When You Want To Give Up

I tell myself to suck it up. I tell myself it’s not that big of a deal. I tell myself to choose hope, to remember who God is. I reach over and rub my hand down the length of Arlow’s silky ear and I remind myself that giving up isn’t an option.

And then I just can’t do it. Because everything in me is SO heavy. And so I put my head in my hands and I give myself permission to just FEEL.

And I weep. And I tell God how badly I hurt. How I feel like I’ve ruined my life. How I’ve lost so, so much- jobs I love, a better income, my body, my family, a second family, the ability to have a future that is just Arlow and I…

And I cry because it HURTS. A baby that I don’t want is on the way. And I’m terrified of doing it alone. I’m terrified of finances and how Arlow’s life will change. I’m terrified of not loving the baby and I’m terrified that I’ll love it so much that letting a daycare raise it will break my heart. I am terrified I will fail the baby, that I will fail Arlow, and that I won’t ever again be effortlessly glad to be alive.

I cry because people love me, but also I’m doing my life alone. I cry because there’s no point in hanging stockings, and there’s no one who will be here to teach me how to be a mom, and there’s no dinner table that I belong at. I cry because I have friends, people I can call and text, people who will meet me for coffee or a movie or point me back to Jesus when I get lost on this journey, but there’s no one I’m doing life WITH. I cry because not having a family is excruciating.

And I used to have those things. I think back to when I was twenty and how much brighter my life and future looked. I knew sadness, but I also woke up each morning glad to have another day to live.

I remember what it was like to belong somewhere, to be held in hearts and arms, to know that if the worst happened, people would be there. No matter what. And maybe they’d be cranky and misunderstand me and maybe we’d fight and maybe I’d cry, but they’d show up, and they’d do so sacrificially, ready to help, because that’s what family does. I remember the comfort of knowing I had a safety net.

I never had to wonder if my birthday would go uncelebrated or if I’d spend an entire weekend alone. I could feel warmth and excitement during the holidays because it meant family and baking and taking pictures at Christmas tree farms and wrapping presents and signing them “From: Auntie Tamara” or “Your Sister.”

And I lost all of that.

And so I weep. Because it’s unfair and it hurts and HOW DO I KEEP CHOOSING TO LIVE THIS LIFE!?! And I weep because most of it is my own damn fault. It was the depression and the giving up and the chasing after things that my heart thought it needed to be okay because I tried to chase after God and that didn’t work.

I remember sitting on the floor in a hallway outside my doctor’s office. Nothing felt real. My body felt like lead and I knew I looked peculiar sitting there, but I didn’t care. Peculiar or not, it didn’t matter because I couldn’t have moved or blinked or spoken a coherent sentence even if I tried. I remember trying to think but my brain was filled with cotton. How was I going to get up off the floor? How was I going to get in my car and go home? How was I going to be in my empty house and survive the night? How was I going to do it all over again tomorrow? And so I sat. And my brain stopped formulating questions or the ability to look at my life as a linear, time-shaped thing. It was only the moment I was in, and even that didn’t feel real.

I remember long days where I spent most of my mental energy debating when and how and if I could/should hurt myself again. And it didn’t feel scary or wrong or bad because it felt like the only option. I was living this cotton-headed, lead-body, nothing-is-real existence and I couldn’t fathom continuing to do it indefinitely.

And so it was my fault, how I ruined my life, because the depression turned me into someone who alternated between doing whatever I could just to stay alive and doing whatever I could to die.

And I’m mad. I’m mad that my sickness, which is what depression is, has had such lasting and permanent consequences. I’m mad that I’ve fought so hard to live and now I have to live amidst the rubble of what has crumbled and broken and been destroyed during my effort to survive.

It doesn’t feel fair. But it is the reality of my life right now. And how did I get to this place??! How did I become this person?!?

And so I cry.

I weep long and hard into my hands and I pour my heart out to God in a way that feels like I am turning myself inside out.

And then, when I have no tears left, I sit my heart down and I parent it. I tell it to remember that ultimately I have two options- life or death. And with everything I do and think, I am choosing one or the other.

And death isn’t an option. Not because it isn’t an option for me, because I still haven’t gotten to a place where my life feels worth the fight, but it isn’t an option because of Arlow and the baby. Death isn’t an option. So, by default, I have to choose life.

And so I do. I go back to trust. I go back to leaving it all in His hands. I go back to choosing to see the future with hope.

And I don’t want to.

I want to tell God it’s not fair, that what’s the point of over and over and over again giving Him all this pain inside of me when it doesn’t ever go away?!

I want to yell about how hard it is to every day hold back this river of wrongness–all the loss and grief and disappointment and fear–to not look it in the eye, but to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, to have my arms straining against the weight of holding it back, while I scream my gratitude and praises at the sky. I’ve given it to Him, so I’m not carrying it anymore, but my hands are still on it in an effort to keep it away from me, to keep it from crashing down over top of me. And my arms are tired.

I want to tell Him I’m effing exhausted and will it ever get easier and if not what’s the freaking point??!

I want to scream at him about all that is wrong, all the vast, expansive, seemingly all-consuming ways my life is not worth living.

And I don’t understand. I am angry and none of this makes sense and HOW and WHY and WHEN?!

But I know what scripture says.

I know it says our lives are directly impacted by our thoughts, so to choose our thoughts well.

I know it says to remember who God is and how He loves us and how NOTHING is too hard for Him.

I know it says our mistakes are covered by His grace and that redemption is real, that nothing is ever “ruined” when we invite Him in and surrender to Him.

I know that, even if my life looks wrong in so many big ways, each day is filled with His presence and blessing. I know I have so much to be grateful for.

And I know He is working, that my life isn’t a stagnant, permanent fixture, but that is it a fluid thing, constantly being shaped by His will and His love.

And it doesn’t make the pain any less real, and it doesn’t make any of the loss or grief feel okay in even the tiniest measure,

but I have two options.

Life or death.

And so I have to choose. I can live from the place of “it’s not fair” and “I can’t do it,” or I can take it a day a time and trust God with everything unresolved inside of me.

And that is what I choose to do.

*

Side-note:

Guys, after talking to some of my friends who read my blog, I feel like I need to say this: I’m not sad 24/7.

My blog is not an accurate representation of how I feel moment-to-moment throughout my day because this is where I come when my emotions are big.

Yes, everything I said above is true- I hurt.

BUT that’s not the only thing that’s true.

In addition to my sorrow and struggle, there are also moments, hours, sometimes even whole days where it doesn’t feel so hard. And more than I sit around feeling sad or dreading my future, I rub my belly and pray over the life growing inside of me,
I thank God for Arlow, who I love so much that just thinking about him makes me cry,
I laugh and engage with coworkers,
I smile warmly at clients and ask them how they’re doing,
I make mental lists of things I want to do and even feel mildly excited about the thought of doing them,
And I pray for my friends and meet them for coffee and go home at night feeling loved.

It’s not all sorrow and sadness. My list of things to be grateful for is long.

I hurt, yes.

But God has not, and will not, let me down. And it’s from THAT place more than the sadness that I try to live.

Eyes to see.

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Trust

“In whom are you placing your trust?” I can feel Him asking me.

In whom am I placing my trust? In what I see, feel, fear, hear? In people? Circumstances? Probabilities and likelihoods?

And inside of me there is this most dangerous swirl:
“I belong nowhere.”
“I’m loved, but I’m alone.”
“My life doesn’t matter.”
“I’m not special to anyone.”

Lies, lies, lies, lies.

And this:
“I have to demand and beg for people to care about me.”
“I have to panic and fight until someone’s hand is in mine, some reassurance that I’m not going to be doing my life alone.”
“I have to plead and beg for someone to WANT me.”

Again: Lies, lies, lies.

But also this:
“I have no family. I’m no one’s wife. I have no parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles, or siblings. I don’t even have a family who has adopted me in as daughter, sister, aunt.”
“I have no emergency contact.”
“I have no one who I can just count on spending Thanksgiving or Christmas with.”
“I have no one to say goodnight or good morning to.”
“I have no way of knowing whether or not anyone will be there for me when I need them.”
“On average, most days, I am doing my life alone.”

Truth.

And how do you carry that, that balance between this very real pain that is NOT a lie, and the lies themselves? The lies that can, if I’m not vigilant, in a split second manifest themselves as truths, as reasons to give up and despair and quit?

How do you wield your sword and scream “no!” in the face of the falsities when your heart aches with a pain that has no solution?

And how do you handle that, the pain that is beyond your control? How do you grieve and feel sad without getting stuck in that place of
“my life is too hard”
“it’s not fair”
“I’m all alone.”?

How do you honor your heart and process your emotions without forgetting that THIS DAY IS A GIFT and you are so, so held within it?

You ask yourself where you’re putting your trust.

And live your life with eyes open to see what God IS doing, not just what it seems like He isn’t.

Because this:
– Yesterday two separate friends loaned me maternity clothes.
– Last night people who love me put their hands on my tummy and shoulder and head and prayed over my life and the life of this baby growing within me. And they called my life, and baby’s life, GOOD.
– Today I called someone to vent, and she let me. I said, “Can you give me three minutes to just be an immature baby and say things I’m not proud of, and then can you just forget I ever even said or thought these things?” And she did. And rather than thinking I’m an “immature baby,” she said she understood completely why I felt the way I do.
– Today I met up with a friend for coffee. And we cried and laughed and spoke all sorts of truths- the hard ones and the ones about Jesus being victorious over all.

Do I have anyone to come home to? No.
Do I know where I’m spending Thanksgiving? No.
But am I loved? Yes.

Alone and not alone.

Lies and truths and half-truths.

But this:
Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end— Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.” -Isaiah 43:1-4

And this:
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” -John 10:10

And this:
God sets the solitary in families…” -Psalm 68:6

And this:
“My child, pay attention to my words; listen closely to what I say. Don’t ever forget my words; keep them always in mind. They are the key to life for those who find them; they bring health to the whole body. Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.” -Proverbs 4:20-23

He won’t fail me.

Whatever Things Are True And Praiseworthy…

The forest floor is covered in leaves and the sun flickers behind the tops of the trees as I walk.

I’m cold and my fears are pressing at my mind and I can feel myself starting to get cranky.

But Arlow is happy.

He is running, tongue hanging out of his mouth, making sure not to stray too far from his mama.

“He’s such a happy dog!” someone tells me. And I take pride in that, in knowing I’m loving him well, that he’s happy.

Her husband throws a stick for Arlow and their own dogs and I watch them play fetch for twenty minutes.

The sun is shining and my boy is happy.

And all, in this moment, is well.

*

I feel gigantic.

None of my clothes fit and it’s hard for me to look in the mirror. Even my face is fat.

But I try to love myself anyway.

I love myself by eating Thai food tonight with my friend.

I love myself by not remembering the clothes that don’t fit me anymore.

I love myself by not wondering how people see me and what they think and whether or not I’ll ever feel good about myself again.

And I love myself by resting my hand on my belly after I eat, willing myself not to be repulsed by this body that I’ve been given.

I thank God for my health, for my life, for what He’s doing.

*

There was a time when my entire world revolved around the need to belong and be loved. My mental health, well-being, and outlook on life were entirely wrapped up in whether or not I felt hugged, secure, wanted.

And there are times still when sorrow grips me. The loss. The questions.

“Who will I spend the holidays with?”
“Who will be there for me in May?”
“What kind of person doesn’t have anyone to put down as an emergency contact?”

But I’m getting better at leaving those questions in God’s hands.

I don’t carry my sorrows around with me anymore, using them as proof that my life isn’t important, that I’m alone and unloved. Using them as reasons to self-destruct.

I don’t even let myself consider anymore whether I’m “alone” or “loved”. Rather, I take my sorrows hand-in-hand with these truths:

She text me a cute picture of her dog.
She invite me to her house and treated me to dinner.
He affectionately punched my arm.
She called, crying, when she needed someone to be there for her.
She text to ask how I was feeling and remind me that she’s praying for me.
He made a point of connecting with me after church.

It doesn’t look the way I wish it would, but I can trust God with that.

And even now, with things exactly as they are, I can acknowledge that I’m wildly blessed.

*

Phil. 4:6-9

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

 

Standing Firm

Two different people e-mailed me Psalm 27 today.

Psalm 27: “An Exuberant Declaration of Faith.”

I love that. It makes me want to plead with the whole world, “Lift your voice! Scream faith and hope and love and God’s goodness until everything else inside of you–every fear and sorrow and doubt staring you in the face–sits down and shuts up and remembers its place- NOTHING is bigger than our God.”

Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.

Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the Lord,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.

For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.

When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the Lord will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.

Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.

Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

*

I am staking my entire life right now on the words I find in scripture. I am demanding they be true. I am standing on promises the world would love for me to believe I’m taking too literally.

I am repenting for all the times I’ve agreed with the enemy about the character of God.

I am going through my life with my brain and heart guarded, protected. Everything I see and feel and hear and think I hold up to the light, I test it for traces of the voice of God. I refuse to meditate on fear or anger or doubt. I refuse to let my brain become a sifting place, a place that holds both faith and fear, a place where I weigh my fears for validity and examine my faith for holes. I refuse to let fear get that far. If it doesn’t sound like His voice, I refuse to hold it inside of me in any capacity.

I am staking my entire life on His being good, His being present, His having a plan.

“You’re taking this faith thing too far, you fool,” the enemy would love for me to believe. “Sometimes panic is the appropriate response. Sometimes the truth is that no, you are NOT going to be okay.”

I have spent years listening to that voice. I have spent years deciding I know best when hope is appropriate and when it’s foolish. But scripture says hope is ALWAYS appropriate. Faith is ALWAYS appropriate. And so I’m calling the enemy out, recognizing his voice, binding him from having influence in my life. I am standing firm, standing on my title as His child. I am a daughter of royalty. I am not a pawn of the enemy. I am not a victim of this life. I am treasured and adored and held.

I am staking my entire life on this. Everything, every single breath, I depend on Him for. I don’t think I’ve ever been more aware of that than I am right now, in this season.

*

And I thank Him. I thank Him when I wake up and depression doesn’t feel heavy on my shoulders, robbing me of life.

I thank Him that being out of work in this season means I can nap when I’m tired.

I thank Him when I can see glimmers of hope in areas of my life that once looked so decidedly hopeless.

I thank Him when the people in my life sound like Him, or love me in a way that reminds me of Him.

I thank Him when I feel excited for something. It has been so long since I’ve looked forward to my life.

And every single day I thank Him for Arlow. How often does He show up in my life-loving, me-loving pup? In his kind eyes and persistent joy and affinity for resting his head or paw on me?

*

Today Arlow sat at the front door and whined, looking at me with hope-filled eyes.

“I don’t waaaaant toooo,” I whined in response. I was in the same sweats I’d slept in. My hair was unbrushed. Absolutely no part of me wanted to leave the house.

But his eyes. The knowledge that I am his mama. I, alone, have the power and responsibility to give him a good life.

And, oh, the way he started bouncing around the house, tail wagging, when I relented and started putting my shoes on to go.

We stopped at Starbucks before making the fifty minute drive to our favorite dog park.

“He’s so beautiful!” the barista cooed, and then offered him a cup of whipped cream.

And I smiled while I watched him enjoy his treat and listened to the barista tell me how adorable my boy is. I would’ve missed out on that had we just stayed home.

And at the dog park, there were so many dogs there for him to play with. I was worried we’d be the only ones, which sometimes happens, but apparently all the PNWerners wanted to make sure not to waste this rare, sunny day.

And he ran and he played and we hiked. And the weather was perfect and the forest floor littered with the most beautiful colors of leaves, and the sun was coming through the trees in a way that made my heart smile.

And the longer we walked, the more alive I started to feel. The longer we walked, the more I found myself talking with my boy and smiling at him.

After a little over an hour, Arlow got tired and let me know he was ready to go. And as I drove away from the dog park I realized God used my boy today to help me reconnect with the simple joy of living.

He uses everything.

And this day? I’m still unemployed. I’m still battling some fiercely intense battles.

But I can see His hand all over it. The opportunity to rest, the strength to be productive (if only for a couple hours ;-)), and using Arlow to get me out of the house and under the big, blue sky.

These days, these looking for employment days, these waiting days, they are so much more to Him. My not being employed right now isn’t an oversight on His part. He has plans for me, to prosper and heal and guide and protect me, even while I wait.

 

Family

“For a lot of people, family is everything…” she says. And I gulp. Because it’s true. Family is everything, and where does that leave me?

*

“Black and white thinking…” she says.

“People expect you to trust in unconditional love, but you’ve never experienced that…” she says.

“You have an intense fear of abandonment…” she says. And then: “Boundaries are not synonymous with abandonment.”

*

I am in so much pain. Gulping, gasping pain.

Acceptance really is the antidote to suffering, though. It doesn’t eliminate the pain, but it lessens the suffering.

I can’t force myself to be anyone’s family.

I have to accept that.

*

“Do you think you romanticize family?” she asked.

No. I know families fight and feel misunderstood by each other and that they don’t always love each other well.

But in my moments being part of a family, the belonging somewhere, the being wanted, it’s like a hug. Even if things are uncomfortable otherwise.

Knowing you belong to someone, that your life isn’t just important to them in a detached, removed, peripheral sort of way, but that your life is intricately intertwined with theirs? It’s got a protective quality.

I am doing my life alone. Not unloved, but alone.

My life isn’t intertwined with any others.

I wake up in the morning alone and I go to bed at night alone.

Family is everything, and I don’t have that.

I want to scream that I can’t live this life, that it’s too hard. I want to beg for someone to love me like family. I want to scream about how it’s not fair and I’m not strong enough. I want to hurt myself for being unlovable and difficult to be in relationship with. I want to hurt myself for not being the kind of person people want.

But if I give in to those emotions, where does that leave me? Caught in this panicked spiral, unable to breathe, and dangerous to myself.

I have to accept it.

*

This life is too hard. It didn’t used to be. I used to love life. Back when I had a family. Back when I belonged somewhere. Back when there was someone to say goodnight to.

My family was dysfunctional and I don’t miss them in hindsight, but before I realized how unhealthy they were, I was so much happier. And now I’m alone.

They said they’d be my family.

But I’m alone.

And I have to accept it. Or else this will kill me.

The Things That Save Us

When I was younger, even as recently as my mom’s death, I believed I could get through anything as long as I had people who loved me.

I no longer believe that. At least not in the same way.

Because I’m realizing that, come nightfall, no matter how many people have loved me during the day, it’s just me. It’s me and my twisted up heart and my knotted up stomach and my spinning brain. And the “I love you’s” and hugs and all the holy, beautiful reassurances that I’m loved and not alone, they buoy me, but the pain is still there, giving me one of two options: endure it, ride the wave, trust the process… or fight against it, panic, suffer. And it’s my decision alone to make.

And so here I sit tonight, with loved ones a phone call away, and other loved ones sleeping in the next room. I am not alone. And yet.

So I do the only thing left to do: I turn my shame-filled eyes toward the One who can help. And I raise up a string of prayers- desperate, afraid, pleading. And in the same breath, the acknowledgement that I have no right. I have no right to turn to Him now, relying on my status as His child, when I haven’t been living like His child lately. How bold of me to go to the Creator of all things, who I’ve essentially rolled my eyes at and shushed for the last month, and ask Him for provision, protection, peace?

But that isn’t how our God operates. He doesn’t turn us away. He doesn’t make us beg and plead and suffer to earn back our right to call Him Abba. He is merciful and full of grace and ever-present.

And I can see the holy in all of this, the progression of my life. It’s good and it’s healthy to realize the love of humans has limits. It makes life worth living, but it cannot save you.

It’s good for me to not try to squeeze Jesus out of people, but to still live with eyes open to flickers of Him that occur naturally in them.

It’s good for me to know that at the end of the day, it’s Jesus. People can pray for me, but they can’t answer my prayers. They can’t be my solution. Only Jesus can do that.

And so I come to Him and I sit and I ask Him for things I have no business asking Him for. And He lets me talk. And then a shhh that I pay attention to, and He holds my head in His hands and His eyes aren’t filled with accusations or anger, but with love. And the shame? The fear that I don’t belong to Him anymore? It melts away.

Moments

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I’m grateful for the moments that don’t hurt.

Thank the good Lord for moments when you think, “Yes. THIS is how life is supposed to be. Hard? Sure. But not lonely. Not without hope.”

When you reach your hand out and someone grabs hold? Thank God for moments like that.

I locked myself in a bathroom stall, put my head in my hands, and proceeded to cry all my makeup off during church today.

About ten minutes after I left the privacy of the bathroom stall, Cendy came up to me to talk to me about helping with kids’ church, but she paused mid-sentence. “Are you okay?” she asked. Then, “How can I pray for you?”

And a little later, Laura caught a glimpse of me across the room and sent a text: “I see you. And I love you.”

Thank God for moments like that.

I went for a walk today, without Arlow. I walked a tree-lined trail to a rocky beach, where I sat, opened a book, watched some crabs scurry, listened to the waves lapping at my feet, and sipped a Diet Dr. Pepper. I breathed in the smell of the ocean and the warmth of the sun on my skin.

Thank God for moments like that.

Songs that resonate with you heart? (This one is killing me–in a good way–right now.) Mid-day naps on the couch? Long walks and good conversation with someone you love?

Thank God for moments like that.