That was Then. This is Now.

It’s not my usually blog post full of journal entries and metacognition. Just some photos of my labor of love over the summer. As you may know, Wil and I bought a house in June. We then proceeded to replace the ceiling, redo the floors, pant everything, add a towel closet, remove a wall, put in new lighting (pot lights everywhere!), and cut some windows in the span of six weeks. It was a lot of work and we had the help of so many people to get’er done in time. So, have a look of the before and the after. There’s even a fun slidey thinger! What’s not to love? Hope you enjoy. Tune is next…week? month?…and we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programing.

The bathroom is not featured because there is no change from the before and after. That’s a next…summer? year?…project. Okay…I’ll put in one photo so you can sympathize with me when I say I have a tiny tub and I would love a bigger one. New siding? New fence? Sprinkler system so we can legalize the suite? Nah, I’m spending all my money on a bigger bathtub.

Hope you enjoyed my house. I truly love it.

-Naomi

All photos taken by Christina Hills Images

Un.com.fort.a.ble

I’m going to mod podge a few journal entries together, mostly unedited, but I’ll give you some context first: For the past two or three years, I’ve asked God for a word to focus on for the year. It’s a pretty common Christian thing to do. Last year I thought and wanted my word was “humble” but it was really “abide.” I didn’t want it to be “abide” because “abide and rest in my love” was the word the year before. I wanted to work on something new even though I had yet to grasped the concept. Also for context, I started off this year with a fast from food. I was planning to do it for 7 days (maybe we’ll take later about my all or nothing attitude) but I scaled it down to 5. Circumstantially I only fasted for 2. I’ll have more to say at the end but for now, let’s go to the journal entries:

Jan 1

We’re about 24 hours into the fast and I’m ready to quit. But I don’t want to quit just because it’s hard. That’s not the point. I feel bad, uncomfortable. And when I want comfort I often seek it in food, but maybe I should seek You first, eh? Not a maybe. A should. I should turn to You first not because you’re petty but because you are the Great Comforter. The God of all comfort (check out 2 Cor. 1). Father of compassion. You comfort me in all my troubles. In all suffering. An overflow of Christ’s suffering to produce patient endurance. That I might rely not on myself but on You. Isn’t that what I said when preparing for this fast? That it would remind me of my reliance on You? That it would force me to seek you for strength and kindness and energy. All the things. Because You are the thing that sustains me. Not breath or food or sleep. You. I want to earnestly seek You. To set the stage for this year with You at the focus … I am seen by You and so are my desires. I trust you with them. Lord, I trust you with the things I hold dear. What do you have for me? Abundance. All your promises are yes and I say amen. Lord do you have a word for me this year? Peace. Trust. Abundance. I will find my peace when I fully trust in You. You do not give as the world gives. You give peace in abundance. More than I could ever ask or imagine. Trust that when I give it will be abundantly. There is no restriction to my love. Trust in me.

Jan 8

They were talking on the podcast today about whether comfort is a drug. I do crave comfort a lot. I find it most desirable. It’s why I don’t often go overnight or winter camping. It’s why I don’t like fasting. It’s why interoception and somatic signals make me anxious. It’s why being anxious makes me feel anxious. What if my word for this year was uncomfortable? More church small talk. More resting in my feelings. More saying what I really feel to my family. More difficult workouts. More human interactions. It would probably be good for me. And what if in the uncomfortable I find trust, peace, and abundance. I didn’t make any new year’s resolutions this year because I feel I can’t make plans when I don’t know what the year will look like. But isn’t that the downfall of making resolutions? Making goals on things I can’t control. What If I made goals on the things I could control? Like spending time with God, doing more yoga, finding a counselor. I can’t control my acne but I can control whether I eat dairy. I can’t control my PCOS but I can control the exercise I do. I can’t control whether I travel but I can control whether I go on adventures. I can’t control getting a job but I can control how I use my time. I can’t control whether camp runs but I can control serving others. I think the word for this year is uncomfortable. Waiting is uncomfortable. Less schedule is uncomfortable. But that’s okay. Beauty can come from discomfort and so can growth. I want growth.

Jan 15

Who is coming out of the desert leaning on her lover? (Song of Songs 8:5)

The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and give you strength…your people will rebuild on the ruins of the city and raise up on old foundations. (Isaiah 58:11-12)

“Whatever keeps me from my Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be.” – A.W. Tozer

Who have I been leaning on coming out of the desert? Myself. numbing entertainment. Life-sucking scrolling. How do I wish it was? I wish I was leaning on Jesus. Spending more time with Jesus than anything else. Turning my worries into prayers and my prayers into conversations. I want to do away with past regrets and mistakes. But what if the new city is built on the rubble of the old foundations? It’s only unstable if I keep trying to bring the rubble up to the top. Who is coming out of the desert leaning on her lover? I hope it’s me. I hope that this year I grow in my faith. I’m so good at praying but so bad at believing in God. But won’t He do it? He has planned and purposed it and so it will be. So it will stand. Who can thwart Him? Nothing and no one. What great peace. What great release. It’s only peaceful if I trust Him to be good. If I trust him to be good to me. Suffering produces growth. Shaking the tree makes the rotten fruit fall to the ground. That’s what I want. To rejoice in suffering because it produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint. I want character and hope in the one thing that does not disappoint.

.

And there you have it. Some of my writings in this, the year of our Lord, 2021. Conclusion? I’m going to try to lean into uncomfort this year. I going to do things that make me uncomfortable because (in my life) 98% of the time uncomfortable doesn’t mean unsafe. As I do the uncomfortable things I’m going to seek the peace of trusting Jesus to be good to be and to give good gifts in abundance. I will spend less time on mindless things and watching other people’s lives from afar, no matter how harmless it appears. Hopefully at the end of this year, whether it felt like a desert or a well-watered garden, I will come out of it leaning on Jesus.

Rest

I was given a chance to rest but I treated it like a salesman delivering a flyer rather than a messenger with an invitation to meet with the King. A waste rather than the sweetest of treats. I think there are two reasons for this.

Number one: Minimal room for grace.

I breathe in grace like I’m wearing a mask for 8 hours. It’s manageable and yes, at first I get a headache, but I adjust quickly. I still get the air I need. But when I take off the barrier and suck in a full breath it reminds me of what I’m missing. It’s fresh, unrestricted, and needed. I’m not meant to breathe in grace with restriction but I’ve grown accustomed to it. Just as there is no room for grace, there is no room for rest. Value and worth come from completing tasks and filing time. If I’m not doing enough then I’m wasting the day. No grace for doing less. No rest.

But what if I took a full breath unrestricted? What if I allowed myself to stop the constant motion and gave myself unregulated grace. Not crumbs of grace with guilt and shame sprinkled on top to ensure that I do better next time. Just grace at the table. A sweet aroma and the full experience. What does that even look like? I’m so accustomed to searching for crumbs and looking at the underside of the table that I’m unaware there is a place-setting for me. An open chair at the table. It’s an invitation for a meal with the King but I’m too busy toiling and spinning to accept.

Number two: Control is an idol

I crave control. I fight for it more than I fight for anything else in this world. That’s idolatry. Extreme adoration for something that isn’t Jesus.

God says “I can do more than you ask or imagine. Immeasurably more.” and I say “but could you just do my thing my way? I would rather have what I asked for and the exact thing I imagined than immeasurably more.”

Because I want control.

Lack of control gives me anxiety. But shouldn’t knowing God is in control give me more peace than me being in control? Why do I crave it so much? Because I want to make changes. I want things to move faster. I want things to be solely reliant on me because control makes me feel safe. As if I can foresee and control the outcome. I want all the responsibility when I have none of the power or foresight. I want to control when I rest, where I rest, and how I rest.

This is an invitation to rest not to control what you accomplish.

Well, I don’t want it. It comes at an awful time. I have things I need to be doing…..but I’m also thirsty.

As a deer pants for water so my soul pants for connection with Jesus. My soul pants for Jesus, yet I try and quench the thirst with other things. Things that do not satisfy. Things that are saltwater to my tongue yet I still fill my cup in the wrong places. Things like control. I juggle too many cups, at risk of spilling and causing a spiritual accident with minimal regard to the one well that provides thirst quenching water.

No more.

Time to accept the invitation. To rest. To lean against the One with punctured hands as I disentangle mine from the control that I crave.

Waterlogged

Photo by @christina.hills.images

I’ve been thinking a lot about my health recently. The food I eat. My body. The stress I put on it. Our relationship.

In the midst of moving and renoing the house this summer, I was sitting in a doctor’s office. Waiting. Stressed about waiting and not working on all the things on the house to do list. Rather than sit and wait I wrote a poem. Now I’m a rambley writer so don’t expect me to be a skillful poet. But here it is:

My body said stop. I said you’re fine

My body said I’m hungry. I said you’re lying

My body said enough. I said one more bite

My body said this aches, time to move. I said 10 more minutes

My body said ouch. I said it’s good for you

My body said hear me. I said it’s all in my head.

Hear me. Listen.

My body said stop and I listen

My body said I’m hungry and I listen

My body said I need to move and I listen

My body said enough and I listen

My body said rest and I listen

I am learning to listen to my body. I’m learning that my body rarely lies. It’s always communicating something. I’ve thought that the crave for sugar was my body lying to me, but really it’s my brain misinterpreting the signal. I thought that my muscles burning was my body lying to me, but it was telling me it’s doing work. My my brain was the one that was telling me to quit. My body doesn’t lie. Maybe health isn’t eating perfect or running a 5k. Maybe health is listening to my body.

I wrote all of that in July. Have I been listening to my body since then? Nope.

I got a book out of the library with journaling prompts. The first page I flipped to is the only prompt I used. The basic concept was to write a letter to your condition. Here’s what I wrote:

Dear Body,

I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. I don’t hate how you look or your abilities. I hate your dysfunction. I’m over it. You don’t work. You are broken. It sucks. This sucks. I want normal. I was regulated. What the heck, body? Betrayer. I do what experts say and it makes no difference. I indulge. I restrict. It makes no difference. You are still not working as I would like to see it. Have I given you rest? no. Have I given you a reprieve from stress? no. Have I listened to you? barely. I feel like I’ve put in all this effort with no returns but maybe I haven’t been giving you the one thing you actually need. Rest. Maybe I haven’t been listening at all.

Awareness is the first step. That’s the correct phrase, right? I’ve been much more aware of my body in the past two months. I’ve noticed it talking and the more I listen the more I understand. Without doubt, I’m not good at this yet. Even today I ate a plate of nachos when what my body wanted was protein. Yesterday I sat in the same position long after my body wanted to readjust. I’m starting to listen but I’m not yet attending to the voiced concerns.

Two Bible verses stood out to me in September (stay with me. This does relate..in my mind at least)

The first story is in Luke 5:1-11. These men had bee fishing all night with no fish. Then Jesus shows up in the morning and tells them to put their nets back in. They tell him they’ve been doing this all night with no results but they oblige him anyways. When they go to pull the nets in they start to break they are so full of fish. Then the boat starts to sink it’s so full of fish. So the men get to shore, leave everything, and follow Jesus.

Now, I’ve noticed before that when it says “they left everything and followed him” in verse 11 that includes all the fish. As fishermen that amount of fish meant a lot of money. They left it all for Jesus. The part that stood out to me this time was that for the miracle to have impact, they had to go the whole night with no results. They had to work all night with no fish for Jesus to come and give them abundance. Not just some after none. Abundance after none. More than the boat could hold, a literal boatload of fish. More than their nets could handle. Yet all the blessing pales in comparison to Jesus.

The other story is about the woman who had been subject to bleeding (it’s in Matthew, Mark, and Luke). For twelve years she had spent all she had on doctors, yet no one could heal her. Jesus is on his way to heal a dying girl as a great crowd is following him. The woman is in the crowd and thinks “if I can touch His cloak I’ll be healed.” and it happens. She touches Jesus’ clothes and she is healed. Jesus says “who touched me?” and the disciples are like “you serious? we’re almost being mobbed by a crowd. Who hasn’t touched you?” but Jesus knows and he waits and the woman speaks. Then Jesus tells her “your faith has healed you. Go in peace”

I’ve heard it preached that due to Jewish law this woman would have been an outcast. Unclean. No one would want to touch her and become unclean themselves. She wouldn’t have be allowed in the temple, a place to meet God. Isolated. I had considered before that Jesus didn’t want the woman to have the healing without connection with Him so He called her out. He wanted to meet with her. What I hadn’t considered was that Jesus was telling her story in front the crowd by calling her out so they would know she was healed. No longer the outcast, now accepted into a community.

I feel these stories reflect my own in some way. A time of drought. A time of illness with no healing. A time of work with no results. Then Jesus comes by and gives healing in front of a community and abundant blessing. My eyes can’t see this part of the story yet. I’m not sure if I’m in it without seeing or if it is yet to come. I don’t know what’s going to happen but something is building.

I’m frustrated with my body but that doesn’t mean I have to be angry at God. For the longest time I thought they were connected. I couldn’t be displeased with my body without being displeased with God. I couldn’t be annoyed with my body without being annoyed with God. But I can be. I can be annoyed with my dysfunction even as I praise God. I can wish things were different while singing for joy.

I feel my body is a device that has a piece that wasn’t meant to go in water. The piece got wet and now the device is dysfunctional. That doesn’t mean that the One who made the device is to blame. The device was put in an environment it was never supposed to function in. I guess it’s kinda different because the Maker can step in whenever He wants and replace the broken piece. But maybe there is purpose or beauty in dysfunction. Or maybe the waterlogged piece isn’t the important part. Maybe I am expected to work towards goals that had far more value than superficial appearances and regular cycles.

Do I long for healing? yes.

Does that negate my relationship with God? Does it block our affection? Only when I value it more than our relationship. Only when I decide that a fully functioning body is more valuable than Jesus.

Jesus is more valuable than a boat full of fish. Jesus is more valuable than the healing. Jesus is more satisfying than a disease free body.

May I believe it to be true. May I act accordingly.

A Call

I went off the social media for the week and it was really good. Coming back…not so much. The internet seems so angry. There is reason for it but it’s not creating a safe space to learn or respond. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe there has been enough time to learn. Now it’s time to change. Maybe I should be simply listening to the emotions rather than trying to respond to them.

I have a friend who seems to really enjoy debate and have discussion over…hot topics? current events? topics they see on their Facebook feed?…one of those, anyway. They enjoy bringing up the topics as if to have a discussion but their tone and words come across as final. They get the final say. They know what’s best. They’ve read a bunch of Instagram posts on the topic so they know it well. I am invited in to discuss with them only to encounter a raised voice that interrupts. Only listening to refute with they’re voice loud and heated.

This is what it’s like to talk on the internet.

It says “there’s room for you no matter where you are on your journey. We can talk, listen, and learn together” in a sweet voice. So I engage. Then it yells “catch up! Why aren’t you enlightened yet! Visibly support what I support or you’re not welcome. Get out.”

Grace for growth is not seen. Affiliation based on posts is the standard. We’ve confused virtual with reality. We think that who someone presents to be on Instagram is who they are. We forget there is more the person behind the little circular icon.

I see people virtually attacking others. triggered. I’ve had people say “post something on this current event or I’m not your friend” They’ve forgotten that what people present on social media is not who they are. It is not all-encompassing. The definition of virtual is “almost or nearly as described, but not completely or according to strict definition.” What people present on the internet is almost or nearly as they are. But it is not reality.

I see others engaging in arguments in the comment section neither side feeling heard or relenting. I wish they would just physically talk to each other. I want to fix it…no not fix it. I don’t think I have that much sway. I want to facilitate it. I want people to pick up the phone and have conversations. REAL conversations where you can hear all the oh so important non-verbals.

I can see many ways that people can argue my points. After all:

It is not the words of our enemies that we remember but the silence of our friends. -Martin Luther King

And where else do we talk except online, right? No one hears the authentic discussions happening face-to-face (6ft apart). No one sees the conversations happening behind the screen because it’s not advertised and added to the highlights. If there’s no digital trail did it really happen?

Yet

I have other things I should be doing today yet here I am. Today has been a rough start. I have that burning feeling in my stomach that comes when anxiety settles in.

You were running a good race. Who cut you off?

Me. I cut myself off. The darkness is trying to make me forget about the light. I forget that I’ve moved past these feelings before. I’m made it through before. But my worry has no memory of this.

Why am I anxious?

Because I worry that God will be unkind to the things I hold dear. I want control. I want to control my body, I want to control how healthy it is, I want control over what the summer will look like, I want to control whether my struggling succulent survives. I am not in control. But I want to be.

I worry that God will be unkind, but God is love and love is kind.

Yet still, I can’t put my anxiety to bed. I’m swinging low. Yet He will meet me here. This seems to be a weekly low. As if each week I have to grieve the loss of the regular. To know it’s not coming yet.

What if I don’t do practicum? He is good and He is in control.

What if Crow doesn’t run this summer? This one is harder. But God is good and He is in control. He has sustained Camp for over 60 years and He will do it again.

It’s as if I’m standing with my face to a tree and I can’t see the path ahead. The Lord is on the mountain top. He can see the tree in its place within the whole forest but He can also see the molecules that make up the tree I can’t see past. If I would just trust Him.

Trust. Faith. I feel as if I’m about to sit in a hammock. There’s always that thought of “what if it doesn’t hold me.” Though it has in the past. Belatedly, I rest in it and have a lovely time in the hammock feeling held and safe. Then I move the hammock further up the trail and the same thing happens. I set up the hammock and know I’ve trusted it before. But I have doubts it will hold me in this new location. It’s as if the new location negates the hammock’s faithfulness in the other spots.

I test it by resting my hands in it but I don’t take my feet off the ground. Then slowly I lower more of my weight into it until I’m sitting with my feet dangling but my body remains tense.

What if it drops me?

Then, finally, I relax into it and I have a lovely time in the hammock. I am held. I am safe. I am enveloped.

I can say these words and still feel anxious. I can say these things and still feel low. Both can be true.

Yet He knows the way I take (Job 23:10) and he is not far off (Acts 17:27).

Can I relax in the hammock and trust these words? I find it’s easier to do this for myself. It’s harder to put the things I hold dear in the hammock. If I fall I can learn from the experience. I can choose a better tree and tie stronger knots. If the things I love fall they may shatter and I’ll have to live without them. Will I be able to catch them? Is it up to me to do so?

This analogy is losing its potency, but the feeling remains. Do I trust God with the things I hold most dear? Do I hold these things dearer than I do Jesus? Are they idols? Easily.

Do I trust God more than I trust my plans? Do I value Him more than I value certainty?

When I think about Camp not running this summer it feels wrong until I remember that He cares for it more than I do. He only seems unjust when I put my moral code above His holiness. Maybe He really wants there to be grass on the playing field and He knows this will only happen if it remains unused for a summer. He is too intentional and intelligent to allow something without purpose.

I can trust You with these things because You are Love. And love never fails.

You are patient, You are kind, You do not envy or boast, nor are you proud or rude. You are not self-seeking. You are not easily angered. You keep no record of wrongs. You do not delight in evil but rejoice in the truth. You always protect, always trust, always hope, always preserve.

You never fail.

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. Acts 17:27

A Thin Tread of Thought

What a crazy time we’re living in. I’ve got a few different things to process that all seem to connect…sort of…okay I just finished and reread it all and these things are connected by a veeeery thin thread. Hopefully, you’re mentally prepared to follow along. Also, for context, my church has been doing a challenge where we read through the Bible in 90 days. So I’m going to bring up a bunch of Bible because my life has been full of a bunch of Bible these past 74 days. Here we go.

It’s no secret that I have an endocrine disorder called PCOS. My hormones don’t function as they should. There is no cure. Lifestyle management is the best way to go. This means I try to exercise once a day and I avoid anything on the glycemic index that is over 55 (no sugar, dairy, gluten, potatoes, etc.). Now, did this stop me from going to the grocery store during a pandemic to buy ice cream (and toothpaste, but let’s be honest, I was really there for the ice cream)? No, no it did not. It’s a lifestyle, not a diet.

Anyways, my sister also has PCOS and has been trying to have a baby for over two years. So I would pray for her. I would pray again and again, “Lord, let Karl and Christina have a baby.” Then at winter camp, there was a chapel session about praying specific prayers and expecting good things from God. After that sermon I wrote in my journal (thinking of myself not of Christina at this point):

I want to expect good things Lord, but I also don’t want to act on a promise that you never gave. Lord, I want to act on the promise that you are good and that you know my needs. But I don’t want to assume that that means I get what I want. Let me desire a life close to you more than I desire a functioning body…I will not cling to that idea more strongly than I cling to you. Prepare my heart for what you have for me.

And I left it at that. Praying some specific prayers, but not many in the weeks to come. Then in February, I read the story were King Hezekiah is ill and cries out to God and God says “I have heard your prayers and seen your tears; I will heal you.” (2 Kings 20) And I was reminded of how very often God hears His people and heals His people. I wrote in my journal:

 …Father, please let Karl and Christina have a baby this year. You hear and you heal. Do both, Lord. Hear and heal. Hear and heal Christina. Give her grace and love for herself and let her have a baby this year. Before she’s 30 Lord…Through you all things are possible. No disease is beyond your control.

There it is. A specific prayer. A prayer with a short timeline (being that it was February and these babies tend to take about 9 months to show up). And what do you know: they’re pregnant! A month before they told the family that they’re pregnant I prayed for that baby and here it is. Now, I don’t have a firm timeline but she was probably pregnant before I prayed that specific prayer (so either God answered my prayer with a yes or prompted me to pray a specific thing to show me something. Either way. Wow). A baby in October-ish! when Christina turns 30. I’m blown away. God gives good gifts and he cares deeply. How quickly I forget.

How quickly the fear comes.

Just because she’s pregnant doesn’t mean there is a guaranteed safe arrival of that baby. I was amazed that God would give a good gift and then just as fearful that he would take it away. As if my brain couldn’t believe or accept that He is actually good. I felt like He had given and now He was going to take away.

But even so, that doesn’t mean He’s not good.

Do I truly believe it?

He is in control. I want to trust Him above all else.

Do I?

Yesterday, (wow was it really just yesterday?) I read Mark 4:40. Jesus and the twelve are in a boat and Jesus is asleep. There’s a crazy storm and the disciplines think they’re going to die. They wake Jesus and say “Don’t you care if we drown?” and Jesus calms the storm and says “why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

How often Jesus must say that to me.

Lord, the things of this earth turn strangely dim in the light of your glory and grace. How often do I doubt. How fearful I was even yesterday evening. Do you still have no faith? I have faith that you are in control even when I don’t understand. Even when the world seems out of control. No matter what is stripped you can restore. No matter what is wounded you can heal…

So lets put this in today’s context (because, you know, yesterday’s context is so dated). This virus is scary. It’s uncertain. There is little control in uncertainty and I crave control more than ice cream (which is a lot). I cry out “don’t you care if we drown?” But I have a God who sees. A God who hears. A God who is in control of the wind and the waves. A God that cares about my emotional state.

“why are you so afraid?”

It’s so easy to fall into fear. I’m operating out of the firm belief that this will run its course, that things will be ‘normal’ by the time spring classes come around (normal as in I can go to the grocery store for non-essentials or go to Bible Study with 12 people or go to coffee with a friend).

But what if they’re not?

I can’t go there. Today I will do Wednesday. And tomorrow I will do Thursday (and then it’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down..). I will not worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble on its own. (Matthew 6)

Also yesterday, I read Mark 6. Verse 31 says:

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, “Come with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Man, did this speak to my soul in this time of isolation (yes, yes, Wil is in the house and that is a big blessing, but you know what I mean). That whole sentence. Each component. Wow.

Come with me

By yourself

To a quiet place

And get some rest.

What can I do with this time so that I come out healthier on the other side?

I don’t know what’s going to happen or how long this will last and that is scary. But through the fear, I want to come out of this time healthier and better. Like a moth out of it’s restricting cocoon. What practices do I need to put into place to safeguard that desire? A few come to mind: go on walks, still have a schedule with room for grace, still connect with people, still Sabbath, eat what is good. Rest.

Oh, rest. What a hard thing for me to accomplish. Do I even know what that looks like for me? Probably looks like going away. To a quiet place. With Him.

I can see this through, I can stick this out because I know the One who is in control even when I feel adrift in a storm with no sucker hole in the clouds.

Now you may read this and say if He’s the good God you say He is and He’s in control like you say He is, then why doesn’t He do something? I don’t know. Maybe He is and we don’t see it yet. Or maybe something else is happening. I’ve prayed for things that have taken years to come to pass. I’ve prayed for things that I thought were good and God has said no. I’ve prayed for things with no answer and continue to pray. I don’t know how He works.

I don’t have an answer to that question.

But I do know that His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55). And that’s what I believe. He is whom I put my faith in. Sometimes God takes us into a desert so we can know Him better. And sometimes awful, heartbreaking, crappy things happen because we live in a cursed, fallen world. But even then God can use it for good.

When Joseph meets up with his brothers they’re remorseful. They threw him in a cistern and then sold him into slavery, yet this is Joseph’s response: What you intended for evil, God used for good to accomplish what is being done right now, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20). God used the crappy actions of man to bring about good. The saving of many lives. Couldn’t God have just stopped the famine? Yup. He could have. But maybe it’s like how pine cones need forest fires to release their seeds. Maybe nature needed a reset and an opportunity for new growth. Maybe the famine needed to happen. I don’t know. But I’m really trying to rest in the fact that God is ever present in times of trouble. Even when the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. I don’t have to be afraid (Psalms 46).

Since dealing with my health issues I’ve often asked myself “do I have the faith to see this through? Even if the outcome isn’t towards healing?”

I want to.

Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.

The Juice of One Lemon.

As the new year starts I thought I would reflect on some of the lessons I learned this year with the help of quotes from a few podcasts. So let’s dive right into this week’s teaching (another quote from a podcast):

Despair is the tip-off to idolatry

If you’ve been around the blog awhile then you’ll know that last December I was diagnosed with an endocrine disorder. Basically, my hormones don’t know how to handle life so I avoid inflammatory foods (potatoes, sugar, gluten, dairy, potatoes (mentioned twice because they’re such a versatile food), take expensive supplements, and try to work out 30 mins every day. When first diagnosed I was numb to it. I thought if I tried hard enough I could fix it. Then I became angry about it. I had an unmet expectation.

Health was a given, a right. Mine. I felt entitled to health. I deserve it. I held it in high regard and demanded it from God. I cried out for it and God said “no, I AM more valuable. Do you have any right to be angry?”

I was Jonah. Throwing a fit because I didn’t get my way. Even Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped yet I wanted to say “but God, we just discussed.” As if I have any say. God is sovereign and He is working things together for good. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good.

I’m sorry that I valued health more than I’ve desired you. Restore. Restore not my body but our relationship. You didn’t want the woman with bleeding to get physical healing without the connection with You. You heal all the time in the Bible. So many women with infertility are given children. Sara, Rebecca, Hannah, Elisabeth. I believe you can do it again. But I will not value this above relationship with you. Lord, continue to change my heart and remind me that you are worth more. You came so I could have life and have it to the full. Change my heart to see what that means. Let the desire of my heart be for you. Stir my spirit to truth.

Self-sufficient people don’t see the point of Sabbath

During December, I intentionally practiced Sabbath (a day of rest in the week). I loved it. I made me feel refreshed and peaceful. Each week it felt a little risky (specifically during exam season) when I had flashcards to go through and an exam on Monday. But I don’t want to be self-sufficient. I always feel so close to God at camp because I rely on Him in everything. I can’t stay up till 10:45 (for reference, my usual bedtime is 9:30) every night and still be loving to the people around me. Yet at home, I feel like I can handle it. In daily routines, I set my hope in my ability to handle situations. my ability to achieve and make it happen. When trials come I set my hope in the thought that they’ll end. They’ll end on my timing when I see it best.

This is not how I wish for it to be.

I want to act like I need Him every hour. Sabbath reminds me of that. It reminds me to rejoice and rest in His love. To cease and celebrate. And it feels good. Funny that. He knows what our bodies need. He put it in the Bible not to restrict me put to give me the freedom to do the hard task of saying no to busy.

Most of your insecurities are an immature ego

I say I’m insecure but is the real issue that I’m self-focused? Something I’ll emote a noise and Wil will ask me what’s wrong. My answer is usually along the lines of “oh, I was just reliving a conversation that happened 3 summers ago.” Am I so self-inflated that I think people are still thinking about me years later? I’m not the heroine of everyone’s story.

It’s not all about me.

I need to hear that. I need to be humbled and realize that people don’t think about me a quarter as much as I think about me. If I stopped assuming that I’m the most prominent thing on everyone’s mind I would stop being so insecure. I want to lose my pride. I need to turn my eyes outward. To turn my eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. O soul are you weary and troubled?

Lord, this is my desire, to turn my eyes to you. To shift my focus to you. I want to walk into the room and think “What do You think of them” not “what do they think of me.” To see through a lens that is tinted with Your love. Lord, I feel like this is a scary prayer to pray but I truly want it so here it goes: Humble me, Lord. Even as my heart says it my soul rebel. It wants to add qualifiers. But only a little. Only in private. I beat it back and ask that you humble me. Continue to lessen my ego and remind me that Your ways and higher than my ways and Your thoughts higher than my thoughts. I trust You to be a good God whatever the humbling looks like. Do the work.

The day after I prayed this I forgot an important form at home and had to get Wil to run home and take a picture of it for me. The receptionist acted like I was the biggest inconvenience and I knew I could let this experience derail me. But I didn’t. I had to ask for help. be humbled. I had to acknowledge that the receptionist probably doesn’t even remember my face. be humbled. That she wasn’t acting like that because of me but because of the people behind me and the schedule that needed to be maintained. God is faithful to complete the work He started. Won’t He do it.

Sidenote: For all of those who were thinking “how does the title relate to the post?” I’m not sure that it does. I just thought that phrase was poetic and I couldn’t think of an all-encompassing title. If you have a better one let me know.

Sidenote to the sidenote: I’ve got it! The juice of one lemon is symbolic of the lessons of one year. I was defiantly squeezed this last year. Looking back I feel like I’ve learned and changed so much it’s almost palpable. This blog is the outcome. The juices.

In the Middle

I’ve really got to start writing more regularly if I ever want a book deal…just kidding. I have minimal desire to ever write a book. (I’ll have you know that I did write a book in jr. high and naively sent it to a publisher. Since writing it I have never reread the book nor do I ever plan to. I am 100% certain it is awful). Anyways, lets come back to the purpose of this blog post….which is… I’m honestly not sure. I’ve had a lot of thoughts percolating in my head since May and I’m not sure which of them will make it onto this virtual page. Come on a journey with me and we’ll see what the title of the blog ends up being (I always write that part last). It might be more of a roller coaster ride. I’ve got a lot of thoughts that might only connect if we do some corkscrew turns.

Wil doesn’t like roller coasters. He has been on two roller coasters in his life. The first on he went on was in high school. He swore. The second time was when he was dating me. I told him that the roller coaster at Calaway Park barely counts as a roller coaster. It’s tame. Come with me. So he did and he did not like it.

Wil does not like roller coasters.

The past week or two has been really good for me. I’ve felt happy. I’ve woken up happy. Come home happy. Been happy at rest, which is a rarity for me lately. I don’t like to claim that I have depression. I mean, I’ve never been formally diagnosed with depression. Okay, I guess a therapist said I have mild depression but does that really count?

It’s not that I don’t want the label or the stigma surrounding depression. It’s that I feel the term depression is tossed around flippantly sometimes and I feel it’s unfair to everyone who has a more debilitating depression if I get the same label. Depression where they can’t get out of bed. Depression where they can’t leave the house. I can get out of bed. I still go to school. I still function well enough. So when I say I have depression and someone sees me functioning well, they may take that idea and transfer it to others with depression and wonder why they can’t __________ if I can. That is my worry in disclosing my depressive episodes. I only let Wil see the full weight of how they affect me. He’s the one that comes home to me sitting in the dark. Me laying on the floor. Me tearing up and feeling low…even that depiction seems more dramatic than it actually is. I often feel low lately. But! not the past two weeks! They’ve been so good…until Monday hit. I got some rough feedback on Monday and it took me out at the knees. I got home and sent a text to warn Wil that he would probably be coming home to a sad panda.

I saw the path I was going down. It’s the well-trodden path in my brain. Inviting and familiar. I know this path. I know what it’s like to feel low and stay low. I didn’t want to go down that path again. I wanted the undergrowth to grow over the path and make it a little less easy for me to pass through. The path is a well-worn game trail but I wish it were more of a bushwhack. The undergrowth can only grow if it’s not trampled by my somber march down the trail.

Wil came home and we talked. I told him what had happened and how it made me feel. I cried because the high was making the low worse. I didn’t want to lose it. Then Wil convinced me to go on a run with him and I was able to stop my march down the path that leads to me becoming a sad panda. In the dark. On the floor. What a roller coaster of emotions.

Wil does not like roller coasters.

I feel as if I’m waiting for Wil to drop me. To say “you’re too heavy for me to carry.” and he lets me go. So I, in turn, cling to him in an unflattering way. I love him fiercely but right behind that strong love is a corrosive fear. My insecurity is corroding my relationships. I want to be confident.

What is confidence?

I was telling a good friend the other day that usually when I’m writing a blog I’m writing to one person who I think needs to hear what I write. I write it almost as a letter to them but then never address the envelope. Instead, I give it to the internet. I also usually write a blog post that stems from a journal entry. This is a conversation I had with Wil:

N: I feel like blogging is second processing for me. Journaling is my word vomit and blogging is…

W: picking out the pieces that are still eatable?

This blog isn’t coming from a journal entry so I feel a little lost. I feel like I’m more on the word vomit side of things. There’s no cohesive story or poetic prose. So why am I still writing?

I’m continuing to click away on my keyboard because I think there’s value in the middle of the story. There’s value in being honest before you’re perfect. Before the end is written.

Now I am going to pull from a journal entry: Back in May during a counseling session, my therapist asked me to visualize my depression. I imagined it as a slow-moving tar-like blob that could easily engulf me. She then asked me to visualize a box that it could fit in. The box was the size of a dishwasher. Clear and with a lid, like the ones that iPods used to come in. Now a lock for the box. I imagined tie-down straps because it felt like the depression could easily pop the lid off without them. I didn’t actually imagine a lock. The tie-down straps where enough. Finally, visualize where would I put the box. I chose the outdoor storage area at the back of our house. I put the box there and could see that the blob inside was turbulent and looking for an exit. It was pawing at the walls of the box. Then the therapist asked me to walk away from the blob, in its box, in the shed. The more I walked away the more at peace the blob seemed. It was settled and tranquil. That was nice to see. I felt mean putting the blob in a box and away in the shed. My therapist said that’s because I have a relationship with my blob. My depression. That’s why I choose to put it in a close place, still attached to the house. But that doesn’t mean it’s meant to hang out in the living room.

I can let the blob sit in the box. When I go close to it I can feel it saying “let me out, let me out.” But when I walk away it’s serene. And I feel potential. A thrill of Hope.

I don’t need to focus on the blob. The familiar path of least resistance. I’ve spent so much time and energy on it already. Why study something I’m already sure I know. I can walk away from the blob. I know it’s there. I know what it looks like. Leave it be.

The very next journal entry I wrote, written 10 days later, starts with the sentence: I feel low.

I am not good at this yet. I fully admit that sometimes I willing walk down the trail. Other times I’m dragged down the trail without any choice and I stay on the trail without any choice. But sometimes I can tell which path I’m headed to and that I am the one taking the steps towards it. There are things I can do to stop that trek. Sometimes I do those things. Sometimes I get sad. But it’s okay. I’m in the middle.

And I have hope. Hope because of Jesus. He knows me and He sees me. In the dark. On the floor. Feeling low. He knows my need and my weary soul rejoices, though sometimes I would rather remonstrate. I would rather question why this is happening to me and claim it unjust. What I know is this: God is just and God is love. He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he. (Deut. 32:4). I trust in His unfailing love. Give me faith to trust you more.

There is value in the middle of the story.

I want to really emphasize that this is MY experience. This is not how everyone experiences depression. This semester a lecturer in class said: “once you’ve met one person with autism you’ve met one person with autism.” I believe the same is true with depression. My blob will not look the same as someone else’s. In fact, they may not even describe it as a blob at all.

A Letter to Me

I’ve been craving a love letter recently so I decided to write one to myself. The idea made my stomach drop. Mostly because I haven’t written a love letter to someone who doesn’t love me back. To someone I don’t really love.

I’ve written encouragement notes to people at camp that I don’t know and I don’t know how to encourage. I fill it with generic pleasantries that I hope are true. I worry that it won’t be received well but I figure any note is better than no note. I’ll often write things like “your campers seem to really love you” and it’s a risk because what if it’s not true? And that person knows it. They know I’m just writing sweet nothings that I hope are encouraging.

I worry that’s what’s going to happen to this love letter. I can write it but my inner-critic will tell me that it doesn’t ring true. That this love letter is just sweet nothings to fill a page. A good exercise but not based in reality.

I don’t know what to write. I don’t know how to be nice to me. I don’t know how to write kind things when I so deeply know the flaws.

I asked Wil the other day (shout out to Wil who always likes it when he makes it into the blog)…I asked him “how do I love you better?” and he pointed out that maybe I should try to love myself first before I try to love him better. In the relationships between him and me and me and me (wasn’t that fun to read), he is not the one wanting for love. It’s me. Me and me. I don’t love me.

So it’s time to write a letter.

Dear Naomi,

You are beautiful even when you don’t see it. You are beautiful when you are confident and you are most confident when you allow yourself to play. To be yourself. So be yourself (insert cliche quote about how there’s only one you blah blah blah).

You are creative. You like to make things and try new things. You are willing to fail when you’re crafting (but only if you don’t catch it too late (pulling out crocheting is the worst)).

You care about people. In fact, you may care too much because you have yet to internalize that not caring what people think is not the same as not caring about people. You want everyone to feel heard, included, and loved. But you think you’re terrible at it. You care too much about what people think. You need to be a good friend to yourself before you can be a friend to others.

I’m amazed at your willingness to try in practicum even when you feel uncertain. I’m proud that you make things happen. Once you take ownership of something you see it to fruition. You make it happen as far as it depends on you. Be wary of taking ownership of too much. Of becoming responsible for things that are out of your control. Things that you decide to carry when they were never meant to be on you.

I love how you still get excited when you see a jackrabbit in the backyard even though they’re there every day. The sight of clouds still makes you in awe. And talking to your Creator can still make you so amazed you get teary.

You have skills and gifts. You have purpose and worth.

God cares more about who you’re becoming that what you do and who you are becoming is enough. I know you want to argue here. I know you have room for growth but have grace for your current self. Allow yourself to grow without fear of disappointment or disapproval. Allow yourself to try and fail. Allow yourself to have a cheat day or a cheat week. Allow yourself to have conversations that don’t go anywhere and to be quiet when you’re okay with the silence. But don’t let your comfort in the silence keep you from being curious. Ask questions.

Lots of advice in this love letter. This advice is to let you know that it’s okay. Who you are, what you’re doing. It’s okay. It’s okay. God made you special and He loves you very much. Believe it. He is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.

He loves you. Love yourself.

I know you like to use guilt to endorse change, but you’re letting it rule your life. Let it go. Care more about loving yourself than improving yourself. Be kind to yourself so you don’t pine after others to tell you your value based on their friendship. Who is that fair to?

Be a friend to yourself. You are deeply loved by many people. You are not a burden, an afterthought, or a tag-a-long. These people like you. Do you think you could like yourself too? Find security in the Love that is better than life. In Someone whose faithfulness is great and whose mercies are new every morning. He cares for you.

Well, I’m running out of material so I’ll end with this: Love yourself. It will not make you prideful, self-centered, or egocentric. It will free you up to be a better friend to those around you.

Those who need love the most ask for it in the most unloving ways. You are asking for love by being the mean girl. She’s hard to love. Let her die. Be yourself. Be kind to yourself.

Love yourself.

Stay Sweet,

Naomi