I’m back. Barely. The first few weeks of September have been… hazy. My mental health hasn’t been kind (Not that it’s ever kind), but it’s been even worse than normal thanks to a host of things, but namely a migraine med switch that lists depression as a dang side effect. That’s one way to send a depressed person spiraling down: give them a med that makes them more depressed! Sigh. I have been weaned off the med (PTL) and will deal with the migraines for now. Because i’d rather a migraine cause my head to hurt than depression cause me more hurt.
ANYWHO. This week’s word:
This one took me a couple minutes before I finally said screw it, hit the timer and just word vomited. You’re welcome!
support. What does it look like to support someone?
Show up. That’s it, y’all. Show up.
Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers.
Don’t feel like you have to fix everything.
Don’t act like nothing is wrong or everything is perfect if it’s not.
Sit. Listen. Talk. Pray. Hug. Cry if you need. Laugh if you want.
Support isn’t hard. Being a part of support groups like ACA (adult child anonymous/adult child of alcoholics) was one of my favorite communities– because it was real. And we supported each other. Not by fixing or trying to make it better. But by just being there.
I love that one of the definitions of support is to “hold up.” Because that’s what we need: we need to hold each other up, because sometimes, when we’re down for the count, we can’t hold ourselves up anymore.
In this season of crazy depression and stress and in-between, I’ve felt like my in-person support has been null and void. Not because of them at all- they’ve always been there. But because of me, and the fact that depression makes me distance myself and makes it hard to open up and talk about anything. It lies and says I’m a burden so I just shut myself off and fend for myself.
But when things got hazy the past couple weeks (aka when things got epically worse thanks to the migraine med with increased depression as a SIDE EFFECT), my support system showed up. They texted. They commented. They prayed. They shared. They listened.
When I finally got the courage to ignore the depression that said I was a burden and ask a friend to go to dinner with me (the first time I’d left the house for something fun with friends since my birthday– 2 months ago!) she (and another friend) immediately said yes. And it was good. And so needed for my tired, sad, and lonely soul.
My people, the ones that have felt distant lately because depression forces me to keep them at an arm’s reach. They held me up. And I’m so grateful.
I discovered this song (and this whole awesome album) this week and OMG WHERE HAS IT BEEN THIS WHOLE SEASON.
I can’t help but think of good ol’ Mr. Rogers with this being the word this week:
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood!
A beautiful day for a neighbor!
Would you be mine?
Oh, could you be mine?
I don’t think I got the whole gist of that song as a kid. It was sing-songy and sweet, but I don’t think I really understood the gravity of the words.
Oh, won’t you be my neighbor?
I have a hard time letting people be my neighbor.
I love being other peoples neighbor– taking care of people, helping people, loving people. But I don’t let others reciprocate it back to me.
I’m an introvert who most of the time prefers, needs alone time to be the best version of herself. Being with too many people for too long stretches me thinly.
I battle depression on the daily. It’s a lot easier to tell people I’m fine and things are going well, instead of telling them the whole truth and burdening them with my darkness. I had a friend ask me how I was this week and was actually honest (I’m on the struggle bus right now, y’all) and she was able to help me. Funny how that works.
I’m an enneagram 2 (The Helper) who looks to the needs of her neighbors on the regular but doesn’t trust her neighbors enough to let them take care of her needs when they arise. I don’t know how to figure out what I need when I focus on everyone’s needs around me, so mine go unmet.
(sidebar: I listened to a podcast today about 2s that blew my mind with knowledge, especially on this topic. If you are or know a 2 on the Enneagram, go listen here.)
I love being a neighbor to people. I just need to learn how to let others be a neighbor to me.
It started to storm in my neck of the woods shortly before the sun set on this long day.
I felt like I was suffocating stuck in this house, so I quietly moseyed outside at the first ring of thunder.
I sat down on what barely constitutes a front porch to watch. The thunder and lightning rolled on their own for a few minutes before the rain started.
The rain came in waves– small droplets against my feet to start, slowly increasing in size and strength as the thunder got louder.
No symphony could imitate the sound of the raindrops crescendoing, hitting the ground louder and faster with each drop.
Soon, we were caught in a downpour, with lightning lighting up the sky and thunder booming so loud you could almost feel the ground shake.
And I sat there and watched. On that little front step, I watched the sky turn dark and the rain became so thick it looked like fog. I listened to the thunder roll in. I “counted” the time between the lightning strike and the thunder, like my Papa taught me to when I was little.
I sat there and exhaled for what felt like the first time all day.
I didn’t think about the ache in my back and what the cause is.
I didn’t think about another favor my mom needed me to run for her.
I didn’t worry about the amount in my bank account.
I didn’t feel my usual pang of loneliness.
I just sat and enjoyed God’s handiwork.
I love storms. I love the dark, cool effect storms bring to a hot, humid day. I love the natural light and sound show lightning and thunder put on (even if thunder scared me as a kid).
I have every reason not to like storms.
They’re messy. They’re an interruption to the normal rhythm. I can’t really plan them or plan around them, they have a spontaneous mind of their own. Sometimes they’re scary or dangerous. They can ruin fun days or plans in an instant.
Those are all things I don’t particularly like about life… fear and spontaneity and lack of plans or change of plans. And yet, storms are still one of my favorite things, despite all of these qualities.
In a lot of ways, I think the things I hate about everyday life are why I love them.
I love the way rain feels on my skin, soaking the bottom of my sweats as the wind carries the rain onto the porch.
I love how they force me to push pause and sit still for awhile.
I love how they display the majesty and power of God, captivating me with wonder instead of fear.
They remind me to slow down. To breathe. To quit trying to do everything for once in my life and just be for awhile.
So I sit and watch. I let the heaviness and the lightness overwhelm me.
It doesn’t take long as I watch for me to start thinking of the metaphorical storms life’s been hitting me with this season.
The fatigue, sleep issues, and physical health problems that have been plaguing me since May… I’ve had some sort of body ache, stomach problem, or a migraine nearly every. single. day. for months.
The depression that has enveloped every part of my being since moving home… since my birthday, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve left the house for something other than running errands with my mom. I’ve spent almost every day in my pajamas, with Netflix and food as my crutch. I don’t color or Bible journal anymore, or much else that brings me joy. (Being on launch teams has kept me reading, which is a blessing). I don’t sing or worship. I don’t play games. I don’t hang out with anyone, or even try to. It’s not a good place to be.
Moving home– both living back in my boring little hometown and living with my mom– has been both blessing and curse. I’m grateful for a roof over my head, but I feel like either a punching bag or a live-in servant most days… it’s not fun. And living where you literally have zero friends anymore is freaking hard, especially when you’re depressed and won’t ask your friends to come here to visit lest you feel like a burden on them.
Job stuff… I won’t even go there. I’m slowly trying to build a portfolio of freelance writing work, which I’m excited about–writing is my favorite, after all. But I still can’t get over the fact that I was rejected or ignored by so many other opportunities, ones I would have excelled at. Ones that would have helped me stay in Nashville.
So I sat there… and let the heaviness of this season hit me as hard as the rain hit the pavement. And I cried.
I cried… because let’s face it, this season has been hard. So, so hard. And I’ll never understand why.
I sat there amidst the tears and looked out. The storm continued to pour at a steady pace now. I felt myself calm down… I just inhaled and exhaled, focusing on the storm in front of me instead of the storm in me.
I felt this deep sense of peace surround me as I continued to enjoy the storm, despite sadness lingering. I forced my hands to unclench, palms upward. I prayed through tears; I don’t remember the words. A lot of my prayers have been wordless or breath prayers these days; I can’t seem to find words to convey the sorrow of life’s storms right now. But nonetheless, I prayed. I breathed and prayed, palms up, eyes looking outward towards the storm.
The peaceful feeling overtook the tears. I just felt wrapped in this sense that He was right there in that moment. In the moment, I did something I rarely do these days… I sang. Before I could even think about it, How Great Thou Art and How Great is Our God started tumbling out, in my shaky off-key voice.
Because even in the midst of the messy, not-going-as-planned, absolutely terrifying storms of this season… He is still God. And He is with me.
He is still God. He is with me.
A short time later, the storm started to slowly die down. I decided to head back in, my back pain raging as I stand up. I may have come back inside to my own storm, but the peace from the storm outside is still here with me.
The storms inside my life may still be raging, but I cling to the thoughts from the storm outside: He is still God. He is with me.
And even during the darkest of storms, His goodness shines.
Maybe that’s why I love storms so much.
Thank you, God for the storms… for the beautiful, wonderful storms of the world, and the messy, unplanned ones in me.
Since there’s no youtube version of this one… here’s to hoping this works.
it’s been awhile since i linked up with my pals at five minute friday! I’ve missed this little writing family so much; Thursdays have been the busiest/longest day of the year teaching at my internship, so I never had a chance to jump in and write.
Now that summer is here and school programming is over (PRAISE JESUS), I no longer teach at night! All summer programming at my job is during the day (all. day. long. Jesus help) since it’s day-camp style, so my days end at 3. Which means I HAVE MY NIGHTS BACK! The night owl in me rejoices!!
The word for writing tonight is one that’s on my mind all day, every day lately:
In the words of Chandler Bing, could this be anymore relevant to my life!?
I like knowing what the future holds.
I like plans and the like, the whole schedule set out before me with no surprises. (I hate surprises.)
I spent a whole lot of my life thinking I had the future perfectly manicured to what I wanted it to be… and then not so much.
A man can plan and plan, but the Lord’s will ultimately prevails.
i’ve been reading James with She Reads Truth the last two weeks; one of the more well-known verses in James tells us about submitting to God.
Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (james 4:7-8)
The message version says it like this:
So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time.
I just love that. Let God work his will in you. Submit has always scared me (because #controlissues), but the idea of God working his will in me is eye opening, especially to someone trying to figure out her future and what she wants to do with her life.
I’ve been dealing a lot lately with getting my identity wrapped up in my career and my future plans after my internship ends in July. After quitting student teaching, changing my major, and realizing the one career i’d ever wanted was not in the plans for my future, I got tied up in this identity struggle of being just a teacher. Then I got into this internship where I’m, yet again, a teacher, and I got to wondering if being a teacher was the only thing I was to everyone. I was afraid teaching was the only thing I was good at. It’s the only thing I’ve really done, it’s the only thing I’ve been hired for, anyway, so maybe I should face facts and accept that this is the future I have (even though I really really don’t want it to be).
I know teaching is not what I want in my future, but for whatever reason it’s the only future i feel like I can have.
I want to be more than a teacher, dammit.
I let my job and my future job take hold of who I thought I was.
Slowly, ever so slowly, God is reminding me that who I am is not in the career I have now or next year.
Who I am is not my job or my calling.
I am not my job.
I am not my future.
Who I am is who He has made me to be.
I am a daughter of the God whose plan prevails, and who will work his will out in my life– if I lay my identities down and accept the identity He has given me.
I’m not just a teacher. I’m His. and my future is in his much more capable hands.
**I went over by like 5 minutes… it’s the first time I’ve done one of these in a year, people!
just wanted to add this little nugget from the she reads truth post from yesterday:
“Tomorrow could bring beauty; it could bring heartache. But as I’ve been reminded, even in my darkest moments, Christ holds me fast. Each moment is laced with His grace.”
No matter what the future holds, I am held by Him. And that is who I really am.
Throwback: Can’t say the phrase Who I am without singing this one… very loudly. So many memories wrapped up in this song. Ah, the 90s.
Anyone who knows me is probably surprised by this, because I am the messiest person in my house (or any house… or dorm room… or any room). I tend to hold off on cleaning until I absolutely have to. Like, until you can’t see the floor in my room messy.
So me choosing to clean doesn’t exactly happen. But all my roommates were out of town, I didn’t have a field trip or any pressing work to do, and I felt the need to be productive. So I went for it. Cleaned the kitchen Saturday night, and the living rooms Sunday.
It’s simple, ordinary work really. I had the time and a house to myself, free of distraction and of people coming and going. It was just me and my music and some out-loud talks with Jesus about all the things.
I scrubbed the stove,
I swept the floors,
I wiped windows and doors,
I washed dishes and organized pots.
All ordinary work, usual chores from the chore chart. But I think sometimes the Lord speaks most clearly through those little, ordinary acts of obedience. It’s through the ordinary that the extraordinary comes through, if we’re paying attention.
While cleaning the living room on Sunday, I was listening to a Holy Week playlist on Spotify (from Sacred Ordinary Days– so good). A thought popped into my head about Spring Cleaning– when we transition our homes from winter to spring, thoroughly deep cleaning our homes to prepare for the light of spring to come.
While spring cleaning wasn’t really my intention this weekend, it kind of ended up happening– I opened up the curtains and let the light in as I swept and scrubbed and cleaned from head-to-toe, letting the bright sunshine from the 80 degree day bathe the room in its light.
I was sweeping, singing along to the music playing from my speaker, when a voice popped in my head. I heard a quiet whisper:
this is what I’m doing in you, too. you are being cleaned and made new.
I couldn’t help but scratch my head a little… huh? What the heck? I’m being cleaned? From what?!?
Then a verse (a favorite of mine) popped into my head:
“But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. 19 For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”
“Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.”
(Isaiah 43:18-19, NLT and The Voice, respectively)
He is doing a new thing. But in order to do a new thing, I’ve learned, we have to take care of the old.
To do all that changing and making things new, we have to clean out the old ways, thoughts, and images I have in my head and move the new things He’s doing straight into my heart.
So I started thinking about all the things in my life… in my heart that need cleaning. And together, Jesus and I are beginning to change those things– a lot of the things, I learned, were things we’d been conversatin’ about the night before while cleaning the kitchen. (I’m glad I used that time to pray and be productive, Jesus!)
So we clean.
We scrub all the old thoughts, ideations, and excuses away;
We sweep the dust from the past out from under my feet– and into the trash, where I can’t keep looking for it;
We wash off the dirt and grime of overthinking and overanalyzing every word and action;
We shake off the feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and not being good enough;
We dust off the worries and fears of the future, the uncertainty of what’s next;
We have to usher out the old habits– the old ways I try to control my circumstances, the old places I go to for help and comfort (food, Netflix, isolation– the list goes on, people) and the old things I run to where I don’t want to run to His arms (people pleasing, striving, running away from my problems…again, Jesus has never been my first place to run to, y’all).
Notice this is all in present-tense. Because… I suck at all of these things. I am nowhere near complete at this process. Hell, I’ve barely started having more conversations about this stuff with Him– this is the stuff of me and my therapist (and maybe a few people in my inner-circle, but even that’s not so much these days).
But alas, He wants me to be a new thing. Just like everything with me, this is a work in progress. Barely even that– it’s merely the beginning of the cleaning process. I haven’t yet to figure out what or how he wants me to clean all these things (and actually do this thing called life), but at least I’ve heard him say that this is what He wants of me. And today, that’s enough to at least get the job started.
So I’m slowly beginning this cleaning process, albeit begrudgingly. Remember, cleaning is not my forte nor my favorite pastime (understatement of the century). Especially this kind of cleaning– the kind where I have to go deep into my own mess and the muck and try hard to get it cleaned. Because these messes? They aren’t surface-level. They’re deep and filled with muck and grime and cobwebs, where I’ve put them off in the corner to be forgotten or left them for dead. But like the spring cleaning of the house, this cleaning must be done, too. Because this is what the Lord has called me to do. Just like I had an urge to clean the house, he is nudging me towards this cleaning and remodeling of myself and my ways.
He wants me to be the best version of who He’s made me to be; in order to do that, I have to clean out who I was and who I’ve been, and start to let him make me new and clean and shiny again.
This isn’t just a one day kind of cleaning, I have a feeling (sigh). It’s going to be a process. It’s not an easy process. I hate hard things, y’all. And long things. Especially when they have to do with me and all my baggage and mess. There’s going to be a lot of sweat and work involved, I’m sure. Tears too, probably. But at the end of today, I got to rest and relax in a clean house, comfortable and content. I had done what I needed to do, and that
was enough. That’s what he wants in my life too– for me to rest and relax in who He’s made me to be. But to get there, I have to do this spring cleaning within me. Out with the old, in with the new– it’s not just a thing we say, it’s an action we take.
But he promises he’ll make things new if I do this cleaning thing. He’ll bring beauty from the mess, if I let him into the middle of it. He promises he’ll make a way for me to get through, even though this cleaning process is probably going to be long and dark and unsure. He promises a way. He IS the way.
It’s time to let Him do a new thing in me.
It’s time to open up the windows let the light flood in.
(was introduced to them via the Holy Week playlist linked above. I.love.them.)
“Why is it so easy to look for help everywhere but the feet of Jesus?”
I read that in my Lent devotional Thursday night and felt like I’d been punched in the gut.
I hate asking for help. I suck at it, if I’m being truthful. As I’ve written before, I’d rather be the helper than admit I’m the one needing help.
Asking for help means relinquishing control. Admitting that I need people or need something. It means having to surrender my power and plans and say that I can’t do it on my own.
I hate that. I want to have it all together and do it all by myself, for myself.
But I can’t. I just can’t.
My first line of defense definitely isn’t to ask Jesus for help. Hell, that’s usually my last desperate plea, begging for help when I finally get off my high horse and admit that I don’t have it all together. Clutching at my last shred of dignity in myself before I finally give up the ghost and surrender it all to the One that knows me and my life better than I do.
Truthfully, my first line of defense is to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything’s okay.
That’s usually coupled with my knee-jerk reaction to run like the wind from all life’s problems. (I talk about this more later in this post. The realization of this particular defense mechanism came about in therapy over the past few months, and is worth its own blog post in the near future).
But seeking out help? Not my strong suit.
During Lent, I’ve been studying the book of Isaiah, a book with a lot of my favorite pieces of scripture in it– but not a book I’ve studied in order or in its entirety. (It’s long! And there’s a lot of scary stuff in there I don’t want to read! All the more reason why I’m reading it!)
One thing I’ve realized about the book of Isaiah so far: it’s a tug of war between God and his people.
He wants so desperately to help his people. To be a God of mercy and justice that protects His people. He wants to be a God of love and not of wrath.
But they don’t get that. They keep living lives of destruction and lives away from their maker. They do everything in their power to run and survive on their own terms, by their own means.
And it’s destroying them. Literally.
I’m about 1/3 of the way through, the past few days getting into Isaiah 29-31. There were a few verses in these books that pricked me. Scripture isn’t all warm and fuzzy and comforting, I’ve learned. I usually look to scripture for comfort and support, but it’s not always that– it can be harsh and reality-shaking. Sometimes it pulls the wool off your eyes and makes you see right into the heart of your sin. That’s how I felt reading these verses– a shiver went down my spine when I realized the weight of who I was in the story.
Woe to those who go to great lengths to hide their plans from the Lord. They do their works in the dark, and say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You have turned things around, as if the potter were the same as the clay. How can what is made say about its maker, “He didn’t make me”? How can what is formed say about the one who formed it, “He doesn’t understand what he’s doing”? (Isaiah 29:15-16, CSB)
The Lord said, “How terrible it will be for these stubborn children. They make plans, but they don’t ask me to help them. They make agreements with other nations, without asking my Spirit. They are adding more and more sins to themselves. 2 They go down to Egypt for help without asking me about it first. They hope they will be saved by the king of Egypt; they want Egypt to protect them. 3 But hiding in Egypt will bring you only shame; Egypt’s protection will only disappoint you. (Isaiah 30:1-3, NCV)
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses! They trust in the abundance of chariots and in the large number of horsemen. They do not look to the Holy One of Israel and they do not seek the Lord. 2 But he also is wise and brings disaster. He does not go back on what he says; he will rise up against the house of the wicked and against the allies of evildoers. (Isaiah 31:1-2, CSB)
I love the Message version of that last verse:
Doom to those who go off to Egypt thinking that horses can help them, Impressed by military mathematics, awed by sheer numbers of chariots and riders— And to The Holy of Israel, not even a glance, not so much as a prayer to God. Still, he must be reckoned with, a most wise God who knows what he’s doing. He can call down catastrophe. He’s a God who does what he says.
How many times in my life have I said something to the effect of,
-I’ll do it myself!
-I can figure this out on my own.
-I don’t need anyone else’s opinion or advice.
– It’s my life, I’ll do what I want.
-I know what’s best for my life. It’s my life, after all.
-God doesn’t care about little me, so I’ll just do this without him.
-I know this is what I should do, so I’m just going to get it done on my own.
And fill in the blank of many more similar statements that I’ve said over the course of my life… I’ve always been an I’ll-do-it-myself-or-not-at-all type of person. I like being the fixer, the one that makes everything all better.
But I’m not. I’m not the one that can fix everything and make it right or better. I can’t do this life thing on my own.
I’ve put all my confidence in who I am and what I’m capable of…which I’ve come to find out is not much. At least, not much without Him.
“Pay attention to what I say,
you overconfident daughters.” (Isaiah 32:9 CSB)
That’s me. The overconfident daughter, always trying to strive and do all the things without help to prove that she’s enough on her own. The one that thinks she’s in control and does everything in her power to maintain that control.
I can’t plan my life or get through it without the One that made it. I’ve tried making plans down to the detail and watched it all blow up in my face (hello, student teaching! hello, panic attacks and anxiety disorder!). It’s no fun, y’all.
Yet I keep doing it.
I keep planning and ignoring God’s plans, thinking I know better.
I keep trying to carry the weight and the burden on my own.
I keep refusing help and guidance when it’s what i really need right now.
I keep thinking I know best, I can do it all, I can balance all the plates and all the things without God or anyone else…
and that’s sin. Right in front of my face. It’s the first time I’ve called it that, but it IS.
The sin of pride. Of thinking I know better than God what my life should look like. He made it, yet I know how to live it better? To claim that he doesn’t know what he’s doing?That’s 100% pride.
Relying on myself and my own limited capabilities is denying the power and strength of God in me. It’s denying that God’s grace is what makes me sufficient, not me or my own strength.
Trying to be self-sufficient and “do it all” is not self-sufficient at all. It’s selfish. It’s me trying to put my hope and trust in myself and my lacking human abilities instead of believing and trusting in the God of abundance.
Putting my hope and trust in myself and the temporal things this earth offers, instead of seeking Him and His help, does nothing but lead me down a path of exhaustion and struggle.
The people of Judah did the same thing. They were in trouble, in fear of Assyrian soldiers on their border, and kept turning to their own devices for saving. They tried to save themselves, and look for someone else to lead them into safety instead of the one that made them. So they ran from God, and into the arms of another.
The people that they found to lead them into safety? Egypt. The very people that enslaved them.
They sought out an alliance with the people that had hurt them in the past. They chose to turn back to what they knew instead of walking into the unknown… even though what they knew was nothing but bad news.
A quote from my devotional reads: “Yet in crisis they turned to what they could see and remember, rather than seeking God’s merciful path forward.”
So, when Judah discovered the Assyrian army on the border, they ran. But they didn’t run to the safety of their God… no, they ran to what they knew. They ran thinking of how they could fix the problem, leaning on their own devices and their own abilities. In crisis, they reverted back to what they could see (instead of trusting the unseen, they depending on pagan gods and the like), and what they could remember (they were enslaved by Egypt, sure, but hey, at least they were alive! and they knew what to expect! *eye roll*) They thought that they could handle it on their own… which clearly, if you’re running to the people who held you as slaves, is very untrue. 😉
Despite this, God still wanted to be their help. He longed for Judah to turn back to Him and let Him help them. He still wanted to be the place they went for safety. As my devotional reads, “but their faithful God longed for them to turn upward toward His mercy, and forward on the path He made for them.”
Upwards toward His mercy. He wants us to focus on Him. Fix our eyes on Him, the author and perfector of our faith, as it’s written in Hebrews 12:2.
Forward on the path He made them. He wants them to not run back to the failures and mistakes of the past, just for comfort or security. That’s what He’s for. But he does want Judah (and us) to keep moving forward. He’s got the path set out. He’s got it planned. (and He doesn’t need our help planning it, or us trying to plan it ourselves). He calls us to move both upward towards him, and forward on the journey he’s got us on. We can’t stay put. (ugh).
I’m quite like the people of Judah, I’ve learned. In fact, I wrote in my Bible study book as I read this story, “man, I’m like Judah.” Gut check!
When I get overwhelmed or I realize I’m not in control of a situation… I run. I hide. I get out of there before things get worse or I get hurt or rejected.I surround myself with what’s familiar and what I like instead of getting out of my comfort zone to do something new. I rely on old habits and security blankets to find solace instead of seeking God for comfort and peace. I don’t like when things get too hard or uncomfortable for me to do on my own… so when they get to that point, it’s easier for me to just give up and move on.
When in crisis, I run for the hills. I run to find comfort in things (food, Netflix, books, internet, sleep, social media, the list goes on) and what I know (striving, fixing, working to be enough, people pleasing, ignoring problems, burying my feelings, hiding, isolating).
I really AM like the people of Judah. I don’t look upward or forward for help. I look at me, and try to fix myself.
Why is it so easy to look backwards but not forwards? WHY is it so easy to fall back on the past and the old way of life when the one Jesus has for us is so much better?
Why is it so easy to look for help, comfort, solace, EVERYWHERE but the feet of Jesus– our true Comforter, our Prince of Peace? Why can’t I depend on him? Why can’t I need him?
For me: I like the old way of doing things. I like my comfort. I like my easy way, where no one gets hurt and everything’s safe and cozy. It’s safe. It’s secure. It’s predictable and I know what to expect. It’s not going anywhere. Sure, it’s not making me better or changing me… but at least I’m not going to get hurt or rejected or fill-the-fear-in-the-blank by staying put where I am.
but that’s not the way of Jesus. Jesus calls us to focus forward and upward– towards His plans and path made for us, and to Him for comfort instead of slipping backward into familiar territory.
Going forward into the future where things are unknown? Flipping terrifying. But that’s why He is our help. Our only solid, never-changing, constant help in trouble. That’s who he is. That’s who he wants to be for us. For me.
He wants to be my help. He wants me to WANT His help. He wants me to believe that I need him and his help.
Therefore, the Lord us waiting to show you mercy, and is rising up to show you compassion, the Lord is a just God. All who wait patiently for Him are happy. (Isaiah 30:18 CSB).
He is waiting on us. Waiting on me.
He is waiting to show us mercy. He’s waiting to be our help, to love us back to life.
But we have to accept his help. We have to run from our self-sufficient selves and deny that we can do this on our own to get that mercy and compassion. We have to quit running from Him and run toward Him and His promises.
I have to lean on Him for help and strength in every situation, and quit depending on myself to get it all done (when that’s not what he wants of me in the first place).
“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence.” (Isaiah 30:15 CSB)
It doesn’t say you’ll be delivered by helping yourself or planning your life on your own.
It doesn’t say you’ll be delivered by handling your problems on your own.
It doesn’t say your strength lies in striving and being enough on your own.
It doesn’t say that you’ll be delivered by running and hiding.
It says that by returning (instead of running) and resting (instead of doing it all yourself), He will deliver us. He will lead us down the path He’s planned out for us. And our strength will be in our confidence in who He is and His promises for me, instead of it being in who I am.
By being willing to accept His help, He will help me. He will guide me and bring me comfort when life looks differently than I expect. There’s nowhere I’ll go without his presence. There’s nothing I can do to be separated from His love for me.
He is in control. He is sufficient for all of life’s worries and fears. He will help me, comfort me, and be my safety.
Admitting my need is so hard. I HATE being needy. I HATE relinquishing control and surrendering to the fact that I need help. But there’s no way for me to do this life the right way without relying on God– without admitting that I NEED him every hour of the day, I need help with every aspect of my life. It’s hard.
But when I admit that? I quit running to those old habits and familiar thoughts. I quit running away and giving up because I know it’s not my strength or sufficiency doing the work. And I realize that I can do all the things I’m supposed to do, no matter how unknown or scary or different they may be– not on my own strength, but through strength the Lord has given me.
Help is a tricky thing. Relying on someone or something else isn’t always guaranteed. But relying on God to help me means I can unload the burdens life on my own has given me. I can let him shoulder the failures and rejections and fears and stresses, and He will be sufficient and strong enough to hold them all.
Because I am not strong, y’all. I am frail and weary and all kinds of needy without Jesus.
But with his help, I can be who He made me to be, and follow the path He’s called me to be on. By needing Him, I no longer have to rely on myself to do and be it all.
In my Bible study book, I wrote this prayer as I was reading Isaiah 30: Lord, help me to WANT to NEED You.
I want to need You, Jesus. I want to need Your help. I know I need it, but I want to need it instead of not wanting to accept help like my usual striving self. I want to rely on You and your help instead of trying to help myself. Because I’ve learned, helping myself does nothing but send me to places and things that won’t sustain me like You do. I can’t plan my own life. I can’t depend on the things of this world to comfort me or help me. But I can depend on you, the author and perfector of my faith. I can lean on you, and you will deliver me into rest. You will provide comfort and a hand to walk me down the path you’ve made for me. I want to need you, Jesus. Help me ask for help. Help me to want to need you every hour instead of thinking I can do all of this on my own. Lead me to seek help at your feet instead of the places I run to– the things that bring me only temporary comfort. Help me to seek you first before I run and hide from the problems life gives me. Because I can’t do this on my own. Amen.
This song has been on repeat as of late…
I lift my hands to Heaven Here my heart surrendered I tell my soul again You are Lord of all And though the seas are raging You will speak and tame them In You I find my rest You are in control
“That was awful. Why did you think it’d be anything but?”
“Oh, that was definitely directed right at you.”
“Everything is going to get messed up.”
“You messed up, so you suck.”
That comment was totally about you.
“You are the worst.”
“This is all going to go wrong.”
“No one’s listening.”
“You are just in the way.”
“Something is wrong with you.”
“You aren’t wanted.”
“Maybe the world would be better off…”
“You can’t do it.”
“No one cares.”
“You’re a screwup.”
“Life isn’t worth it.”
These are just some of the voices that I hear on a daily basis, fighting for me to embrace and accept what they say as truth. Day in, day out, every action is accompanied by some rogue thought that is planted in my brain by the likes of mental illness. And these are just some of them. They just begin to paint the picture of what it’s like to live with these struggles, one telling you that everything is wrong and the other saying nothing is worth it.
Depression and anxiety are the backseat drivers of my life, taking over my every thought and move with an annoying comment or an “are we there yet? (but worse)” every five minutes. They nag and they pull at every fiber of my being until I begin to emotionally, mentally, physically unravel. And then I just collapse under the weight of it all hitting me at once.
Some weeks these voices take over my thinking, like a tape recorder constantly playing in the background of my days, trying to scream at me with things that my brain wants me to think about myself.
Some weeks they scream loudly after every mistake or every conversation, overpowering any kind word or thought about myself.
It’s been one of those kind of weeks.
It’s been a rough mental week, which means I’ve been dealing a lot with the extra loud screaming voices in my head- the ones from anxiety telling me to overthink everything and be hyper sensitive, to the depression ones telling me that I’m not good enough or that no one cares. I deal with these external voices day in and day out, but sometimes they’re louder than I need them to be.
I’ve been studying the book of John over the past few weeks with She Reads Truth. John is my favorite gospel and one of my favorite books of the Bible. I’m a little behind (what’s new?) so I got to Day 12 this week– the story of The Good Shepherd (John 10). It’s a story we’ve heard time and time again, but this week, I felt like I read it with fresh eyes– or through the eyes of my mental illness. What I took away from it this time around was different than what I’d taken from it before.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:9-18, ESV, emphasis mine)
I was reading quietly, nodding along… until I got to this:
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
A thought popped in my head that I wrote in my SRT study book: There are a lot of “hired men” represented in my life.
A lot of voices, thoughts, what have you that set up camp in my head and heart long enough for me to believe them. But then these voices and thoughts run off and hide when met with truth– proof that they are not the voice I’m supposed to be listening for.
Anxiety doesn’t care about me. It flings me to the wolves when the going gets tough and overwhelms me with fear and worry.
Depression doesn’t care about me. It makes me hyper sensitive to the world around me, makes me numb to whatever feelings I need to feel, and forces me to think I’m not worth caring for. It forces me in front of the wolves, fleeing behind me to avoid what’s next.
There are other voices too– voices from people that tell me I’m not enough, or people that tell me I’m this or not that. I’ve had people tell me who I am and what to do and not to do my whole life, sometimes I don’t think I have a voice for myself at all. I’ve listened to a lot of voices– from people, media, etc. There are a lot of voices vying for head space, vying for attention.
There are a lot of voices I’ve listened to before I listen to the voice of the Shepherd. These other voices take up precious headspace from the one true voice I should be listening to.
The voices of anxiety trying to make me worry about every little thing (instead of trusting that the Shepherd will care for me and won’t let me be snatched from his hand).
The voices of depression tell me that numbing myself to feeling makes everything better (instead of going to the Father for comfort, knowing that He was human and understands feelings). Depression tells me that I’m not worth anything and I should give up (where the voice of the Shepherd tells me that I am a daughter and because of that I am worth it all– and that in Him I can do everything).
The voices of others tell me I have to look like this or act like that, that I can’t do this or be that, where God tells me that I have a purpose and he will be faithful in making that purpose come alive– no matter what it is or if I’m qualified for it. (He prefers unqualified people from the likes of the Bible, so I’m good there!).
All these other voices makes it hard to hear the true voice. The voice that promises to guide me day in and day out. The voice of the one who made me and knows me well.
Even when I don’t know the road ahead of me, I can breathe knowing that there’s a Shepherd calling me by name, a Shepherd that knows me and won’t let me be snatched out of his hand.
Something tells me that His voice is worth listening to over the voices in my head. Even when they scream louder than His calm whisper. Even when the thoughts are overwhelming to the point where I can’t hear any voice, let alone the voice of the Shepherd.
His voice is the only one that can guide me where I’m meant to go.
His voice is the only one that can bring me comfort when I don’t know where to turn.
His voice is the one that stills the waters when they’re raging around me and I feel like I’m going to drown.
His voice is the voice that leads me to full life. Abundant life. Those other voices, like the hired hands of the fields, can’t offer that.
It’s time to stop giving in to the voices that scream at me versus the one that brings me life.
I need to learn how to live against the voices and follow the one voice that guides me out of my past and into the future, no matter if I can’t see it. Because choosing to be against the voices that lie and steal and destroy leads me to the voice that gives me comfort and beauty and a full life. And that is the voice that I need to be following, not those others– no matter how loud or convincing they may be.
I am found (he saw me at my worst and still wanted me).
I am chosen (he calls me out by name to be his).
I am beloved (loved enough to have Him die for me).
I am wanted (he wants a relationship with me– he is the lover of my soul).
I am helped (because he gives me strength to do all the things).
I am cared for(because he gives me rest).
I am healed (by his wounds).
I am free (bought with the blood).
I am a daughter (because He is my heavenly father).
I have a hope and a future (because he declares that he has a good plan for me)
I am held (by a Father who won’t let me be snatched from his hand).
I am enough (because of Jesus in me).
I am forgiven (grace sets me free from all I have done and will do).
I have nothing to fear (He has me in the palm of his hand).
These are the truths I should be clinging to (and many more). These are the words from the voice that loves, the voice that guides me into everlasting and full life. These words come from someone that isn’t going to up and run when the world gets tough– no, these are words from a Shepherd who is my Father, my comforter, and my friend. And His word promises me that His voice will bring me wherever He leads me… that His voice will comfort me with truth and love, not with fear or doubt.
His voice is the only one worth listening to.
And His voice is the only one I was truly meant to follow.
It’s time to fight back against the voices that tell me otherwise.
I tearfully said this to my counselor this past week. Towards the end of our session, it came out pretty much like word vomit– completely off the cuff, part of the inner dialogue of my brain that just came spilling out in a vulnerable moment as she was wrapping up our conversation.
This conversation stemmed from an ongoing internal dialogue I’ve been having since… I don’t know, the beginning of time? But really, it’s been a recurring theme in my life, a wound that I finally acknowledged out loud recently:
I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling invisible. like an outsider, different from everyone around me.
I’ve always felt like the odd one out. Overlooked or uninvited. Invisible. Unimportant.
I was always the kid without a partner in school projects, hoping the teachers would choose for us so I didn’t have to go through the agony of being left out; I was always one of the last ones chosen for whatever team sport being played in gym, usually opting to miss out and watch from the sidelines.
I live with a fear of being forgotten and missing out, or of being dropped as a friend for someone or something better. (It’s happened more than once in my life).
I’ve always felt alone in a crowded room. Alienated. Ignored.
Invisible is probably the best word to describe it: I’m there, hearing and seeing everything, but no one sees me. No one understands me (or tries to).
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve felt like I was in my own world separate from everyone around me.
I’ve always felt like an outsider in my family. My personality is vastly different from most of my family members; my opinions are different (and have been since I was a little girl, but I didn’t speak on them until I was older); my interests and hobbies have always been polar opposite of what my family enjoys (I never have and never will consider watching football or any sport fun). I’ve always been different. And it’s always left me feeling like something was wrong with me because I was so different, because no one was quite like me (or expressed an interest in anything like me).
There’s nothing wrong with it, I’ve realized; it’s just how it’s always been with my family. But that doesn’t make it any easier feeling like an outsider with your own flesh and blood. When you don’t have anything in common with the people you spend most of your life with, and no one acknowledges your differences… it makes you question yourself. So I did, for a long, long time. (And I still do sometimes).
(Trust me, sitting at the Thanksgiving table eating your Thanksgiving dinner alone while the rest of the family watches football will make you question your invisible-ness even more than normal. /sigh)
This has been a theme of my life in other places, too.
I’ve always felt like the outsider in my friendships… the one that could very easily be left off the invite list, or could easily be forgotten about at the party.
I’m the one that loves and loves hard… and it feels like I don’t get loved back. At least in the ways I need to be.
I’m always the one checking on people, writing notes or sending encouraging texts. I’m always the one listening intently. I care about others’ feelings and stories and passions and quirks. I make sure to remember certain things about people. And yet that’s never reciprocated. It’s appreciated, and I love that I encourage and love people this way– but it never feels good when I’m the one needing the encouragement and support and don’t get it. No one ever does what I do for them in return (not that that’s why I do it, but it would make a girl feel loved every now and again).
I feel invisible when I try to hold conversation and share my stories and thoughts often. I’m always overshadowed. I’m interrupted and talked over constantly, making me think what I say doesn’t matter (which has been another ongoing theme in my life since childhood, so yay). I’ve not been paid attention to or taken seriously… sometimes to the point where I’m thinking, do people actually SEE me?!” (I sometimes choose to be obnoxiously loud so that I actually know people hear me, because sometimes it feels like I’m not even there. Oops).
It’s happened more than once just this week. It sure doesn’t make you feel good.
I’ve had this issue with friend groups… former roommates/suitemates… you name it, I’ve probably felt like the outsider looking in at one point or another.
Sometimes I feel invisible in my own home,
my (now former) schools,
It’s hard to speak up and actually make your presence known when you’re afraid no one’s going to listen or care. So I just sit in the back, or away from people, hiding and daydreaming.
I was the girl who got rejected by her ex-best friend when she found someone better (and then got dragged through the mud as a result, oh middle school drama).
For the longest time, I was the only friend in my friend group that came from a blended/broken/divorced home.
I was the kid that was bullied (for what reason, I don’t remember truthfully) in middle school and felt alienated and alone because of it.
I was the ‘different’ one in my friend group in high school (the choir kid in a group of drama kids).
I was the Jesus-obsessed holier-than-thou roommate my freshman year of college (which I now realize was the worst kind of me to be– sorry, suitemates). Then I had the roommate that was my friend (or thought was my friend) but rejected me shortly after we started living together. Then I lived by myself, because it was easier than being rejected by another roommate.
I was the one friend that graduated a year later than the rest, starting my ‘adulthood’ journey later than everyone in our friend group.
These days, I spend a lot of time alone, the odd one out in my house of 5 where everyone else has kind of buddied up (on accident, but still). I’ve had the same best friend for nearly a decade, but I barely see or hear from her unless I initiate it these days. I get it, life gets busy and things change… but it doesn’t hurt any less.
I text friends back often and usually immediately. My texts could go response-less and ignored for days.
I hate always being the one to initiate things. I hate being the one that cares so much. I want someone to care enough to text me, to invite me to do things. It just doesn’t happen.
I really just hate feeling alone.
These things truthfully are not about me and shouldn’t get to me in this way, but they just open and re-open wounds: I don’t belong. I’m not cared about. I’m not wanted. I’m too different. I’m not worth the effort or the time. So while these things look small, they have a huge impact on someone who has lived in this mindset her whole life.
I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling invisible, the outsider looking in. Anna Kendrick wrote in her memoir that “I’ve been prepared to be an outsider most of my life.” It couldn’t be more true for me. I’ve always been more anxious, more sensitive, more… just different I guess.
I don’t want to be invisible. I don’t like being an outsider, or feeling alone when surrounded by people.
paradox: a situation, person, or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.
I’m pretty sure people with mental illness could be a study in paradoxes.
One day last year I was chatting with my mom while running errands, and she asked me if the coming weekend was daylights savings. When I responded yes, she exclaimed, “oh! we get an extra hour of sleep, Jordie.”
“But it gets dark at 5pm!” I said, exasperation and pure sadness tinging my voice.
“True. That’s the worst thing about it, I guess.” my mom says, and continues on.
Yeah, that’s not the worst thing about it for me.
Today I was on my way home for Thanksgiving break. I looked out the window to see that it had slowly become pitch black on the 40 minute ride. It wasn’t even 5 o’clock yet.
I sighed, staring out the window into the darkness.
The darkness. This is why I hate daylights savings time.
My anxiety and depression overwhelm me when the sudden darkness and the long nights of the wintertime start.
I hate it. Hate. it. When it gets dark at 4,5 o’clock I feel like my day is over in the afternoon. It makes me feel like everything is enveloped in darkness and it’s going to last forever and I get sad and despairing for the night to be over. I get shaky and clammy and fearful when the world gets dark and quiet.
And yet, I can’t sleep when it’s dark. My body freaks out as soon as my head hits the pillow in the pitch blackness, and I toss and turn fitfully until light breaks through the next morning. It’s like I suddenly wake up and decide that it’s time to do all the things I apparently didn’t do during the day.
The dark is when I get most of my work done. It’s when I read, when I write, when I have quiet time.
It’s like I simultaneously shut down and wake up when the sun sets. My depression shuts me down when the sun goes down, yet because of my anxiety, I’m afraid to go to sleep. So I stay awake, hoping the dark fades soon enough.
How does this even make sense? Short answer: it doesn’t. But it’s how my brain works these days. I hate the darkness, yet it’s the only time and space I fully function.
I’ve been a night owl since college– all the late nights of paper writing, studying, and hangouts with friends caught up with me and have forced a nightly rhythm that I didn’t have before. I’d stay up till 11,12, 1am when my high school schedule typically put me to bed before 9. Totally out of my norm, but I slowly started loving those late nights of typing or late night chats that gave way to either late or coffee-filled mornings.
But it wasn’t just those school or friend things that kept me awake late. It was those things at first, but those didn’t stay the reason I went to sleep late.
I started staying up late- really late- when the panic attacks started.
I was scared. So, so scared. I was afraid if I’d sleep I’d not wake up the next morning. I was afraid I’d die in my sleep of some unknown sickness, so my solution was to not sleep. Sleeping meant I was dying. I’d cry and fight sleep with all my might. So I’d stay up till 3, 4, even 5 am– I’d be attempting to sleep as my mom was getting ready to leave for work. Attempting being the key word. I’d be in my room (both at home and in the dorm) alone, scared that I wouldn’t see the next day.
I thought that if I could avoid the dark by staying awake until the light, I’d be okay.
Then I’d do it all over again the next night. It was a constant, terrifying cycle for 3 or 4 months.
I was absolutely, devastatingly broken in this season.
Thankfully the introduction of medicine and therapy specifically for my anxiety helped me find solutions to get sleep– even though I was still slightly terrified of dying in my sleep.
2 years later and I’m still fearful of that happening.
Life circumstances have changed and have forced me back into the rhythms of the morning: living with 4 morning people who consider 5-6am a normal wake up time (why why WHYYY?!?) and who typically go to bed before 10 has forced me to change my ways a bit; working a job that sometimes equates to 12-14 hours days has left me perpetually exhausted and in dire need of sleep, so I’ve been going to bed generally earlier than my college dorm days, pre and post-GAD diagnosis.
I’ve been getting up at 7 or 8 to read my devotional and prep for the day, still groggy from my broken sleep the night before. I’ve been going to bed around 9 or 10, depending on how long my day was and what the next day looks like.
And yet. This change has caused my sleep-related anxiety to creep back in. This forcing early sleep has made sleep almost near impossible (or good sleep impossible– broken sleep is barely sleep). I’ve been back living in that fear of not waking up the next morning for the past few weeks (especially since daylights savings ended). It’s kept me from getting good sleep, waking up every 3 or so hours. I’ve been back to being alone with my thoughts and fears at night, when the house gets quiet and still at 9, 10pm. When the house gets dark so early (especially when the outside matches the inside of the house), it causes my brain to get all jittery and fearful at the nighttime. It causes me to get overwhelmed by the darkness and freak out. So my anxiety has been back in full force lately, once again causing me to stay awake later in the night for hopes that the morning would be here soon. I don’t have the “luxury” of staying up till the sun rises these days thanks to the nature of my job, but I instead toss and turn in my sleep, waking up every few hours hoping that I’m okay and the light has returned.
There are some nights when I need to pace or talk to shake out of this feeling, but no one in the house is awake, and my pacing would disturb the people sleeping so I just sit in my bed overthinking everything that’s giving me anxiety. When the lights go off in the house, the lights turn on in my brain– and it makes me feel anxious and shaky until I wake up to the light’s return; and with that, I feel like I can breathe again.
At least when I would have those rough anxiety nights in the dorm, I could waltz out of Elam and go for a walk, breathing in the outside air for a few minutes and calm myself down. Or I could find a friend/RA usually awake that I could talk to. Adulthood (or our Leap year version of adulthood haha) is different. I don’t have that same buffer, that same out that I had when the anxiety started in college.
So now I’ve got to come up with new ways to curb the anxiety in this new life chapter. Wee. I thought I was done with this, people.
I want the nighttime to just be nighttime. I want it to signal rest and sleep and peace like it does for so many others, and not be this place of fear and overwhelmingness. I want to feel safe going to sleep, and not feel most alive at night when my anxiety is amped because of the darkness.
I thought being afraid of the dark was for childhood. But this isn’t just fear of the dark; it’s fear of what the darkness brings. It’s fear of perpetual darkness, the feeling that the darkness will envelope me and not let go.
It’s the fear that I’m not going to wake up from the darkness the night brings. The fear that the light won’t come the next morning or stay long enough to keep my anxiety and sadness at bay.
So now I must deal with this fear of the dark– not the actual darkness, but the feeling it gives me when the sun goes down and the lights go off. Because I know the light is coming… I just wish it stayed longer and came back sooner.
I don’t want to be fearful of the dark. And I don’t want to live waking up at the dark’s arrival, fearful until the light returns (only to start this cycle over the next day). It’s exhausting living in this way.
My brain really hates living in this state of paradox. I really hate both hating the dark and it being the time I’m most awake, living in this state of anxiety that the dark ushers in and won’t let go until light comes back the next day. It sucks feeling like this; it sucks living like this.
I know and believe the light always comes in the morning… I just wish it’d come soon and last longer than the night.
For most of my life, I’ve lived based off the expectations of everyone around me.
I’ve made my life decisions based on what other people thought. I listened to every voice around me but my own.
I grew up surrounded by opinionated people. People who know better than I do. People who know me better than I do (or claim to, I should say).
I was told what I liked and what I should do with my life. (my grandma growing up wanted me to be an engineer… hahahahahaha)
I was told what I believed and why.
I was told who and what to like and dislike. What hobbies to have or not have. What to wear and not wear.
All of the external voices in my life overpowered any internal voice I had.
I’ve always listened to everyone else’s opinion instead of mine. I’ve let others make decisions for me instead of me deciding for myself. From the simple to the life-changing, I don’t typically let myself make a decision on my own– I have to ask everyone around me, and usually go with what they say (even if it’s not what I want/think).
I’ve always longed to please everyone around me, hoping it’d make me loved and wanted. So I did what made others happy, or proud, or safe, not taking into account my feelings or wants or needs.
I cared care more about pleasing everyone except myself.
I worry about how people will react if I do or say something that doesn’t align with what they agree with or what they want me to say/do– so I tend to just not say anything and shove my own desires and feelings under the rug. Because I want to be loved, accepted, seen– and I’m afraid if I’m not what everyone else wants me to be, I’ll be unloved or forgotten or rejected. So I seek everyone else’s approval over what I really want in the hopes that they will see me– but they truly don’t see me then. They see what they want me to be instead of the real me.
I’ve relied my whole life on other peoples’ expectations, to the point that I’ve let everyone but me control who I am and what I want… to the point that I don’t even know who I am and what I want for myself.
I’m afraid if I disappoint people, or don’t listen to others’ advice or opinions, that they won’t love me or will stop caring about me.
So I please. I let others’ opinions reign supreme over mine. I let others tell me who to be, what to do, what to think, in the hopes that they’ll love me if I do.
I’ve spent my whole life letting others take claim and control of me.
And it’s taken me until now to realize this about myself.
My sophomore year of high school, my English teacher challenged me (and the whole class) to think for myself. We were having an inner-outer circle discussion on The Jungle (ohhh that book), and a lot of people didn’t know how to justify what they believed– me included.
She said something to the effect of, “if your reason for believing something is because your parents believe it or said so, then you don’t believe it. That’s THEIR opinion, not yours.”
In one fatal swoop, she taught me that in order for an opinion to be mine, it had to actually be mine. Not my mom’s or dad’s or grandmother’s. Mine. That’s when I started researching the “issues” for myself and began embracing my own political beliefs– despite them differing from my family. (I think my dad’s learned to just agree to disagree with me at this point. 😉 ). (Thanks for that lesson, Scott– you were my best English teacher for a reason).
I learned how to think for myself when it came to politics. So why haven’t I learned to trust my own voice for every other aspect of my life?
Last weekend I finished Shauna Niequist’s newest collection of essays, Present Over Perfect. I don’t know if there’s another book I’ve read that’s taught me more about myself than this one. It’s caused me to stop and re-evaluate a lot of things, and has actually made me want to act on the things Shauna said and the questions she asked. Usually with books I learn something and try to apply it to my life, but this book made me want to actually transform and change things in my life.
One of the big themes of the book is letting go of people pleasing, of not listening to the voices “out there” that aren’t her own, of not letting others expectations define her. She writes a lot about how she spent so much time listening to other people and letting others make decisions for her when she really wanted to do or think the opposite. Her thoughts on this made me take a step back and see how much I struggle with the same things.
“Along the way I’ve realized that most of the hard work during my last couple seasons has been claiming authority over my own life. This is not a group decision. We’re not voting for ‘most this’ or ‘most that’ in our yearbooks. This is actually my life, and it doesn’t matter a bit if it would be lovely for someone else to live. What does matter: does it feel congruent with how God made me and called me?
And I’m finding that one of the greatest delights in life is walking away from what someone told you you should be in favor of walking toward what you truly love, in your own heart, in your own secret soul.”
This is my life. Not anyone else’s. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or okay for someone else… because it’s not their life to live. It’s mine. And it’s not made for anyone else to live but me. It’s really mind-blowing how simple a thought that is.
“What ways of living have you simply acquiesced to, because someone told you to? Because it seemed smart or practical or easy? Are those the best words to describe how you want to live?”
I’ve pretty much given in to what everyone around me has told me to do my whole life for those very reasons: smart, practical, easy. And I’d say that those and other similar words would be the words I’d want to describe me: capable. in control. good at decision-making. practical. strong. happy-go-lucky. peacekeeper. sacrificial. That’s me, or what I think I want to be. But I don’t think those words are the heart of what I am.
“In a thousand ways, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. When you allow other people to determine your best choices; when you allow yourself to be carried along by what other people think your life should be, could be, must be; when you hand them the pen and tell them to write your story, they don’t get the pen back. Not easily anyway.
I was an author who didn’t know how to author her own life. I thought that outside forces would guide me benevolently, rightly. They did not. And it was not their job. It was mine. I abdicated authority for my own choices. And what it led to was a broken body and depleted soul.
And now some years later, I know that I am responsible for stewarding my own life, my desires and limitations, my capacities and longings.”
I am responsible for my own life. My desires and longings. My capacities and limitations. They are all mine! WHAT A CONCEPT.
I am in control. I have ownership of my own life. I can make choices and decisions as opposed to falling under what people think I should do or say or be.
I write my story. No one else should be allowed to hold the pen but me. Even if letting outside forces guide me is really tempting, it ceases to be my life and my story when I relinquish that kind of control.
“These days I want to love deeply and well, and that’s really different from pleasing. Love is often quieter, and it’s never connected to that anxious proving and tap-dancing that so many of us have learned to keep people happy.
After a lifetime of believing that the voices that mattered were Out There, approving or disapproving of me, I’m learning to trust the voice within, the voice of God’s Spirit, the whisper of my own soul.”
Now it’s time for me to learn how to listen to my voice and my wants, as opposed to letting others’ voices or opinions rule my decisions (or let me feel guilty about my decisions after the fact). Pleasing people isn’t something that I need to give my life over, y’all. The voices Out There have nothing on the Spirit inside me, the voice God gave me to learn from.
This book for me was an invitation to actually be who I was made to be.
But now I have to actually figure out who that is, because all of me is made up of pieces of everyone else.
This is so much more than peer pressure, y’all.
It’s letting other people– family, friends, co-workers, whomever- define who you are. It’s giving power and control to people that don’t need it. It’s trusting every external voice and thought over the internal voice God gave you.
It’s believing what everyone else says about me instead of believing myself.
One of the things I’ve been working through in therapy is how much I struggle with this letting people decide what I’m doing and where I’m going and what is happening without giving as much of a care of what I think or want. I never really realized just how much control I’d relinquished over the years– I’ve let my family decide my plans and goals and even where I lived at one point; I’ve let my friends decide that they want to be my friend if they need something; I’ve let my mom decide that I have to stay close to home so she can depend on me, even going as far as not letting me get my license so I don’t have the freedom to go as I please. (At 24 and still license-less, this has to do more with me at this point, but it started out being her decision at 16).
You know, for someone who considers herself a control freak, I have a lot less control over myself than I thought.
I’ve gotten, as Shauna writes, wrapped up in what someone else wanted for me. Or what a lot of someones decided what was best for me. Whatever would earn me love, gain me approval and worthiness. But it didn’t. Instead it left me unknowing who I am, having to re-learn and recover parts of me that I didn’t know were mine to have.
So… what do I do now with this brand-new information? (All of the Friends jokes for life!)
I think it’s time for me to sit down and figure myself out. Without the noise. Without the external voices telling me I’m this or should do that.
It’s time for me to figure out who exactly I am.
It’s time for me to decide what I love and don’t love. For me to do the things I want to do without fear of what everyone else is going to say/do/think about it.
One of my favorite lines from Shauna says it this way:
You were made by hand with great love by the God of the universe, and he planted deep inside of you a set of loves and dreams and idiosyncrasies, and you can ignore them as long as you want, but they will at some point start yelling.
What are my loves? What are my dreams?
What are my quirks and pet peeves and idiosyncrasies God put deep inside of me?
What do I need?
What are my passions? What sets my soul on fire? What makes me come alive?
What do I want? What do I want? (It’s worth saying twice)
In one of Shauna’s essays, she mentions a question someone asked to get to a desire/dream: if someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account as full as you wanted, what would you do?
I really want to sit and think about an answer to that– because that is where my deepest desire would be. The place where my passion and talents and availability collide.
One of my favorite essays was titled “On Snow”; it centered around a verse in Job:
God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ (NIV)
She goes on to talk about how the snow is made to do exactly one thing. Just one thing is the whole mission: fall on the earth.
Snow doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. it just falls.
“God says to the snow, “Fall on the earth.” That’s it. Just do one thing. Just fall. Essentially, he’s saying: just do the thing I’ve created you to do. You’re rain: so rain. You’re snow: so snow.
God’s asking me to be the thing he’s already created me to be. And he’s asking you to be the thing he’s already created you to be.”
Shauna then goes on to ask: “What are the things he’s asking you to do, the things he made you to do, the things you do effortlessly and easily?”
What was I made to do? What do I do effortlessly and easily? I’m not sure just yet.
Shauna asks about our child self, looking at the “loves and skills and passions that God planted inside us” as kids… but if I’m being honest I didn’t have any hobbies or passions or desires as a kid that I can think of… because I was made to think/do what everyone else wanted. It comes full circle, you see? When talking about childhood dreams last week at work, I said I didn’t have a childhood dream. I was half truthing there– I had dreams, but they got squashed by people telling me they were impossible or wouldn’t work out because of x,y,or z. So I just didn’t dream out loud anymore for fear of someone telling me it wasn’t going to work out. And eventually, I stopped dreaming and just lived off of what other people told me I should be.
So I’m still figuring it out, logistically speaking. But I can tell you it won’t be what others want it to be or think it is. Just because others know me doesn’t me they know me. No one can know me like I know me, I’m learning… because no one else is me.
Shauna asks at the end of that particular essay: “What do you need to leave behind in order to recover that essential self God created? What do you need to walk away from in order to reclaim those parts of you that God designed, unique to you and for his purposes?”
I need to leave behind the expectations and wants of everyone else.
I need to leave behind the idea that everyone’s voice and opinions are more important than my own (especially in regards to my own life).
I need to leave behind the idea that my life is made to please people in order to get the love/value/approval that I crave.
I need to leave behind this fake me, built on everyone else’s hopes and dreams and wants for me. I am not that girl, the girl that is made up of what everyone else wants her to be. Nope. I am me. 100% me, the girl that God designed and made me to be– unashamedly, unabashedly, me.
And I need to walk away from the voices and opinions that want me to be someone else.
It’s time for me to listen to my own voice.
It’s time for me to decide who I am and who I want to be.
It’s time for me to choose what I want to do with my one wild and precious life, as my beloved Mary Oliver would say.
It’s my turn to control what I do and say and think, where I go and who I spend my time with. I call the shots of my life here. God gave me a voice and a gift when he gave me this life. It isn’t for anyone to take and claim as their own. It’s all me.
And it’s time to reclaim the parts of my life back that I’ve given to everyone else.
So. Who am I?
I am Jordan. And I am the me I want to be: the loud, punctual, homebody, passionate, nerdy, imperfect, affectionate, laughs-at-everything, Jesus-loving, introverted, plus-sized, sarcastic, slightly inappropriate writer that God made me to be– and no one else’s opinion on it matters.**
**(Imma probably need help actually living/believing this come tomorrow, peeps. Change is hard. Especially when it’s 24 years of change being made. Send help.)