems at times to be never ending grief.
I hate it and I hate me for being this way even more so this time of year.
No matter how I pretend, no matter how much I play the game trying to fit in and feel something different, it doesn’t change the facts.

Christmas music round the clock and twinkling lights don’t help. Increased pressure to socialize and “be happy” make it worse. Broken relationships hurt more. The stark reality of being alone presses in.
It’s been exactly a month since the person I had first felt safe with told me to “forget all the crap and get over it.” And in the same conversation told me that my perceptions were wrong, my feelings were wrong, and what I was thinking was wrong. What that person pronounced as a “start” as the conversation wrapped up, I viewed as an “end.”

I felt like a freak. Attacked. Devastated. And the after-effects have only served to reinforce how deficient and unworthy I am.

The exact same day, a six week old puppy came into my home, full of life and adventure. And I am thankful for both pups who love unconditionally and make me laugh, who cuddle when I cry and snuggle when the bad dreams come.

Most days it’s a struggle to breath. And I don’t know what to do about it anymore.

One of my favorite reads this year is Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. I’ve actually made several of the recipes contained within, but it’s been her words, and her honesty with her struggles that have really fed me.

In our lowest, most fragmented moments, we feel out of control—controlled, in fact, by expectations and to-do lists and commitments and traditions. It’s that time of year, we shrug, when things get a little crazy. No avoiding it.

But that’s not true. And that’s shifting the blame. We have, each one of us, been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes. We’re spending them according to our values, whether or not we admit it.

When things are too crazy, the only voices I hear are the voices of fear and shame. I stop being able to hear the voice of God, the voice of rest, the voice of hope and healing and restoration, the voice that gives new life to dry old bones. And instead a I hear that old song I’ve hear all my life: You’re not good enough. You’re not good enough.

But that voice is a lie. And it’s a terrible guide. When I listen to it, I burn the candle at both ends and try to light the middle while I’m at it. The voice of God invites us to full, whole living—to rest , to abundance, to enough. To say no. To say no more. To say I’m going to choose to live wholly and completely in the present, even though this ragged, run-down person I am right now is so far from perfect.

photo (28)Let’s be courageous in these days. Let’s choose love and rest and grace. Let’s use our minutes and hours

To create memories with the people we love instead of dragging them on one more errand or shushing them while we accomplish one more seemingly necessary thing. Let’s honor the story—the silent night, the angels, the miracle child, the simple birth, with each choice that we make.

My prayer is that we’ll find ourselves drawn closer and closer to the heart of the story, the beautiful beating heart of it all, that the chaos around us and within us will recede, and the most important things will be clear and lovely at every turn. I pray that we’ll understand the transforming power that lies in saying no, because it’s an act of faith, a tangible demonstration of the belief that you are so much more than what you do. I pray that we’ll live with intention, hope, and love in this wild season and in every season, and that the God who loves us will bring new life to our worn-out hearts this year and every year, that we’ll live, truly and deeply, in the present, instead of waiting, waiting, waiting for perfect. (169-170)

I can get through the next two months, right?

Incomparable Kindness

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Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love…. God wants to always be with us, wherever we may be—in our sin, suffering, and death. We are no longer alone; God is with us. Bonhoeffer

It’s Been A Hectic Week

It’s been a crazy week. Between preschoolers performing, forty of them squeezing into an area more fit for 10 and heartily singing Christmas carols, and big changes at work and the annual holiday work dinner, not to mention the regular “stuff” of life and work, I’m exhausted. One might think that would translate into at least one night with no panic attacks or bad dreams, but it hasn’t and so the tiredness has accumulated over the past few days. I can feel myself getting twitchy and feeling short-tempered over the events and interactions that are generally just parts of the ebb and flow of life.

This time of year is so full of expectations and busyness for so many. Do they ever find time to stop and simply enjoy Christmas?

As a child, I had very low expectations for the holiday. They were not a particularly peaceful or happy occasion. That hasn’t changed much over the years and if anything, they have become a sad time, steeped in dark memories and grief.

If I’m actually able to sleep, I still wake up at 2:15 a.m. most nights even though this December will be the 13th anniversary of that horrible night. The anniversary, ten days before Christmas, is a vivid reminder of the fragility of life and how quickly things can change…a reminder that carries into January and February and more grim anniversaries.

It would be so easy in some ways to get pulled into the busyness and more, more, more—ness of this season. But busyness and more things are never true or lasting fixes no matter what false promises and hopes they offer. Even as I strain against my own expectation that things would be better by now, for the most part I’ve managed to avoid those trapdoors.

All my attempts to make and will myself better and all the books and exercises I’m completed to make things better and all the attempts at conversation haven’t worked out, and in some cases have even made things worse because it feels like one failure heaped onto another failure.

So after tonight’s party I plan slow down and rest as painful as it might be as opposed to constantly flailing and fighting that isn’t accomplishing anything.

Pretend

During the holidays as a child my siblings and I generally played the “pretend” game…which means we lied to our peers and anyone else who asked about them. Talking about what happened at home was not allowed and doing so would result in unpleasant, and often painful, consequences if we were caught. So we made up stories of gifts and gatherings so it wouldn’t be so obvious what a mess we really were.

The reality of the holidays was they were a double whammy: no school for two weeks AND poor weather which meant being stuck inside.

I know now that my dad was at the lowest parts of his “cycle” from late November until mid-January and I know now that some of the resulted from his own miserable childhood. As a child, though, it was a lonely and fearful time of year. At least during the summer months it was warm outside and light later and so we could hide play in the row of hedge trees. That wasn’t a possibility in the frozen months of winter, no matter how much we bundled up.

Every afternoon when I get home from work (if I get home at my regular time) I sit outside in the sunshine, letting its warmth soothe away the day and remind me that it isn’t that way anymore, that the holidays don’t have to be time of fear and dread anymore.

So I put up a tree, simple, with unbreakable butterfly and dragonfly ornaments, with bells lining the bottom branches in order to warn me when a curious puppy (or 3) gets too close. I still found Luke nose to nose with Joseph under it this morning, and laughed, because he worked so hard to get there without touching a bell. I hung lights outside and even turn them on.

But it’s an effort to not just retreat and hide until it’s all over.

It’s December Again

It’s December again. Another holiday season in full force…lots of family stuff going on everywhere.

It’s a constant reminder some days that I no longer have any family. Lots of anniversaries this month and next doesn’t help either.

“It’s a gathering for families.” “Here’s a handout for families to use this month. Oh wait, you don’t need one.” “I didn’t think you be interested because you don’t have any family.”

Actual words, none said with ill intentions.

It’s not mutually exclusive to December…but it happens more during the holidays.

I’m trying, but it’s hard. Radiation side effects are not helping, nor are multiple failures recently.

Because I know none of the above is actually what Christmas is about.

Knowing that doesn’t help on days like today particularly, but I have to believe that trying to keep some perspectve and focus will eventually help.

23 days…