Monday, May 9, 2016

To the Woman in the Mirror - A letter to the depressed and anxious part of me

To the woman in the mirror:

The truth is, you scare me. I roll out of bed in the morning, knowing I will have to face you and I am afraid. I never know who I will see looking back at me. I hope that you will be beautiful and strong, full of hope and joyful anticipation for all that the day holds. I hope you will look back at me with eyes that say, “Mercy is new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. Believe and live.” But that’s not how it’s been. That’s not how it always is.

Sometimes you just stare blankly at me with tired eyes. Sometimes those eyes are swollen from the tears which soaked your pillow through the night. Sometimes they are wild with anxiety, with some inexplicable fear. Sometimes you can’t bear to look back at me. The heaviness of the burden you carry reaches all the way through you and even your eyes lower under the weight of it. Your failures. Your sense of worthlessness. Your lack of interest. Sometimes the confusion behind your eyes is more than I can bear. Where does it all come from? Will you give me answers? I can see you begging me, pleading with me like you plead with everyone around you, to notice, to help, to fix, to heal, to protect, to put you back together again after you humpty-dumptied right off the very wall you built to protect yourself. The truth is, I detest you, your weakness and brokenness. And for a while that made me detest myself.

You see, woman in the mirror, I thought you and I were the same. I thought that we were one. I thought I could look to you and see my identity. I thought that you defined me. I thought that I was the sum of every feeling, every fear, every burden that you reflected back to me. I thought the things I saw in you were my reality, and I could hope for nothing more. It took so long for me to even consider that I was wrong.

But one day I reached up to touch you. One day I decided that I wouldn’t be afraid of you anymore. One day I decided that I would not let you define me or control me. One day I decided to be strong and courageous, so I reached to touch you. You were cold and hard. I pulled back and touched my own cheek – soft and warm. You and I are not the same after all.

You are nothing more than a reflection on glass. No wonder you feel so fragile! But I? I am flesh and bone and blood and muscle and breath and soul and mind and nerves and… ah yes, I had forgotten… A vessel of the Holy Spirit. You are flat – all depression or anxiety or vanity or fear or failure or brokenness. I am so much more. You are reflection. I am real. You are my image. I am made in His. You do not define me. Oh yes, I do struggle with all the things you show me. I am broken. There is absolutely no doubt about that. You are a part of me, but you are not all of me, and you are certainly not forever. Tomorrow you will look different, just as I will. All of these things I see in you? They will pass. He will bring redemption and healing and mend the broken parts of me. And I will tell you this: Sweet woman in the mirror, I will learn to love you as He loves me. I will learn to be thankful for you, because you drive me to His thrown of grace. I will learn to never fear you, but instead to embrace you and speak life to you. There is more than this. There is healing in His arms, and you remind me of that. So I will remind you, oh broken reflection, tell you the thing I most long to hear: Take heart and fear not. Mercy is new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. Believe and live.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

31 Days of Open Grace - Day 27

I have it written on my mirror. These four words: Taken, Blessed, Broken, Given. These are the words that Henri Nouwen says describe us our life as the Beloved. We are taken, chosen, received, embraced by God as His child. Then we are blessed by Him, given a hope for our future growth and redemption, made aware of the gifts He has given us and our potential to be used as instruments of change in the lives of those around us. Then we are broken, made aware of our smallness, our insufficiency, our deep need for Him. Then we are given in love, in service, in creative contribution, in worship. It is a beautiful idea, but the beauty has been hard for me to see lately.

So I take the marker and I circle the last two words: Broken, Given. The I draw and arrow: I am here. Then I circle the first two words: Taken, Blessed. Another arrow and the words: I want to get back here. Then I circle all four words and I write a final set of words: Wholeness is found here.

Wholeness is found when we live taken, blessed, broken, and given. I have been focused on the last two. I have been feeling the brokenness and I have been giving nonstop, but I have not taken the time to soak in the miracle of being taken and blessed. I'm not really sure what I want to say about this, except that I can force myself to live broken and given. I can clench the fists and squeeze every last drop of myself out. But then I only end up empty and worn. But to live taken and blessed requires the opening of the hands to receive. Once those hands are open, they don't close again. They overflow through all the cracks and give life. And that is the way to living whole. Opening the hands and then overflowing, rather than clenching the fists and pushing through. The try-harder life cannot be sustained. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

31 Days of Open Grace - Day 26

I run to the grocery store to pick up that one ingredient we need for supper that I left off the list when I went yesterday. It's been such a hard day. The pain in my jaw is my witness. I have been clenching so tightly these days. So I walk in, head down, focused on getting that one thing and getting on with life, but they draw me in like a magnet. There are gladiolas in the flower section today. Tall and bright red pushing through the green leaves and opening. Always pushing through. Always opening. I look for the bunch that reminds me of me, the one that wants to open but isn't quite there yet, the one that is just pushing through looking for space to open up. And I find it, this one bunch of orange blooms, and I take them home. I hold the stalks close, like a beacon of hope that will teach my heart how to beat again, teach my eyes how to see again. And I tell him when he looks at them - They're just because. Just because the world feels heavy and dark and hard and broken and ugly and I need just one thing to remind me that at the end of it all, there is beauty. I need just one thing to remind me that life is beautiful, no mater how I feel. I need just one thing to remind me to let the openness be what helps me push through. And orange is such a brave color.

And here's what I've learned today. I've learned to choose the breakthroughs that come in the little things. I've learned that while I want to push through so I can find the space to open, it is actually the very act of opening that creates the space for which I long. Life is still beautiful. And orange is a brave color.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

31 Days of Open Grace - Day 25

This weekend has been good. A much needed extra day of rest. Rain. Moments of deep connection and reconciliation. Laughter. Words that fill the soul. Paradigm shifts that can change everything. There have been moments over the last few days where I have felt genuinely free for the first time in a long time. Where I have felt like my heart is whole and the weight on my shoulders has been lifted. I've felt like I could breathe. I'm learning to whisper it to myself in the moments when I want to criticize or perform or demand... Enjoy. And it changes everything.

But the hours of the weekend tick away and as Monday morning draws closer, the fear and the anxiety rise within me. The cry of "Not enough!" bubbles to the surface. They will demand of me tomorrow. I will feel pulled in a million different directions. I will go back to feeling fragmented and worn. So here's my question and I'm not sure I have an answer - How do I keep living whole-heartedly in a world that demands pieces of me left and right? I want nothing more than to live whole and live free. But how?

I read it once and I used to live it. Thanksgiving turns what we have into enough. Singing the song of Eucharisteo is easy when there is space and time and the gifts are obvious. But when it is hard to even draw breath, will I still sing? I keep wishing that life would slow down, just for awhile, that it would let me rest and catch up. But it's not going to, not for awhile at least. Can I learn contentment here? Can I still enjoy even as swiftly as life is moving past? It is hard. It is so hard to live present and to enjoy the moment. But I want to. So can I do just one more day?

Friday, October 23, 2015

31 Days of Open Grace - Day 23

Not many words today because I'm still processing, and I feel like it's something that can change everything. I read this quote a year ago and it resonated deep, but here's the thing... I have been killing myself for months. I have been living into this need to make everything perfect and it has been driving me insane. At work. Within myself. In my relationship with my fiance. In my relationship with God. Perfectionism has been killing me. And there is one word that I think might set me free - Enjoy. It keeps coming up over and over. Enjoy God. Enjoy these months leading to your marriage. Enjoy the man you love and who loves you. Enjoy getting to do what you love. Enjoy those children. Just open your hands and enjoy. Stop trying to fix. Stop trying to find all the things that could go wrong. Just stop and enjoy. I'm tired of dying on the inside. I want to live. We'll see where this goes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

31 Days of Open Grace - Day 22

I step out on the balcony and sit in the old rocker, just so I can hear it. It started coming down in earnest just as I approached the stairwell leading to my door, cool and soothing on my skin. I just want to hear it. Just watch it come down and flow in rivulets on the concrete. How long have I needed the rain to fall? That chorus rings in my head, I believe You will come like the rain... I believe You will come like the rain. I sing it to myself. And all the pent up stress and tension and fear and anxiety rises to the surface and runs down my cheeks. Release. I believe You will come like the rain. I can hear the planes, but I can't see them through the gray. The whole world looks like that, gray. I used to think it a terrible color. Now I've learned to savor it, the way it soothes and breathes, and makes the grass look a little greener and the red of the curb stand out a little brighter. My senses have been on overload. I breathe thanks for the grays. I leave the sliding door open so I can keep listening.

This morning, I wasn't sure I would make it. I went to bed early last night. Body weary and eye lids heavy before nine o'clock. Still I woke up exhausted. The list of things I had to do slapped me in the face and kept getting longer. My anxiety level was through the roof. The corners of my mouth too weighted down by my heavy heart to smile. My feet felt like lead. Not enough time! I wanted to cry. Too much weight! And then the digging of the pit began... Why can't I handle this? Why can't I control how I feel? What is wrong with me? Why is everything fine but I feel like everything is wrong? Why am I the only one crumbling under the weight of it all? Lies.

He tells me he's let himself run late so he could stop and pray for me. He says that rain always represents God's providence and that he prays that I'll see Him today, not just all the things that need to be taken care of, not just a bunch of rowdy children. I can hear him singing it when I can't... I believe He will come like the rain. This man... He is believing for me. And this is the duet we will sing together for the rest of our lives, trading parts and switching harmonies with the seasons.

My soul longs for You. My soul longs for You. Nothing else will do. Nothing else will do.

I believe You will come like the rain. I believe You will come like the rain. 

The cry and the answer. The falling on the knees and the lifting of the head. The deep need and the deep trust. My man has been strong in my weakness. He has shown me saving grace in the desert. He will need me to do the same soon. Someday all he will feel is the longing and it will be my turn to sing the other part. For now, I let him embrace me and offer grace and forgiveness, until I can join him to sing it in unison, I believe You will come like the rain. And He does. I don't know what tomorrow will look like, but today, I have seen prayers answered in changes of heart and in simple practical ways like an extra 45 minutes to work due to an unexpected field trip. And I have listened to the rain. And it is enough for today, and a bright hope for tomorrow... Great is His faithfulness.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

31 Days of Open Grace - Day 21

I don't have much to say today. Honestly, I'm facing a major mental block... toward lesson plans, this blog, lots of things. So I'm just going to leave this here, because I need to soak in this truth today rather than try to come up with words. He's a good, good Father.  It's who He is. I am loved by Him. It's who I am. Plain and simple and yet mind blowing. I'll just rest here for tonight.