Sampling from Ruminations: a zine

I wrote a zine. As with any vulnerable writing, I really hope no one I know reads it. During the project, I was excited and couldn’t wait to finish it. Proud of each piece. Now that it’s finished I’m not proud of the outcome…the printing job was hard to figure out and I thought about printing it as a little book through a company but that made it seem like I thought too much of myself but now the edges are uneven and I cropped some a little too close and when I look at some of the writing it seems so dramatic and pompous which feels eww (inhale)…ANYWAYS. It is finished.

If you’d like a copy let me know. I’m accepting cool rocks, letters, crafts, poems, or real money in exchange for a copy. Make me an offer and I’ll send you a copy.

I’ll give you a little sample below of one of the entries I wrote. Bri said it was good writing and she’s pretty trustworthy so maybe you’ll agree. Here it is:

Our friendship was a seed planted over a decade ago that grew into a plant with deep roots. It was at the centre of the garden at one point, but as time went on and seasons changed more plants were added. The layout of the landscaping shifted. Your garden was more crowded than mine but that was okay. We both cultivated green spaces that allowed us to thrive. 

One day I went to my garden downtrodden and in need of connection. I looked over the modest grounds and passed by the plants in front of me to notice our plant. It was on the outskirts. It wasn’t expanding or blooming, but its roots were deep. 

It grieved me to see the stagnate plant and I grabbed it by the roots and tried to transplant it to the centre of the ground without asking. I wanted it to sustain me when there was no fruit on its branches. 

I understood that the local plants were easier to maintain but I thought our plant was worthing of nurturing too. Even in the off-season, because its roots were deep. 

Once transplanted I started to prune. Our plant didn’t fit well in the new space. I cut into it with shears. The blades made of my expressed needs and the handles made of my uncommunicated expectations. 

Were it a healthy plant, it wouldn’t have minded the pruning much. But heavy pruning at the wrong time can cause irreparable damage to the growth of a plant and ours was already dormant. 

Now we’re left with a brittle stock. Not thriving. Barley surviving. I wonder if you even notice the damage of if our plant is too far on the periphery for you to detect the casualty. Even though the roots were deep. 

The depth of the roots disallows me to let the lifecycle of the friendship close. The plant is dead but I keep watering it with my thoughts hoping that new growth can come from the old stock. 

Maybe a new seedling could develop from the same root system but not by my efforts alone. I was to bring the water and you the fertilizer. The plant needs both to grow and stay off withering. But you never showed. 

So here I am watering the plant out of hear-shot and hoping you’ll notice. What I’m really doing is causing the roots to rot and I’m tired of hauling buckets. 

I need to stop. Put down the pail and go to you. Walk down the path and hand you a seed pod from the old stock. Let you know there is room in my garden. I’ll prepare the soil, you come plant the seed. We can both tend to its regrowth. The amount of responsibility you take for the seed is the amount that you value for the growth of its new plant. But I may still be the one that has to act first so you can find the tender soil.

Not for Nothing

Photo by Christina Hills Images

Over the summer, there was a 2 week period where I thought I had cancer. Now before you think “oh, no! What major symptoms is she dealing with?” let me tell you that I often think I cancer or some large disease when waiting for results (trust me, a few months ago I thought I was going to be told I have lupus). It’s one of the downfalls of being able to see my blood results online before going to see the doctor…and being a bit of a hypochondriac.


A quick aside; The lupus story: I have messed up feet, like, you can feel my metatarsal heads on my soles. I only found out this was abnormal after an Occupational Therapy lab. Thanks, grad school. Anyways, long story short, I end up wearing orthotics in my shoes to fix the issue. In March, I started getting numbness and pain in my toes again so I went back to the podiatrist and he sent me for an x-ray. After I’ve done the x-ray the office calls and they wanted me to go for blood work. I think “what did they see on my x-ray that caused them to think I need blood work?” The answer? Lupus. Or arthritis or (please see WebMD for more details). In the end, it didn’t even matter. It was nothing. Turns out I just have messed up feet.


So a month ago I went for a physical and told my doctor that I think I could have endo (endometriosis for those of you who aren’t familiar with the slang terms for reproductive issues). So she sent me for an ultrasound and bloodwork. Then the office called me to book an appointment to go over the results (which they literally never do). So obviously I assume something is wrong. I look up my blood test results and ask google what they mean. Cancer. Or blood clots or inflammation (hello, PCOS) or (please see WebMD for more details). I go for a few weeks thinking it’s going to be cancer and then the appointment comes. The doctor looks at the sheet with the results, the mood in the room shifts, and she says “based on your ultrasound (pause) we can see (another pause), that you most likely have PCOS.” Then she looks to me to gauge my reaction as if she’s delivered big news. I almost laughed. Duh, we’ve known this for 3 years. She didn’t mention the blood work and I didn’t ask (I know, I know. I need to be my own advocate blah, blah, blah. At least I almost turned around after leaving the office to say “what about the blood work?” so…I mean, that’s contemplation of change, right?).

During those weeks while I waited for the test results, I didn’t know how to pray. Obviously, I didn’t want cancer but I also didn’t want it to be nothing. I was also at camp at this time and having the kitchen prepare special food for me and I felt like a burden. I didn’t want to wish unhealth on myself, but I also felt like the disorder I do have didn’t justify the extra work and drama. I have black and white thinking. I want complete health or complete illness. Not the in-between. Not this mild-chronic-incurable stuff. All or none.

I think I also wanted it to be something because I’m tired of feeling crazy. I’m tired of going to doctors and saying “things are not as they should be.” and the doctors responding with ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I was hoping for different results because if it had been something I wouldn’t feel like my body was betraying me. Causing all this fuss when there’s nothing that can be done (or so says the medical field). I wanted to come out of the doctor’s appointment with something actionable. An action item I could act on. Gloom. Here we are. With a referral to another doctor that 100% is going to say “go on the pill. no? okay, come back when you want to get pregnant.”

And I do want to be pregnant. I want a baby. Imminently. It feels extra vulnerable to tell the intranet that…maybe because of the assumptions people will make with that knowledge*. But more than a baby, I want my body to meet expectations. I want a period. I want less facial hair. I want no acne. I want a stable mood without depressive episodes. Alas, I do not.

Who knew I could want something so badly and not be able to wrestle it into existence.

My body is how it is. It doesn’t ovulate. It has extra hair. It makes me sad and anxious at times. This is it. This is what I’ve been given. Now, what am I going to do with it? If God wants me to have a baby He will do it. Do I trust Him in this? Yes. I know Who gives life. I surrender to His timing and His will. No babies? Your will be done. Ten babies? Your will be done. I’m trusting.

I grip so tightly to my desire. To control, really. I want control over my health but I am not Lord. I am not King. I am not God. The God who sees. The God who hears. The God who cares with steadfast love. Unwavering love. Reliable, dependable, steady, sure, constant, relentless, unfaltering love. Health is not my idol or at least I don’t want it to be.

There’s a verse in the Psalms that says “they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in His promises.” I am that way often. I dislike the pleasant land of the present because I’ve no trust in the promises of God. Or maybe I’m not certain what His promises are. I don’t want to complain my way through this season till something changes. I know He promises the competition of a good story. I know He promises forgiveness of sins. He promises intersession by both the Holy Spirit and Jesus on my behalf. He promises to love me with steadfast, unchanging love.

I’m ready to let this struggle go. To say “my body is good. The project is over.” and be done with it (See Jess Connolly’s new book for more on this). I want to let go of this desire for health, while not letting go of the practices that make my body feel good. Sometimes I want to give up my desire for a baby. Can I still desire it and yet know it might not come? Instead of asking God to change my desires should I lean in to not having what I want? Should I lean into trusting God with my desires rather than saying “If I can’t have it, take the desire away.”?

Probably.

I probably should do that. Trust the Lord with the longings of my heart and know that He knows me and my future. Maybe I just need to rest in His timing rather than rush His timing. Or maybe I’m the non-success story that others need to hear. The one that suffered well even when she didn’t get what she desired. The one that gave glory to Jesus and said my hope is in nothing less. A baby is less. A successful career is less. A together-family is less. A functioning body is less.

Can I bask in contentment because of what I do have, because God is good and in control, rather than focusing on what I wish for and desperately want? I should hope so.

*After finishing this blog, I realized one of the reasons it feels scary to tell the intranet about wanting a baby is because of their response. I worry their response will belittle my experience. “you’re young, you’ve got time.”, “But you haven’t tried _____. ” I’ll get pleasantries and platitudes from people who are not in the trenches with me. That sounds painful and I don’t want to deal. I also worry that if in the end, if I can have children, the response will belittle the struggle of this season by saying “see, all that worry for nothing.” Not nothing. This is shaping me, growing me, teaching me about Jesus. It is not for nothing. It has substance. I want the struggle to be honoured rather than dismissed and I feel telling the world one of my desires gives people the opportunity to discredit my emotions. That’s all.

Managing Emotions

I’m going to start this blog (a blog about how I need to stop manage people’s emotions) by trying to manage your emotions:

In this blog, I’m going to share the events that lead up to me believing that I need to manage people’s emotions. There may be some people who can recognize themselves in this story. And I just wanted to start by saying a) this is how I perceived the events and b) I don’t blame you. You are not responsible for how I responded or what I internalized. Just as I am not responsible for how you respond to this blog.

Even as I write that last sentence my brain wars against it. If I put it out onto the internet, then I am responsible. I am responsible for the words and the message, yes. But I believe I am also responsible for how it makes people feel, what they do with their emotions, how they let it affect their life….and that’s just not true. I am not responsible for what people do with their emotions.

Again I pause because I doubt that that statement is true. I feel like if I create something that makes a person feel emotions then I am the one responsible for the outcome of the emotions. Not true.

We’re going in circles. Obviously, I’m still working this out in my head and my heart so let’s get on with the stories. The antecedents.

When talking about social anxiety and managing people’s emotions with my counsellor she asked if I’ve always been like this. No, I haven’t been. But I can see the trajectory.

I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t always try to alter my behaviour to make sure others were comfortable (which often leads to me being in my head so much that it creates awkward pauses that make people uncomfortable). I didn’t always hyper-focus on what others were thinking/feeling during conversations to the point where I wondering if I’m making too much eye contact or not blinking enough. I was more care-feel in my youth (the more negative self-talk would call me obnoxious or abrasive). Blissfully unaware of this perceived obligation to be in control of everyone’s responses.

So what happened?

After I graduated high school I went to South Africa for 3 months. I came home in December to a changed household. My grandma, no longer able to live on her own due to dementia, moved in with us. During this time I was nannying while waiting to go to an outdoor leadership training school for the summer before starting undergrad in the Fall. I was dealing with insomnia. I was also watching my grandma when my mom wasn’t around.

I was not good at watching my grandmother. I did not handle the dementia well. I would correct her mistakes and insist she listen. Sometimes the correction was necessary for safety (a spoon in the microwave). Most of the time it was something that could have been fixed later without confrontation (e.g. putting away socks in the garbage). I did not have the knowledge or skills I have now and I didn’t know how to deal with dementia. I just wanted to be right. Add in the insomnia struggles, I just wanted to be able to control something.

Grandma did not react kindly to my corrections. She became abusive towards me. I started having panic attacks. I was scared to be left alone with her. I was bitter towards her too. I was angry that I had to pass the communion plate to someone who tired to hit me. And in all of this, I felt the general message was that it was my fault.

“You should try talking to her in a different way.”

“Just be nice to her. It’s stupid for you to be angry at someone who can’t remember.”

How I interacted with her caused her to be abusive towards me. She had dementia. She couldn’t be held responsible. That only left me.

Now, 7 years later, I can see that this isn’t fully true. It’s not black and white. Her fault or mine. Could I have handled the situation better? 100% yes. Does that make me solely responsible for what happened? no. But it did teach me that I need to manage people’s emotions. That to be safe, I have to control other’s responses to my actions.

Fast forward to the summer. I’ve been living at camp for 3 months. It’s a staff break and a group of Outtrip directors are having a get-together. I was tired, having just gotten control of my insomniac sleep, let alone being almost partway through the summer of camp. I, the inverted morning person, didn’t want to be at the evening get-together. I was planning to leave when the group convinced me to play some games first. I played a game and had fun, but I then left early.

The next day one of the leaders pulled me aside and told me that I need to be aware of my influence. I told her I wasn’t aware I had an influence on the group and she said “I know, that’s why I’m telling you. You have more influence than you think you do” It was a good message. I think it was meant to spur me on to good deeds and be constructive criticism. To make me realize that my actions have impact. But it was paired with a conversation about how, essentially, I killed the vibe at the party by wanting to leave and then leaving early. Once I left, others left also. What I understood from the conversation was that I was responsible for how others responded to my actions. Even if I wasn’t in the room. Them deciding to leave because I left first was my fault. Their response was for me to regulate.

This was also the summer I meet Wil (he was in the same program I was in). By this time we knew we liked each other. We had decided to just be friends until after the program ended so we could focus on camp. But we would meet in the mornings and the evenings to talk about our day and ourselves. We were getting to know each other and, yes, falling in love. This wasn’t breaking camp rules…but it was kinda breaking camp rules. I think there were rules for if you were dating at camp. But we weren’t dating.

Our leaders invited Wil and me to the board room for a meeting and essentially asked us to DTR or say we were dating. Honestly, I only have vague memories of what the actual purpose of the meeting was. What I do remember is this: they said that when we were together we were unapproachable. That people don’t want to sit on the bench if it’s just to two of us sitting there. That we need to be careful with our influence. The message I got was that I was responsible for how people felt when they were around me. That if they weren’t comfortable sitting on the bench when Wil and I were already sitting there it was my fault. I needed to manage their emotions.

This conversation honestly messed me up for a little bit whenever I was at camp. I didn’t know how to be in a relationship with William and at camp at the same time. How could I be authentic in my relationship with Wil and spend time with him while also not appearing too exclusive to others? It almost lead to us breaking up. But I worked it out…actually, I think the thing that really changed it was we got married. It made hanging out together acceptable.* But I digress.

So there you have it. Three happenings that compounded into my current way of thinking: It’s my fault. I am in charge of my safety. My actions determine how someone will respond. I have great influence to wield so watch out. Managing other people’s emotions is the only way to have a relationship where they like you.

It’s fear-based.

There are a lot of other thought processes I’m labouring through to help me with this and I’m going to counselling. So I have more I could say on this topic but I think I’ll leave it here. I’m trying to leave room for grace. This thinking has been building up in my mind for the past seven years. It won’t leave in a week.

I’ll end with this:

To Manage: to be in charge, to regulate, to oversee, to maintain control or influence over.

I was trying to think about what the antonym of manage is? Thesuraus.com doesn’t agree with me, but I think it’s the word release.

Release: to allow or enable, to set free, to remove restrictions or obligations, to remove from a fixed position thus allowing something else to move or function

I like that last definition. To remove my perceived obligation of control from its fixed position the thus allow others to move and function. Freedom. That’s the goal.

*I just wanted to add a little note to say that the camp I go to has grown a lot in this area in the past several years and they are at a much MUCH healthier place when it comes to romantic relationships between staff and between campers (but not between staff and campers just to be clear (power differential in relationship = abuse)). The mentality is no longer one of “no purple!” and “shame the ones with crushes” but rather: “this is developmentally appropriate for their age. How can we foster and model healthy relationships?”

** Also, to the handful of random people who started following my blog after I posted the before and after reno photos… that was not the norm. This metacognition is what you actually signed up for. Renos of the mind and soul, not of houses 😆. No hard feelings if you decide to head out. I will not try to manage your emotions as you leave 😉 .

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.