Go For It!

I marked my calendar with an appointment labeled “Write One Chapter of Your Book.” Yeah, I really did! Now that I’m staring at my computer screen, I wonder where I even start? I mean that literally too. Where do I even start? Should I pick out the funny stories? Should I tell of all the difficult moments? Or maybe I should stick with only the past 3 years of my life since that feels like the most monumental stuff out of it all? Sigh…

I almost put my computer away. Instead, my mind drifted to a memory not so long ago. My friend Renae and I took a long weekend and for something absolutely crazy, we flew to Orlando, FL. Now I should have paid more attention to where the beach was in relation to the motel I finally picked but that will be a story for another time (well maybe not…it isn’t that significant of a detail to write a story about!).

Anyhow, we went to the beach. After 3 hours of pure sun and no sunblock, I decided I should sit in the shade, hoping to not ruin the next day’s thoughts of sitting on the beach. Little did I realize that it was too late. I had already turned into an overcooked shrimp! But there again is another bunny trail of no significance. While sitting in the shade of a pavilion, I could enjoy my book but also the best thing to do in public places, people watch. I noticed these two boys.

Let me set up the scene for you. I was under the pavilion sitting on a bench. There was a wide walk-way, then a guide rail. There was perhaps a 2 foot drop to the beach except that at places, a mound of sand was built up to meet the fence line. It was like a mini dune of sorts. Oblivious to my observation of them, they carried on like young men do-running, jumping, egging each other on to do tricks.

At one point, the one boy ran up the small dune like hill of sand, grabbed the railing and proceeded to do a back flip down to the flat beach. It was really cool and I was quite impressed. The other boy, too, was really impressed. Over and over and over this boy did his back flips. Over and over and over I could see the other boy really wanted to join his partner in doing back flips. I couldn’t hear their conversation but I could tell from their mannerisms that the one doing the back flips was spurring the other to try to do them as well.

My attention honed into this boy who wanted to do these back flips. He’d run up to the fence, get into the stance and then chicken out. He just could not commit to trying it. There he’d go again. Run up, bend his knees, grasp the fence and just when I thought he was going to do it, he’d run back down the small dune. Then one time, it was like the bravery set it. With determination, he ran up the hill and at the fence, he stopped and let out his man grunt, complete with beating his chest.

I’m positive that this is exactly what Tarzan did as he beat his chest and let out his brave yell or whatever it is called. I’d say scream but that feels to feminine of a word. Bellow? Grunt? What word describes a man’s yell as he bolsters his brave spirit? Anyhow…

I watched. In fact, I’m pretty sure I held my breath, waiting, expecting, hoping, willing this boy on to try a back flip. After all that will power, he again retreated down the hill. Nooooo!!! I almost cried out at him. I almost jumped off my seat to run to the fence and spur him on. I mean, what stranger does that? ha! I laugh just thinking about that notion. It would be something I might do but in this case, I somehow refrained.

There was just something about this boy and his desire to do a back flip that collided with my spirit. While the boys carried on for a bit more, I took the time to evaluate what was happening inside me. I realized that I saw myself, in a way, in the same predicament as this boy.

The challenge was made and my spirit desperately wanted, no needed, to take the challenge by the horns and go for it. The risk, however, was what caused me to pause. There are a host of things that lay as a challenge to me; two of them are #1. to write a book and #2. to open a restaurant/coffee shop/bakery something or other. The idea, the dreams are there but the risks are too.

What if, like this boy, I can’t do a back flip? What if, I fail? What if, I sink money into a dream that isn’t the wisest of things and I’m left in the whole? What if, nobody likes my food? What if my book doesn’t sell? What if I fall flat on my face and eat a lot of sand?

What crashes in as I ask all these questions are the thoughts I had as I watched this boy. So what if you eat sand, boy. At least you tried to do a back flip! Maybe, just maybe, you’ll experience the joy of pulling off a great back flip? So why can’t I apply these thoughts to my own life?

Maybe I need to run up to the fence, get into the stance, let out a good bellow, maybe even beat my chest and go for it. It’s terrifying really.

The boy did eventually do a back flip. It wasn’t perfect but he landed on his shaky feet. I almost, almost, jumped off my seat to give him a round of applause but I really didn’t want to make myself seem like that “crazy lady”. It made me smile, like a deep smile from down within my heart. Go for it, right?

Do you need some motivation for a new adventure? Tell me about it! I’ll jump off my seat for you and applaud you! I’m rooting for you because you just never know when you might succeed.

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When Emotions Collide

Happy. Sad. Joy. Tears. My emotions feel like they are all over the map. I want to celebrate and I want to crawl under the covers just to cry. One year. It’s hard to put into words this one year.

My son Malachi turns one today at 8:32 pm. My Son Cayden would also be turning one at 8:31 pm. I celebrate one year of growth and yet my eyes can’t seem to stop leaking because I wish I was celebrating with both boys. As is my typical thing to do on birthdays, I remember the year that passed. Today especially, I remember the beginning. I have no idea if I shared so many details here so if I’m repeating myself, I apologize. I find that today in order to celebrate one life, I must also celebrate both lives even as it brings me tears.

I remember. I grieve and I will celebrate.

One year ago:

Last night found me having a 3 hour long stress test, monitoring the babies’ heart rates. Baby B at the time (The baby’s names became A & B because I choose not to know the gender.) What usually was a 20 minute stress test became 3 hours because B’s heart rate dropped. I was a wreck. They finally assured me that B probably just moved and the monitor then picked up my heart rate. What looked like a drastic drop in a heart rate was quickly believed to not be something to worry about. I was a wreck. I didn’t sleep well. I wanted to make it to 34 weeks  but there was this un-acknowledged thought that I wasn’t going to make it that long. In the back of my brain, I was just waiting. Isn’t that why I went to the hospital at 24 weeks? I was like the bomb just waiting to go off but hoping against all odds that I could make the 34 week mark.

I awoke on Sunday morning a year ago with a heavy heart. I called my parents and asked if they would pray, ask the church to pray over my anxious heart. Nothing was wrong but deep inside fear was making havoc over me. By midmorning, I started having pain in my left leg. This was odd to me since I never knew that labor pain could start in a leg. However, it came and went so I began to wonder. Thinking that Baby A was perhaps on a nerve, I decided to take a nap, skipping lunch to sleep. I woke up I think around the 1ish mark still having a pain in my left leg that would come and go.

What I believe was a God thing, my parents decided to make hour drive to the hospital to cheer me up. Around 2 they walked in and one look at my face told my mom that something was up. I told her about this weird pain I was having. About that time one of my nurses walked in and it was decided to put me on a monitor to know for sure if it was contractions. Within a half hour, things began to move quickly. First it was a liter of fluid pushed into my body in 15 minutes. The hope was to stop labor. Next up was a slower drip of liquid into my body over an hour to again hopefully stop labor. Next up was magnesium. Nothing was stopping my labor pains. From the moment, Mom thought I was in labor until this point, contractions were coming 2 minutes apart and steadily increasing in pain.

Finally around the 7:45ish mark, the doctor came in to inform me that we were going to meet the babies tonight. I chuckle now at my question back to the doctor. “Is this like I’m going to meet them in a few hours or like right now?” I’ll never forget his look to me. “Crystal, we aren’t going to run to the delivery room but we will be there in a half hour.” Oh.

Mom went with me to the delivery room. She was the one to tell me that my babies were boys.

So tiny. So precious. So fragile they were. Cayden was 2 lb. 12 oz. and Malachi was 3 lb. 2 oz. It was unbelievably incredible when I could inspect their tiny fingers, tiny toes, heads of jet black hair. Oh the beauty of new life.

I feel like this journey with the boys continues to be one of joy and sadness all at the same time. Every day I went to the NICU I could walk between the boys’ beds and experience joy as Malachi excelled and sadness as Cayden fought every day. It was a mix of emotions praying for miracles for one boy while seeing the other one thrive. I wanted God to move mountains, to prove to all those that saw us that He is real, that God is good, and He wants to do wonderful things in our lives. I struggled with exhaustion over all the emotions with Cayden and then felt guilty at the happiness Malachi could give. I longed to touch, hold, and caress Cayden as much as I could Malachi. I had a hard time with each surgery, each change in machine figures, each test done to check Cayden’s progress. I wasn’t sure why I was more drawn to sit and hold Malachi more than sit with my son Cayden. Oh how my heart remembers all of this.

So I cry. I cry remembering this year. I remember the joy of bringing Malachi home and crying, feeling so torn with leaving Cayden at the hospital. I remember hoping that the unthinkable would happen. I remember the early morning phone call while feeding Malachi. I remember the voice of the doctor saying I needed to come. It wouldn’t be long. And I remember holding my precious boy, Cayden, as he took his final breaths. I remember the deep sorrow, the sobs escaping my lips, the tears, and the utter grief of handing over this precious boy to the One who has been writing my story from the beginning.

I remember the feeling of empty. Of feeling like it was finished. That the battle was over. If I could paint a picture it would be of me, sitting in ashes unable to put thoughts into words, unable to even think. Desolate. Alone. Empty. I lived like this for months on end, unable to really truly know if I was going to survive everything. Malachi brought joy, oh yes, he did. There is not a day that doesn’t go by that I am not humbled to be called his mother but nothing replaces Cayden.

I have no idea how I would have managed with two babies, but I know I would have loved to have tried.

Today I sit, reflect, cry, smile and wonder. I finally feel like I’m out from underneath that cloud which was hanging over me for the longest time. I know, for sure, that I still have much to contribute to life, to the people in my life. I know that God has a plan for me. While I never dreamed that my life would like this, I won’t change it ever. Boy, have I grown and still learning. I’m learning how to set boundaries that are healthy to me in all relationships. I’m learning how deep God’s love is for me and the depth of mercy given to me. I’m learning what it means to adapt to constant change, to love unconditionally, to sacrifice without complaint like a mother does. Oh yes, so many lessons yet to learn too.

All in all, this year has brought so much. God is so good. He really is good. I choose to embrace this roller coaster ride, the mountains and the valleys, the joy and the tears. Yeah, I’m gunna embrace this day.

It’s snowing outside. I told my cousin that I think Cayden is sending me some snow on his birthday because he knows how much I love it. She responded with “It’s the confetti falling down from his party!” Yeah, I like that a lot. Confetti. Thank you God for today. Thank you for so much. For the influence both boys continue to have in my life. Thank you for writing my life story. I am humbled. I love You!

P.s. Once again, I didn’t read over this. No proof reading done so if I have a typo or didn’t say something correctly, I apologize. I will try to do better next time!

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Today’s Musings

Cleaning out my office space so that I can be more productive, I found another treasure from long ago. A little note. Who knows where I found it and the author is not listed but the words are a great reminder to me. It says this:
Your heart and your character are forged when life does not turn out the way you planned.
So today, I am praising God for this journey I am on. I’m not about to trade it. The crazy thing about it is that for a long time I felt like a caterpillar struggling against my own cocoon. I felt like I can’t struggling with my restraints, wondering when the darkness, the silent growing would end. All I wanted was to be a butterfly but I kept feeling that I was being required to stay put and endure the metamorphosis stage in my life.
Certainly my life has not turned out to be what I thought and I know some will say that I should have thought about a whole lot of things. Some will say that I carved my life into what it is today but that one choice back then. And yes, I would tend to agree with those that want to say these things to me. I did make a choice.
BUT I am catching a glimpse of a butterfly being uncovered, a freedom that I have longed for and didn’t know how to live it. I’m sensing a new day that is absolutely breathtaking.
With that, I will choose to live without regrets. I will choose to embrace my story, knowing that every day I turn towards God, He will redeem, restore, rebirth in me His plan, His will, His desires.
How is your heart and your character being forged today?
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Joy Gone Missing

This morning I realized something. Actually I’ve noticed it before but I’m only writing about it now. It also feels like I’m finally willing to name it in my heart. It kind of feels like I’ve been skirting around it—not that I wanted to avoid it completely but more like I just didn’t want to be honest with myself. Perhaps this is all part of the grieving process.

Grief is a funny thing to walk through and when I say funny, I mean in an ironic kind of funny. How does one honestly know if they are navigating the waters of grief correctly? Who knows…

At any rate, I was reading an article this morning about a lady who is bringing joy and it hit me in regards to joy. I used to have joy. People commented on my smile, on my eyes. The people around me know me as one who laughs and enjoys laughter but as I sit here today, I realize my joy was taken captive. It’s been missing for quite a long time.

The past couple of months have been hard. I’m sure there are many others who have gone through much worse so who am I to complain about all that has taken place in my life. BUT…it has been hard. It’s like the crazy weird battle over my heart, over my mind, and certainly, over my joy.

The last piece I wrote talked about the birth of my two sons, Cayden and Malachi. Malachi has excelled beyond amazement. Cayden, however, has not. My sweet little Cayden gave me 55 days to spend with him. My heart breaks as I remember this now. My eyes well with tears as I recall holding that precious boy as he left this world to go dance on the streets of gold. I still remember quite vividly his last breath, the moment his eyes opened to look at me one last time, and then seeing the heart beat drop to 0.

Just like that. I went from single in America to learning how to live as a single in another country. Then upon return, I learned it wasn’t going to be just me. In the throes of culture shock, the blows of being pregnant threatened my undoing. Then I went from wrapping my brain around pregnancy to learning I was carrying twins and then on to wrapping my brain around complications. I moved into the shock of a high risk pregnancy to learning to live in a hospital for 6 weeks. I counted the days and weeks and prayed to reach 34 weeks of pregnancy but even that didn’t happen. At 30 weeks and 1 day, I went into labor unexpectedly and then joined the countless parents who walked the NICU journey.

After 45 days, Malachi came home and I prepared to try to figure out what it looked like to have one baby home and the other still in the NICU. 10 days later, Cayden was gone…like sand slipping through my fingers.

Is there any wonder why I feel as if my joy has been robbed? There are so many conflicting emotions that it is hard to sort out. I long for peace. I long for the strength I once had. Instead, I sit here in what feels like a heap of ashes wondering what in the world I have done. How do I heal from all of this? How do I find my joy again? And can’t we just move out of this grieving phase now?

I’m tired of grieving. I’m tired of crying over things. I’m tired of hurting, of being hurt. I’m just tired. I don’t want to think about how to justify pregnancy, two sons but now one. I don’t want to hash out why some friendships are going up in smoke no matter how much I want to hold on to them. I don’t want to understand the past just so that I can understand where I am headed in the future. I’m just tired. Have I said that enough?

Deep down, though, I feel the hope rekindling. I feel the embers of hope, of healing, of peace, of joy starting to smoke as the tiny waft of oxygen is coaxing life back into the fire I once had in my life. Yes, God is doing something in me. While I recognize my joy has gone missing, I can sense that God is bringing it back to me.

So my heart prays:

Oh, my Poppa. My Poppa.

You have formed me way before my parents knew about me.

You knew that I would reach this destination right here, right now.

You knew. And You still have a plan for me.

A plan uniquely designed for me.

Only you know how dangerous this journey has been over the past few months.

How weak I was, unable to function, unable to process completely.

Unable to love, unable to accept, unable to even utter Your name.

You have seen my questions, my tears, my frustration.

You have seen it all.

And still You love me.

You pour your grace over me.

You lavishly uphold me in your mercy.

And I feel it deep in my heart. I feel you carrying me.

I understand deeply that I am not alone. I never have been and I never will.

As my tears subside and I begin to see a little clearer each day,

I hear and feel the new beginnings of hope you are placing in my very being.

So I pray

That you keep drawing me closer to you even when I don’t understand it.

I pray you renew and restore my joy in abundance.

Make my joy overflow.

Yes, Jesus.

Renew. Restore.

Till my cup overflows.

Yes, till my cup overflows

With joy.

Yes. Till my cup overflows with joy.

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The Big Questions

Wow…it’s been a long while since I have written something. To be honest, life has been a whirlwind. It’s been hard to catch my breath with everything that has taken place over the coarse of a few months. Plus, I just wasn’t sure how to write. I wanted to write but then wasn’t sure if the real, honest-to-goodness truth of it all would be accepted or even understood. I now remember that I started writing with the intent of being real with people. I wrote what came out of my heart, the questions I faced, the hard truths I learned and so forth. It is with this in mind again, that I once again stared at my computer screen with the intent of capturing all that my heart contains.

Bare with me.

I don’t know where this will find you, but I suspect that not one person has or will be exempt from asking some really big questions. So here goes.

I am a single woman and until recently (as in 4 short months ago) I found out I was embarking on the journey to motherhood. I was raised that you save yourself completely for your husband. I still believe this to be the best option. However, while living across the ocean, a man persuaded me to give him everything. I wish I could say that I had the strength of an iron ox but alas, I did not. There was a war raging and I fell to the arrows of my deepest longing–to be loved, to be held, to feel safe, to feel treasured, to feel pursued. All of these things and more, I hoped would one day find me. I didn’t expect to find any of that while living over there. I wasn’t even looking. When everything else about my life over there was chaotic (to put it mildly), when I should have been strong–I gave in.

Now? The things that haunt my brain are thoughts I wish I could erase. Maybe I was just an American girl who was someone to be conquered. Maybe he really didn’t love me at all. Maybe I gave up this priceless treasure to someone who had no idea the value he took from me. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

But these thoughts are not why I write today. Nope. They don’t even come close. Instead, I write out of the past two week’s journey. You see, January 31st, 2016 I gave birth to two beautiful little boys who have since rocked my world in so many ways it isn’t even funny. My two precious little men. One of these little men is doing really well for being a preemie baby. The other seems to have a long road ahead of him.

Long before he was born, I knew this little man could potentially have lung problems but I prayed for a miracle. That miracle didn’t happen. Now, as I stand by his little bed in the NICU I find my heart pleading with God for another miracle. This is the place that I write from today.

Luke 18:1-5 says, ” And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.””

My one son needs a miracle. Because of this, I have felt challenged in my faith to pray specifically for a miracle for my son, one of complete healing for his tiny 2 lb almost 3 lb body. What it feels like is this: the harder I pray, the worse things get. How is this possible? I’ve noticed moments of deep faith in myself, where I believe God is just waiting to shine His glory. BUT, I have also noticed that I have more moments, deeper moments where my faith crashes into reality. So I struggle. AND I ask some big, hard questions.

God, haven’t I suffered enough through all of this? Have I not paid the price for my weakness already? Do you not see my son? Do you not see his tiny body? Why did you give me a name for him that means “great fighter” if he will die? How can he fight if he has some handicaps? Why do you not hear my cries? Why do you withhold your healing? Am I not praying hard enough, long enough, strong enough? Do I lack even a mustard seed of faith? Where are you in all of this?

I am met with silence. Well maybe not complete silence as I know that God is carrying me through all of this. I just want to say that it isn’t enough to know this right now. I NEED SOMETHING MORE! Better said? I WANT something more than this knowledge.

I have cried so many tears that I should probably invest in the tissue market.

The simplest truth is that I just want life to be easy…not all the time but just maybe right now for a short time. Give me a break. Give me some time to rest. To recoup. To rejuvenate. To find balance. I haven’t had these luxurious things for over a year now. I don’t ask for much, do I?

I really don’t know where all this finds you. I don’t know the path you are walking, the struggles you are facing, the big questions you are asking. Yesterday, I reached a small breaking point. It was a moment where I was about to hang up the towel to dry and succumb to a faith that didn’t ask such hard things. I was ready to just accept that this is my lot in life. It was there that my spirit was quiet enough to hear God speak into my heart not with answers, mind you.

Job 38 starting at verse 2: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limist for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed?’ Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?

On and on it goes. Keep reading for yourself. It continues until chapter 40 and after a small response from Job, continues yet again until Job again responds in chapter 42. It is after this, that I come to the spot of bowing my head to God above. As Job says:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

So hear my prayer O God:

I do not claim to understand your ways. Neither will I claim to grasp your will but I desire to be found as one who finds her place solely in You. Teach me how to come before you boldly but humbly. Teach me to pray as a persistent woman who refuses to give up until her heart’s cry is answered. Yet, teach me to do this with the humility of knowing that You are good and Your will is perfect. These two things do not make sense to me but Your thoughts are and will always be higher than mine. As I grapple with my big questions and many others, I can only pray that You take them and make them into ways to propel me into a deeper faith in You. You are my God. I hold out to You my son who needs healing. I stand before you boldly but humbly asking for your touch on his life. On top of that, I ask a special anointing on both of my sons’ lives to become the men of faith you have created them to be. May I be poured out, spent fully on display of your grace, your mercy, your unbelievable love. I fix my eyes on You, awaiting with expectancy, believing in your Sovereignty, and delighting in Your presence. 

Where do you find yourself today? What questions are you asking? How can we both encourage each other, spur each other on in our journeys?

P.s…sorry. I’m not even going to proofread this. If there are typos, if there are things not said correctly, the wrong English word usage and so on, forgive me please. I needed this out. I need to spill all these thoughts before I pushed the notion aside to press the publish button.

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The Inevitables of Life

The Inevitables of Life                  7/6/15

There is a sadness that is permeating my life. It’s like a smoke filled room that cannot be aired out. It oozes into all my thoughts, consuming my mind almost all the time. I want to cry only because it feels like it is the only way to release the poison from my blood. Yet, I find that I want to seal the tomb to this sadness as if it was never alive; like I just don’t want to feel this emotion any longer.

It is a battle.

It is heaviness.

I knew that this kind of day would come. It’s inevitable. There is no one exempt from saying good bye at any level. We all face it—whether by death, by a move, by change. We all experience the moment where we are required to say goodbye. Everyone.

But quite honestly and brutally, I feel as though I’ve said enough goodbyes in the past months then I care to number. Goodbyes aren’t reserved just for people. It is for things. It is for dreams. It certainly is for people. Goodbyes come in different shapes and sizes.

Eight months ago, I said goodbye to America and everything I had known to be concrete in life—my job, my family, my friends, my car. I flew half-way across the world to a world of great unknowns. Very quickly, I found myself stripped of everything familiar to me, reduced to what felt like a mandatory baby stage. Even the basic thing as communication was limited as I struggled to learn the language. People here had no idea who I was or what kind of capabilities I had. Instead, I was just some girl from America who couldn’t speak or understand the language besides hand gestures.

If that wasn’t enough of goodbyes, then came the crazy problems which led to not being able to do the accounting and marketing work I had planned to do. On top of that, helping with the worship team came to an abrupt halt as people were shaken up by the appearance of the police at random points. The very word of “deportation” was a reality check to my already shaken world. There were moments where it was questioned whether I should appear at a gathering or not because the police showed up and I was there, it could potentially cause problems for all involved.

There were many days when I sat in my apartment wondering what in the world is going on and how do I process any of this. Slowly but surely, I’ve felt in my heart this sadness increase as I continued to say goodbye to my expectations of living here in this new country. Then as time rolled around, my friends started to leave to go back to their respective countries. As the circle became smaller and the friends closer to me are approaching departure as well, the sadness is increasingly getting stronger.

I’ve been told in the past, that weeping for expectations and dreams unfulfilled is a healthy thing to do. It’s weeping over the inevitable, the unchangeable, the interruptions.

It just doesn’t feel right to weep now. There are more goodbyes in the near future. In a sense, I find myself hanging on, willing my heart to hold on and process it all at one time. But today I said goodbye to a friend. As I prayed for him, I almost lost my composure. I almost gave in to the tears. I almost left myself crack. Outwardly, I did fine but inwardly there are bits and pieces of me that are breaking down under this pressure. I never planned on it being this difficult. I never planned on it being this emotional. I never planned on being impacted in monumental ways in this place. Wasn’t it Ernest from like Ernest Goes to Camp or something that said, “I came. I saw. I conquered.” Or something along those lines. I would never have admitted to that mindset but I see it clearly now. I wanted to come. I wanted to see. AND I wanted to conquer, add one more “good” thing to my growing list of good deeds. That’s all.

It’s turning out to be much more than that. Much, much more.

It’s the inevitables of life.

Goodbyes.

While many from the States, don’t quite understand this roller coaster; nor do they understand my desire to make sure all doors are closed, I’m ready for life to become “expected” again. Yet from the recess of my mind, I half wonder if this is really what adventure with God really looks like. If living out in faith, means allowing myself to be in chaos holding on with a death grip to the only thing I know to be stable: God.

Maybe that is it. Maybe it is a matter of letting go of my own expectations and becoming okay with the inevitables of life whatever they look like just as long as I have God leading me. Maybe that is exactly what this is all about. If so, then I can only pray for my own heart as I process all these inevitables.

Poppa, you have searched me and you have known me.

You know when I sit and raise, when I sleep and when I’m awake.

You know me better than I know myself.

You are the one who has brought me to this place.

You are the one who has ordained all that has happened and all that will happen in the future.

And you know about all these inevitables, these goodbyes.

So I pray today, that my heart be restored, renewed but changed.

I pray that I learn to become willing to let go of my need for the expected parts of life.

Teach me to lean on you.

Teach me to fix my eyes on you.

Teach me how to say goodbye well.

Teach me how to weep when weeping is appropriate.

Teach me to see you as my Rock, my Salvation, my Hope.

Teach me Poppa.

My heart is weary. My heart hurts. My heart feels wounded.

BUT, I will put my trust in you.

For you are my Poppa.

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Packing an Emergency Bag

The other day I packed an emergency bag. It wasn’t like a bag you pack because you might get stranded in your car during a snowstorm. No, this was a bag that was like in case there is a major disturbance and I cannot leave the house or worst case scenario, I have to flee the city for safety reasons. I’ve never had to do that before. Quite frankly, how in the world do you pack? I’m told to pack only the essentials—what you cannot live without—plus necessities.

Brush, comb, waterless shampoo, deodorant, lotion, 2 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of undies, another set of clothes, Bible, water bottle with a filtering system, a flashlight, first-aid kit, light weight shoes, phone charger, journal, camera—now that I’m running through the list of what I put in my bag, I think I might need to add some things to this bag. I didn’t even think about soap or a towel. What else am I missing? Anyhow…

Who thinks about packing an emergency bag like this? I know that before I came to this far away city that this could happen and quite honestly, I didn’t sweat it. By all rights, I saw it as adventure and secretly I still (kind of) hope to at least see some kind of disturbance but only from a quick point of view. Like I want to take pictures but then get out of there! Consequently, when the idea became more real than ever before, it was more disconcerting then anything. I packed my bag and left my apartment for my friends’ house that is farther away from the center.

Later today, I was to meet with fellow coworkers to deal with our new lawyer. We needed to sign POA papers so that she could represent us as needed to anyone official. While sitting in the lawyer’s office, a friend recounted a traumatic situation that took place the night before. I can’t go into those details but just hearing the story recounted, I again felt a kind of shock seep into my core being. How does one live successfully in this kind of an atmosphere? How does one process event after event of instability? There have been hints to high stress creeping into my heart and the reality is this: I have no idea how to process this. I don’t even know how to put it into words. What I know is that my heart is taking a beating that I didn’t prepare for.

The sentence from the book titled Walking with God by John Eldredge once again strikes. “I felt prepared, but I think I underestimated all that was at stake.” Truly, I did underestimate all that is at stake here.

That’s the thing though. It isn’t just the physical things happening around me that cause me to feel trauma to the heart. No, it’s a whole lot more. For the longest time, stretching into years actually, I felt like I have been on this journey for a live, active faith—a faith that isn’t dependent on what I’ve been taught or what others things/say about faith. Looking back, I can see and sense this gentle stripping away of layers. But here, now, in this place, I see it and feel it even more. Big time more. As each thing happens, as each foot falls, as I’m caused to look in the mirror of who I am, I feel a layer of who I am revealed. The picture isn’t pretty.

In fact, I feel like Eustice like in Narnia when he turns into a dragon. Through everything happening around me, I see myself staring into a crystal clear, smooth pond only to see this horrendous dragon staring back at me. And I don’t like what I see, obviously. I know that the scales and layers have to be peeled off. I know this. I know this is when and where I need to plunk my butt in the ground and allow God to begin to peel. I know this. Call me a coward but really I would not like to face all this ugliness, at least now here and not know. I really don’t like to admit that I have become a dragon or have been a dragon. I mean, I’m a good person. {cough, cough}

A few months ago, when talking with a friend about life here, I said that I feel like God was “Crystal-izing” my faith. We both laughed because of the play on words and then we both sobered because it almost seemed like a prophetic word that popped out of my mouth. Like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. Like a chick hatching out of its shell. We tend to glaze over the transformation phases. You see the caterpillar and then the next picture that pops into the brain is the beautiful butterfly fluttering from flower to flower. We never picture the struggle and pain and turmoil of the metamorphosis stage. Why do we do that? Why do I do that? Why do I want this phase to just be done? Why don’t I want to suffer through this transformational period of my life? Why can’t this be so yesterday? Why is this process spanning years for me? When will I be the butterfly? Will I ever make it to the butterfly stage?

Want to hear another quote from the previously mentioned book? “But it’s disrupting to walk with God. And inviting too.”

So here are my confessions. My confessions of someone such as me, the dragon of a girl who desperately wants to be a butterfly.

I confess that I am terrified of where God is taking me. I confess that the pain and agony of this metamorphosis stage feels like too much to take on. I confess that there is stubbornness in my heart, an unwillingness to move forward because quite frankly, I don’t know that I want to make all the changes I think God might ask of me. I confess that my heart wants the easy road. I confess that there is so much pride in my heart that I can barely look at my dragon reflection. I confess that God is requiring too much of me right now; at least that is what I think. I confess that I don’t want to cry; I won’t want to feel all these raw emotions. I confess the need to be seen as someone who has it all together, as someone who has great faith, as someone to look up to. I confess that I foolishly thought that I would and could change lives while living in another culture. I confess a level of shock that God would choose to work on me instead of allowing me to add another good deed in my “good deeds book.” I confess all this and more.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything that I know that I will post in such a public way. Honestly, I wonder if perhaps I will confirm the idea that I am losing my mind. Maybe I am! I guess, I’m just tired of holding this in. I’m tired of this running around in my brain. I’m tired of holding up the appearances that all is well. It’s not just life in another country. It is so much more than that. There is so much going on below the surface; the things in the physical world only heighten what is happening in the spiritual world, at least in my life. I forget which friend told me this but they reminded me that God isn’t just interested in changing lives here in this land. No, He is also very interested in changing my life as well. So many things keep pointing this out to me. Truly the war between disrupting and inviting is great when walking with God!

The bottom line is this: I want to be the butterfly, the beautiful crystal, the whatever-you-want-to-call-it but I just don’t really want the struggle of the metamorphosis stage. Yes, I know. I’m a walking contradiction. I’m left to ponder the insane question: how do I pack an emergency bag for this kind of disturbance?

What about you? Have you experienced a metamorphosis stage in life? What survival things would you recommend I put in my bag for this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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