Trying (to Find Peace)

I’ve been tired for a while.

The past year has felt like saying “I’m trying” on repeat. And that’s exactly what I have been doing – still trying to curb my rising stress levels, still trying to go wherever God leads me, still trying to make progress in my life, still trying to improve myself so I can be better for those around me, still trying to find a healthy balance between being constantly focused on what lies ahead and living for what is right now.

Still, I’m trying.

One of my biggest fears, for example, is the potential need for my dream of being an author to be altered. The older I get, the more that seems to become a reality. When I was younger I’d sit quietly at lunch listening intently to other kids tell stories and prattle on about their daily adventures, and later while they ran around on the playground getting their energy out, I was alone regaining mine – writing down their stories and making them my own – playing fantasy games like they did, just a bit more quietly. Writing has always felt both like home and an adventure, and in more recent years, it makes me feel close to God. It’s the one thing that I don’t feel the need to be the very best at, because it just feels good to do it; but in doing so, I also improve. So, with this intense passion for writing I have developed from the moment I could string sentences together comes an intense dread for compromise. For settling. For giving it up because life may one day get too much in the way. Yes I will always be a writer, but I may not get the opportunity to write in the way I always hoped I could, and that saddens me. Even though I’m aware God has a plan regardless of what happens (as long as I keep putting in the necessary effort and listening to His guidance) what will be will be and I will make it through, the idea still keeps me awake some nights. I’m human; I falter, but I’m improving. I’m trying.

There’s so much to stress out about; to make me want to hide from the world and hope it stops nagging me. But I have a Music Appreciation test tomorrow and pages of notes still yet to take, I have a job to go to in the morning, a book to finish writing at some point, and laundry to fold. So much laundry. The world isn’t going to ever stop nagging me to do a thousand things at once and pulling me in every possible direction. It won’t stop giving you or I reasons to feel inadequate or scared or stressed or, more likely, some annoying combination of all of those and more. The world will throw problems at you left and right. Some bigger than others, of course, but it’s the daily stressors that sneak up on you – building up until you feel like you’re going to burst. (Luke 21:34)

But God’s just looking at you, probably stroking his beard, tapping his foot, whistling as He waits; wondering when you’ll finally realize you’re going to be fine. He’s got this. Even if you have no idea what’s going on, thank goodness He always does. (John 14:27)

Believe me, I have to remind myself of this about ten times a day and I still have my moments where I question it entirely. A million questions starting with “…but,” pop in my head daily, and yet I’m still okay. I’ve made it this far and every situation I didn’t think I would get through, I did. “Just calm down and stop overthinking” is a phrase I use mentally about everyday. The only way that phrase has any weight, the only way it ever works, is when I combine it with prayer – when I direct it to God. Life just seems easier to handle when I pray everyday, and that’s no coincidence. The only time I truly feel at ease is when I prayer journal, which I’ve been getting back to doing at least once a day. You can’t expect anything from God if you don’t ask, you can’t expect answers if you don’t listen, and you can’t expect change if you can’t handle honesty. “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” (Max Lucado)

So my point is that life is stressful and uncertain and there is a lot to worry about, but you don’t have to let that hinder you. You don’t have to be held back by fear of the unknown, because God knows what lies ahead. Talk to Him about it and then build some true faith. What will happen will happen and you can choose to make the best of it by talking to God and being open to what He has to say.

I’m going to wrap this up with a story about a woman I visited in a nursing home today, because she inspired this entire post:

One of my closest friends and I decided we wanted to start scrapbooking, which she ended up mentioning to her grandmother. A week later, we were on our way to visit her so she could lend us some of her supplies. I tagged along, unsure of what to expect and wondering why someone I’ve never met would be kind enough to lend me things that are precious to her. But we get there and I’m greeted by an older woman with a kind smile and upbeat attitude, and I instantly feel at ease around her. She giddily shows us around the building while leading us to the small apartment-style room she and her husband share. When she opens her door, it isn’t the size of the space that I notice right away, but the fact that she made it feel warm and inviting. I didn’t notice the hospital curtain until the end of my visit, because all I initially saw was an inviting couch, photos of family members on most of the walls, and an overflowing crafting table. She talked endlessly about family and friends, but what struck me the most was the fact that she was open about her hesitation with living there. She did not want to move to this place. She’d given up her car, her home, and her friends to live in an assisted living home in which she can’t even cook for herself and her husband. It took her a long time to adjust to the environment. Though she hadn’t pointed it out herself, it was obvious that she was in the best shape, both physically and mentally, out of probably anyone else in the facility. She didn’t feel like she belonged there. She was depressed for a while, and still goes through some “weepy days” as she put it, but she said all this with a smile because she was learning to make the best of it. She put her crafting abilities to use and holds weekly card-making classes, she charges a couple dollars for her pre-made cards (as she pulled out a hundred cards she had made to show us what she can do), and she is lobbying to hold a craft fair so all the ladies in this community can have the opportunity to sell what they make as well. Her crafting classes have gone so well that she has gone from using her own supplies to the staff saying “buy what you need and we will reimburse you.” She proudly told us, “I found my niche,” and she went on to tell us that she believes she was put there to be a caretaker of sorts. To be a ray of sunshine to these people. She took her less-than-ideal situation, made it a God opportunity, and through it she found an overwhelming sense of peace.

She gave me hope that I hadn’t realized I needed until today.

She ended our visit with a piece of advice: “I’ve seen the top of a mountain, and the while the mountain itself is just rock and ice, the view is amazing – like nothing you’ve ever seen before. But it is in the valleys that the wildflowers and grass grow. Both are equally important.” (James 1:2-4)

 

 

 

 

 

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I Went For A Run (And Learned Some Things)

I went for a run today.

Okay, so it was more of a brisk walk with a few spurts of jogging…but I did it!

Before I get into my reasons for spontaneously going on a three mile (sort of) jog-ish thing, you’ll need some backstory. Last week I went running with a friend (who is actually a runner, so she has also been acting as my motivator for getting back into shape) and after talking about it for ages, she finally convinced me to go with her. What ended up being a disastrous turn of events also turned out to be a huge push for me in the right direction.

We got lost as we distracted ourselves with talking, assuming the trail would eventually loop back around to where we parked (surprise, it didn’t). All in all we ended up walking/jogging a total of ten miles. My left foot is still not very happy about that excursion, but the rest of me is thankful because I forgot how much I actually enjoy exercising. I forgot how much my body is capable of if I’m having a good time – that I’m not as weak as I always think I am. I forgot that I love to run and let my anxieties melt away. I forgot that I don’t really equate running with working out, because I only ever “worked out” to look better and never actually enjoyed it, but running feels like an escape from reality.

I wanted to go again, alone this time, and though I needed a week’s break after those ten miles for the sake of letting my foot heal, I found myself back on the familiar mulch track she and I started on seven days prior.

I’ve been pretty transparent on here about my past struggles with body image and one thing that held me back from exercising for the past year is how I have abused my body in the past. I spent a lot of time not eating and in that time I was exercising relentlessly – hours upon hours upon hours of trying to tone and shrink the body I taught myself to hate. Since then I have had an aversion to anything involving exercise because I’m afraid of becoming obsessed again or doing it for the wrong reasons. Which is a silly thought because it’s been a year since I’ve seriously struggled with it and while I know some fears may never fully go away, I also know better than to believe something so miniscule could ever be more powerful than the strength God taught me to find within myself.

Today I woke up knowing that I needed to be alone, just God and I. I needed to reevaluate some things within myself and allow for time in which I could reassess a few lessons I have let fall to the wayside. So I escaped to the familiar quiet park where I could reflect, and while I planned on simply sitting on a bench and reading my Bible or praying, I felt God tell me to run instead; to let go and feel free for a little while because I’ve been in a constant state of stress. So here are some things that I learned.

  1. It’s not always about being the best or the fastest. Sure, strive to be the best you can, but also keep a rational mind. I felt God while I was running; I felt Him in the sound of the sea breeze moving gently through the trees above me and the distant murmur of children on a playground. I felt close to Him because it was just He and I in that moment; the world still existed, yes, but it was more beautiful than I’ve seen it in a long time because I saw it all as God’s. It was very meditative, but it wouldn’t have been if I was solely focused on “go faster,” “push harder,” and so on. It’s more about the journey than the destination, or however the expression goes.
  2. Take detours when you can. I found a path off to the side that I knew wouldn’t lead me in the direction I had intended to go, but it was beautiful. I’m all for being focused on your goals and whatnot, but sometimes a distraction is necessary. Sometimes a distraction is put in your place to give you some perspective – a chance to reflect, breathe, and take a moment to be introspective. I ended up enjoying myself the most on my ten minute detour. There was an expanse of grass with benches to sit on, trees towering over me for optimal shade, a place off to the side where someone had a bonfire the night prior, and there were birds everywhere – from huge turkey vultures lurking in the corner to a baby bluejay hopping in the grass. It was serene and a little magical, like it was hidden away just for me to discover right then, and I found myself really smiling for the first time since I had started running. That’s where I felt God the most, but I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it if I had been so focused on staying on the path that I didn’t allow myself to explore at all.
  3. Don’t eat Skittles before you exercise. This may not seem like a real lesson, but I’m just telling you that you should make better decisions than me because I was fully aware that I should have eaten something healthy, but as I sat in my car for twenty minutes psyching myself up to actually run I realized I had been tearing through a bag of Skittles in my purse. It was like someone else took over my actions in that moment and I didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late…and by that I mean I was really hungry, I only had skittles readily available, but I honestly probably wouldn’t have chose anything else even if I had had the option. Baby steps. I’m getting healthy in baby steps. But still, don’t do something that dumb. Jesus would be smart enough to eat a salad or something, but I chose Skittles and very much regretted it. Just FYI.
  4. Speaking of sitting in my car for twenty minutes psyching myself up, that’s a thing I did. And that’s possibly the biggest lesson learned today (or, actually, more of a reminder since God and I have been over it a few times at this point): stop allowing fear to keep you from doing what you should. Stop allowing yourself to be your own worst enemy. Stop allowing unimportant things to hold you back. I was anxious about people watching me run because I don’t do it often and I don’t always go into new situations feeling super confident, but there’s a reason God spent all of last year making sure I was alone learning independence in spite of useless fears. Today He reminded me that I allowed fear back into my life and it’s time to let go of it, so I did. And I ran. 

God is in every part of life, not just in church or the Bible, and He can teach you a lesson in sometimes the strangest, most unexpected ways. Today was one of those strange, unexpected lesson days and I’m grateful to have a God that calls me out when I need to readjust my thought process and actions.

 

Home

I knew a boy who lived in a sea of rolling hills – the town he grew up in like waves far out in the ocean

I was a boat tied to the dock while he swam along the coast freely

 

We simultaneously put each other first and last while expecting harmonious synchronization

Two people forcing their way into a thing they called home even if it felt like a warzone

 

We got stuck between growing up and being grown up because it was the place we knew best

Comfortable in the discomfort of never knowing what might lie ahead but still feeling certain that we’d both be a part of each other’s futures

 

But a person shouldn’t be a Lighthouse

And we were far from perfect

 

Eventually the ocean turned dark and he went away as the tide swirled around my ankles, untying the rope that held me where I thought I’d always be safe

I drifted alone until he was barely a speck on the horizon, waving to me from the safety of warm grass, solid ground, and sunlight like a halo

 

On my own I found my way to a new place where the waves didn’t crash, just sort of swayed back and forth

I found softer hands to hold, and the hills where I used to hide behind went away with the sunset

 

Now my new home actually feels like a home – nothing like the former secluded hideaway I wasn’t allowed to leave until God or somebody forced me out

It’s four walls and a bed to share, toes in the water, and a Lighthouse to lead me in every direction

 

We work now in tandem

Two people creating and discovering together, allowing for both self-identity and someone to trust

 

There are no hills or a need for them – only open sky and a horizon that is always bright

My tomorrow never seeming dim because I have something to bring me home and someone to go home to

More Like You

I see You in everything

So I know I am not alone

I know that You will call me home

 

Can You show me a better way

To live my life

All for Your grace

 

I want to take hold of You now

To just find out

How to be a better person

How to make You proud

 

You say that You are with me

And there’s no end to

Unfailing love everlasting

 

Passion and persistence

I wish I could do it for You too

 

So I will give You praise

I will give you all

Of my heart still beating

My everyday

 

I have heard You in the distance

The distance is in me

 

When we’re close I can feel You

When I’m far I need You

 

You are in everything

 

Everyone Is A Bit Of A Mess

I am broken.

So completely, unabashedly broken. Well at least the “unabashedly” part is a work in progress.

There is no definitive line between having it together and falling apart. Daily life is not set in black in white; even if it’s not always a rainbow of colors, it’s at least hundreds of variations of grey. Depends on the day.

Lately, I’ve been having some grey days. There are ups and downs, because among the “downs” I choose to let myself have some “ups,” which is an important lesson I wish I had learned a long time ago. But in the grey days I have learned to look closer at the reality of other people’s lives.

I am not the only person facing demons. Far from it, in fact.

Sure that seems obvious when actually saying it aloud or putting pen to paper, but it’s so easy to get caught up in your own head and not realize that your problems, while they have merit, are not exclusive. I would be wasting my time trying to compare my life to other’s because I can see their lives in easy black and white moments – I’m not feeling everything they feel or seeing every detail exactly like they can. To put it more eloquently, Steven Furtick says “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

Even with the people I am closest to, with whom I get a glimpse of most of their good and bad moments, I could still easily point to all the ways in which they have their life more figured out than I do.

Me? I feel like a mess 24/7. I’ve never not felt like a mess. I’m a terrible communicator when it comes to my emotions (and I have a lot of them), I procrastinate out of fear, I push some people away and let in some that I shouldn’t, I think too much about self-improvement to the point of not actually doing anything to improve, I don’t pray enough. I’m going to stop there. You get the point.

Your immediate reaction, if you’re anything like me, may be “Yeah, but…”

But nothing. I am a mess in some ways, but not in others. It’s just not always easy to look past the ways in which you are a mess because those qualities tend to be more prevalent and problem-causing. The people in my life that I admire for their abilities to handle things all the time have their own faults and shortcomings that I’m not paying attention to because I’m too busy thinking about how much better than me they are.

A better use of time is, if you notice a quality you like in someone, point it out to them and learn from what they do. You can’t always mimic what other people do because you still have to be your own person and focus on the gifts that God gave you, but maybe there’s some sort of lesson in there for you as well.

Otherwise, calm down. Get it together. You’re fine. Everything is fine.

That’s pretty much my mantra when I’m freaking out about anything ever. But seriously, calm down and do something productive. Even if it’s not perfect, move in some sort of positive direction because sitting back and watching other people live their lives “better” than you is only going to bring you down and get you nowhere. My mom says something to the effect of, “If you’re not moving forward, you can only go backwards.” There is no safe middle ground.

Everyone else does not have it all together and you aren’t 100% a mess. Most of us are somewhere in the middle; our shortcomings are just way more apparent than other people’s. However that’s also no excuse to sit back and say “I’m doing fine.” It means that you may not be exactly where you should be, but you can work on that. In doing so, you can also remain positive and remember that no two people are doing or have done this ‘life’ thing the exact same way.

We’re all trying to figure it out.