Rest

I am writing from a hotel room outside of Boston MA.  Its 7am and I should be checking work emails from yesterday.  But while my body is up, my mind is not quite in the same place.  I am tired.  Not – I didn’t sleep well tired.  I mean the bone deep, soul weary kind of tired where the stresses of a long period of time start to weigh on you to the point of absolute exhaustion.

I am about due for a body breakdown.  I am not looking forward to that part – but the rest that it can give you – that I can get behind.   I don’t remember the last time I felt this run down without actually being sick.

So what is causing all of this?  Well, it is a series of things that have been going on lately.

Work has been stressful.  It is my own doing to some degree, and some of it is not.  It is my tendency to put a lot of self-worth into my work and when it is running off the rails, I take it very personally.  Also, I have been working more in order to correct some of the things that have been going on.  And traveling more for work to be a presence where the work is happening.

As mentioned, I have been traveling a lot.  Not far – mostly back and forth to NOVA.  But – and this will sound weird to some – J’s house is not my place yet.  It is not home.  As much as I love seeing him – it is not home yet at his condo.  My stuff is not there.  I am living out of a suitcase there.  I am out of my element in a way that feels overwhelming at times.  I am comfortable there  – but it is not home.

I am trying to work through some of my issues with food and behaviors.  I think more about things like why I am eating and how often and why I skipped breakfast.  I think about the things from my childhood that may have led to my inability to fix the food issue.  I also think about why I hate exercise so much.  Why I never was athletic.   And how I got myself into this place after 40 years of bad behaviors.  And I beat myself up quite a bit over all of the things I did to my body and continue to do too often.  Then I beat myself up over beating myself up.

In the midst of this, I am supposed to be thinking about wedding colors and guests lists and receptions.  Everyone wants to see me excited – and I am excited about marrying J.  I am just not as excited about the work right now.  There is so much to do, so little time and a finite amount of money to make it happen.

I just want to rest.

I need someone to hold me and make me slow down.  I need someone to make my mind stop running and my heart feel some relief.

I know that true peace comes from God.  But there are times when you need some earthly peace.  Some rest.

When Its All Your Fault

I am a perfectionist.

Ok, not one that most people would recognize as one.  My brand of perfectionism is that when I can’t do something perfect – at least perfect in the way I designed something to be – I don’t want to do it at all.  It is the reason that when I get a new notebook that I have deemed will be dedicated to writing something everyday and I miss a day – I rarely go back to the notebook.  I have not completed my task perfectly and so I can’t make myself go back and start again…it will not be perfect.

That is how it manifests itself in my personal life.

But at work – well that is a different story.  Perfectionism means I hold myself to an impossible standard.  I will work myself into a frenzy to be sure that I am not the cause of an issue.  I will put my own health and needs to the side and I will push and push myself beyond what I thought I would ever be able to do.  All so I can be seen as perfect – not be perfect – but be SEEN as perfect.  This pushing is almost always tied to how others see me…my boss, my clients, my team members.  I have to be better.  I have to be flawless.  I have to be perfect.

As you know, perfect does not really ever happen.  One man ever was perfect and he died on a cross for me.  Other than that, we are all flawed.  But still I persist in pushing myself so hard in order to try and achieve this impossible goal.

Mostly, I hate letting people down.  I hate the phone call when a client calls you or you have to call them and explain there is an issue.  I hate the disappointment I hear and feel when it becomes apparent I have missed something that I should have seen.  It often moves me to tears of frustration and humiliation that I was not perfect.  That someone had to see how imperfect I really am.

In my line of work, it can easily feel like we are trying to save the world.  The missions of the charities are so close to us and to our client contacts, that it is hard to have any perspective of how big of a deal the particular issue may be.  It all feels like life or death in the moment.  It all feels like the end of the world.  It all feels like my lack of perfection is going to cost the client in money or resources that are vital to their efforts.

I am in a season right now where mistakes – mine and others – are causing a great deal of heartache.  One came to light yesterday and I have been up all night beating myself up for making such a dumb mistake.  I know how it happened.  I can retrace my steps and I know how to stop it from happening again.  But I can’t seem to let go of the fact that I made the mistake to begin with.  It feels like a death has occurred.  Like I killed something that was good.

I know this all sounds so melodramatic.  I can hear the echos of “it’s just direct mail” or “snap out of it – you can’t hold yourself to that” from past mistakes.  And as right as I know that is, my Type A, driven perfectionist personality can not seem to let go.

I wish I could just let this go.  I am told “we will get through this.”  I just hope I can get out of my own way to do so.

 

 

A Season of Pain

I am in a season of pain.   A season of sifting and changing.  And that is not an easy process.  In the past, I have been through these periods and I know the other side brings real revival, but the process – the valley – is not fun.

The thing is this season on pain is very different than it has been in the past.  And a large part of that is my not trying to just get through it – I am putting the work in to try and resolve the issues this time.  I am living in the pain in an effort to finally understand and to finally do more than bury it.  I am ready to rid my life of it.

I am tired and I am weary.  And sometimes I find it hard to fall to the one whose arms are prepared to catch me.  God keeps waiting for me and when He sees that my stubborn self is not getting there…well, He does what He is best at.  He makes the first move.

Friday night I was at the hairdressers getting a hair cut.  It had been one of my worst work weeks in a long time.  I felt beaten.  My back and legs/knees were aching.  I had been up since 3:30 in the AM with the worst case of acid reflux I have ever had and I was tired and my throat hurt.  I had been to therapy that afternoon and I was still reflecting on the ways in which I don’t give myself enough credit at times and that change is a slow process.

When I came in that evening I had decided to cut my hair shorter and get highlights.  But as I came in, they told me it was about a 45 minute wait and I almost said, never mind.  But I didn’t – I went to Tropical Smoothie and got a drink to wait out the time.  When I went back in it was clear that this was not going to be enough time and I was in for a long wait.  A younger woman came in and added the names of her 2 kids to the list and did as I did – went to get smoothies.  When they came back, they were really cute.  They ended up called before me as I had arrived near a shift change and no one who would be able to commit to my hair for 2 hours was available.  Once finished they left.

A few moments later, the mom came back in and I thought – oh, she must have forgotten something.  I even looked over at the station where she had been waiting for her kids to see if I saw something.  But when she entered, she stopped and sat next to me.  And she said – this is going to sound really weird, but God told me to come in here and tell you that He loves you and you are beautiful.  She said He literally would not let her leave until she did this.  I hugged her and told her thank you for letting Him speak to you and she left for the night.

And then today when I got home from church, I was worried about carrying a bunch of things into the house and my knees were in a lot of pain and I was trying to not cry as I stood up.  And then out of nowhere, there was a man and a young boy.  And they had roses.  And he handed me on and a card “from the children of God.”  Inside the card said “Rejoice always.  Pray continually.  Because Jesus loves you so much.  Have a happy day.”

In the painful seasons of my life in the past, God has not felt as present as He does now.  And I am continually amazed at how I feel like this is validating the pain of the moment.  I am meant to be here.  I am meant to be going through these things.  I am in the right place and while the valley is a tough place to be, He is with me.  I just needed a reminder.

Whom Shall I Fear

I have felt stunted when it comes to writing here on the blog.  I have at least 10 posts started.  And yet each time I have talked myself out of finishing it.  I am not really sure why, but I can’t seem to get my thoughts together enough to finish one,  Tonight however, I feel like I have to write.  To get something out of my head in hopes of letting things go.

I believe I have mentioned before that I am working towards some huge life changes.   Changes that each day I have to remind myself that I signed up for this and that I am not only ready for but that I can DO IT.  That has been as much a challenge as the actual changes.  So if you are not aware, here is what I have coming in the next 13 months or so.

Change #1 – Weight Loss Surgery

After years of defending my position of NOT have surgery, I have come to the realization that I can’t go on the way I have been and surgery is the kick start I need to make the HUGE life changes necessary.  I am trapped in my body right now and I live in constant pain.  This is not a life I want to continue.

Change #2 – Cognitive, Behavioral, and Mental Health Changes

Part of losing the weight is understanding why I gained in the first place.  Therapy and life coaching is part of that.  It is bringing up a lot of things that I don’t choose to talk about and I certainly don’t like to think about.  The best thing I can say, is that God is bringing me around full circle and the issues I am working on in therapy have had a way of coming up in other places – reinforcing these ideas over and over.

Change #3 – Marriage (!!!) & Wedding Planning

So this Feb I got engaged and next May I will be saying “I Do” to a sweet man who loves me completely.  And I feel the same way about him.  This is a first for me and a lot of these months is not just planning a wedding, but also trying to get ready for the commitment and changes that come with the marriage.

Change #4 – Moving

Once I get married, I will be moving to Leesburg.  This is a change I am not really ready for.  Of all of the changes, it is the one I am most worried about.  It makes the most sense – my job is flexible and J already owns his condo.  But I have been so much better living in the country vs my time in the busyness of NOVA and I don’t really relish moving back up there.  I am not sure that anyone really understands that but I am a better person down here  – less angry, worried and stressed.  I am hoping that the fact that I will not need to commute to work will help keep me in a better place once I move.

That is a lot right?  A lot for one year at least.  These are just the big things – there are a ton of smaller things that I have for this year as well.  I feel like God has been prepping me for all of these changes.  Now I just need to trust that He has this in His hands…what is meant to happen will.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
    to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted
    above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
    I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Psalm 27

The Shirt

Today I am wearing a shirt that I have owned for over 20 years.  It is probably the last time I will wear it.  It has been stained to the point of embarrassment, it is pulled out of shape, the cuffs on the sleeves are literally disintegrating.  It is my favorite shirt to wear around the house.  But its time has come.

It’s amazing how something so inconsequential can make you so nostalgic.

When I bought this shirt, I worked at Potomac Mills Mall.  I bought it there – at the Disney Outlet when it first opened.  I was in college at the time working part-time to pay for gas and books.  My dad was still alive.  I didn’t know what I wanted to be or who I could be.  But I never thought I would succeed or fail…I just lived each day as it came.  Don’t get me wrong – I have always been a worrier.  But it was less then.

The shirt never really fit.  I was miles too big when I bought it and it hung awkwardly on me whenever I wore it.  But I really loved it.  I still do.  There is a comfort in something you have had for a long time.  It is like a connection to someone you used to be.  Or at least someone you thought you were.

I was recently listening to the soundtrack of a Broadway show called “Waitress” – based on the Keri Russell movie of the same name – and there is a song called “She Used to Be Mine”.  The song comes at a time when the lead character is pregnant by a man she is trying to get away from and she really didn’t want to be in this position.  And she talks about how she used to be someone different.  (With apologies to Sara Bareilles for printing your beautiful lyrics)

She’s imperfect but she tries
She is good but she lies
She is hard on herself
She is broken and won’t ask for help
She is messy but she’s kind
She is lonely most of the time
She is all of this mixed up
And baked in a beautiful pie
She is gone but she used to be mine

That is how I feel when I wear this shirt.  I was a different person then.  Not necessarily better, but not the me I am now.  I sometimes wish I could go back to being her but then I realize how much I have gained since then…

I am still imperfect and I am still trying but I know a loving God who takes me as I am.
I am still good and I still lie but I know a loving God who takes me as I am.
I am still hard on myself but I am no longer broken and I know how to ask for help because I know a loving God who takes me as I am
I am still messy and I am still kind thanks to knowing a loving God who takes me as I am
I am no longer lonely thanks to knowing a loving God who takes me as I am
The old me is gone but the new me rejoices in knowing a loving God who takes me as I am

20+ years ago, I didn’t know I would be writing this while being engaged to a loving and kind man.  I didn’t know my 3 closest friends.  I wasn’t singing at all as I had quit.  I had not found the job that would fit me best.  And I didn’t know the God that loves me so.  I didn’t know how much He would bring to my life and how many doors He would open and how many He would close.  I didn’t have an identity in Him yet…but He knew and was just waiting for me to figure it out.

(And if you are interested in hearing the song above – its amazing – here is a link from the show.)

 

You Are Here For A Reason

I have attended many women’s conferences and retreats in the last 15 years.  And at some point, almost every speaker makes reference to the idea that each person is there for a reason.  It is not random, it is God ordained that they were there to hear/experience/meet/etc at this particular event.  In the past, while I have appreciated the sentiment, I am not sure I really felt the kind of purpose that was intended by that statement.  Sometimes, it DID feel like chance.

And then my sister bought us tickets to the Dare To Be conference at Hylton Chapel for my birthday.  It was early December.  I had forwarded her the event on Facebook, and she said, “If you want to go, I will get tickets for your birthday.”  Ummm…yeah.  I would go just to see Natalie Grant alone, so this was a no-brainer kind of response.

Around this time, I had been contemplating my word for 2017.  If you don’t know about this practice, you can look back at some of my old posts (usually in Jan) or you can google One Little Word.  So anyway, I normally think on the word for a while and invariably a word will come to mind that I can’t seem to shake.  Its usually a back and forth between 2 or 3 options and I keep getting pulled to 1.  But this time, a word had come to me and I knew it was meant for me.  I couldn’t figure out why.  But there it was – SHINE.

Its a word I don’t really think about in terms of my life.  I don’t like to be the center of attention (unless I am on stage and even then it is uncomfortable) and I have spent a good part of my life trying to not be noticed.  So shine seemed a bit…off. But I felt really strongly about this word.  An so SHINE it is.

So my sister and I go to the conference and I had no idea what she was about to talk about.  Charlotte Gambill, a writer I am not familiar with, was the speaker and her ENTIRE sermon, the entire night, was about  – SHINING your light.   Daring to be the light and not hiding your light under a bushel.  Shining your light from the mountaintops.  Shining God’s love to others.

If I ever doubted Gods immense love of the details, last night was a like he had set a bright NEON sign saying – HELLO MICHELLE, I have been trying to get your attention.  Listen up!

So now my eyes are open and I am straining to keep them that way.  Its easy when you come down off the mountain into the real world to forget the high you were just on.  Its my job to make sure I see the opportunities God is laying out for me to shine my light.

 

 

Passing of Another Year

Each year I have written a short post looking back on the current year before it ends and a second post where I look at the next year and list out some things I want (or don’t want) to happen.  Not this year.  This year, I am writing a double post.  Largely because 2016 has been a most peculiar year and 2017 looks to be the same.  I am not sure if I am looking forward to 2017 yet but I am sure not ready to hang on to 2016.  And yet, as I make the list of things from this year – maybe it was not all bad…

Physically, 2016 has been marked by a general lack of wellness.  I was in pain each and every day.  Physical pain.  And while it took me too long, I am finally ready to make it stop.  They say start were you are.  I feel like I have been stuck at the start for a long time.  Ready but not committed.  Trying but only half way.  Seeing the needed steps but feeling helpless to actually do them.  Afraid to fail, so never starting fully.

That time is over.

I am letting go in order to feel better.  I feel like I don’t really have a choice.  I feel like every year I say I am going to be better.  I even have this very conversation where I talk about how I was going to do that last year but didn’t and now I am.  I can’t describe it, but something has changed.  A level of desperation has been reached and I literally can’t live like this any more.  So whatever it takes.  Things have to change.

Emotionally, I have been all over the map.  I had a few YES! moments and a few OMG! moments.  But mostly there has been a general sense of blahness.  That is not good.  There are things that need to be resolved and some of them I have no control over  But I want to work on the ones I can.

Work was good in 2016.  I feel like it was a breakthrough year for me.  I have a lot to live up to in 2017 and a lot of things I want to accomplish. And I have big shoes to fill with the my client.  I am really looking forward to it all.  (Remind me of this when I am bogged down in the mire)

Relationships in 2016 have been good..  Things with J are as good as ever, but I am always looking to make it better.  He and  I both have a lot of growing to do and we are committed to doing so together.  It will be a tough year in 2017 – change is never easy and some of the changes needed will be the toughest we have each faced, but together we can be stronger and better when we get ready to enter 2018.

My sister and her family moved back to Virginia and while I realize that not everyone was happy about it in their little family unit, it has been such a joy to have them back local.  And I know my mom has LOVED having the grandkids (and Heather and Jeff) so close again.  They are becoming such great little humans.  They are learning to be better each day (and that is such a testament to Heather and Jeff’s commitment to raising them correctly).

I feel like connections were made at church this year that helped it feel like home.  Whether it was hosting our first movie night (more of these in 2017 please), game night (so much fun), craft days (my personal favorite) or the summer Bible Study we did (Angie Smith’s Seamless) I have come to love my SS class as much as I possibly could.  We are all so different, but I feel like part of the group in a way that has been missing for some time.

I was able to reconnect with some old friends – Ranessa, Janna, Cari – and strengthen a few newer ones.  I didn’t get to talk to some people as much as I have in the past – Matthew, I still owe you a phone call – but I did get to have a very special meeting with 2 of my all time favorite people at the same time (we are so hard to corral these days).

I got crafty at the end of the year.  Too late it turns out to be useful, but it has re-sparked some interest in me. I am letting go however of the “should” attitude.  I plan on crafting as I want to  – not just doing what I used to do just because.  I want to create – not feel guilty about what I am not doing.

I found SnapChat this year – I am not sure that anyone is really impressed with this as I am so behind the eight ball, but it did something that nothing or no one has ever been able to make me do before – I took pictures of me.  It seems so small, but there is a reason that my Facebook profile pic is usually a bulldog.  I hate being in pics.  But having let go of my “I hate having my picture taking stance,” SnapChat has opened up a while new world.  In fact, my plan is to start printing some of those pictures and using them to decorate a small book.

And then there was the election.

Much has been written about the political impact of a new president.  Some are truly fearful as rights they had obtained may be in jeopardy under a new regime.  Some are hailing this as the start of getting things back to the way they “should be”.  Some are just watching and seeing how this all goes.  I fall in the latter category.

I am part of an traditionally protected class – I am white, middle class, and straight.  However, I am a woman and if the election season showed anything to women like me it is that we have not gained as much as we think we have.  There are still a great deal of men who see us as either a weaker sex that needs saving or a plaything for their own pleasure.  There are still men who do not see us as people.  We are not entitled to our own opinions, feelings, ideas or desires.  We are to be used as they see fit.  We are only defined by what they deem important.  We are second class citizens in their world.

Please understand, I don’t have nearly as much to lose as others I know.  I fully recognize that and I don’t wish that on anyone.  To feel like you are finally making progress and in one election season, to have the hatred and scorn of so many focused on you – and then to realize that the hatred won and you may lose all you gained.  I can’t imagine the sorrow and pain that causes.   Whether it be about your race, your religious background, your ethnic heritage, or your sexual orientation, no one should be subjected to the kind of rhetoric that incites people to hate.  And we have been given a triple dose this year.

I am watching this coming year with a skeptical side eye.  Its the first time I can remember feeling this way about a new year.  Hope is a little strong right now, but God is on my side.  I have nothing to fear.  I know who I am, because I know who He is.  My faith is stronger than ever and I can’t wait to see what God can do this year.  And I am open to how He may want to use me.