As you can see, I have been absent for a little while. I have been busy adjusting to working again, prepping for my first 5k, reading and doing homework for a PeaceMaker program I signed up for, etc. The Lord has truly been awesome. He has been helping me grow, and I am so thankful for this. When I was younger, I was super diligent with goals and lived very intentionally. Not so much the case as of the last couple of years. Ya see… when I was 18, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer. As a result of that experience, I developed a deep passion for the adventures of life and to do as much good as possible with this life God saved. So, I set out to do great things. I went to college (something not a lot of people in my family had done), traveled a bit, mentored at-risk youth through art, taught a man to read, worked long hours as a Case Manager at a non-profit clinic, was diligently committed to staying in good physical shape, voluntarily served senior citizens in three counties for a state-wide program, etc. This went on for about 7 years – much done simultaneously. So, it’s without surprise that I eventually hit a burn-out phase.
I was in love with someone who just wouldn’t commit, and I was working for a clinic I no longer felt proud to work for. They kept promising to fix some very important issues, but nothing was changing. I was tired and had spread myself too thin it seemed. I woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and said, ‘I’m exhausted!’. So, I took my first personal day from work and booked a weekend stay at a bed ‘n’ breakfast a couple of hours away. That weekend I decided some things had to change. I returned and reluctantly ended things with the man I loved so much. I resigned from my position at the clinic – a job I was deeply passionate about – and took a management position at a local restaurant.
My new management position enabled me to work only 4 nights a week. I was so happy to have my days available to soak in the sun. Evenings were when my ex and I had spent the most time together, of course. So, it helped distract me from the loss and pain. I continued tutoring but eventually gave my position up as the tri-county representative for the organization I mentioned above. I, then, signed up for a belly dancing class, started volunteering at a local nature center, and connected with a local potter for one-on-one ceramic lessons. I dove into the Word to further seek out the Lord’s Truths and focused a lot of my reading on wisdom. Basically, I decided to get back in touch with things I loved doing for me and explore new things I had interest in. I stopped running 3-4 miles everyday and started just walking in the mornings. I had moved into a tiny little cabin by a lake earlier that year, which proved to be an amazing respite. At night, I would often go for a swim in the lake to bask in the moonlight. I began cleaning up the property – cutting down small trees, clearing the area around the cabin, doing some simple landscaping, established a fire pit area, etc. My primary attention was on ‘simplifying life’ and ‘cultivating a peaceful living space’. So, I just slowed things down. I began journaling again, writing poetry, drawing, painting and making jewelry. Basically, I just started being creative again and doing things at my own pace. I even stopped wearing a watch. Ha ha. 😉 It was an amazing phase in my life. It almost feels surreal every time I think back on it. It seemed to replenish me from the previous depletion I had experienced. However, as with all good things, it had to come to an end. I lived very simply for over 3 years. It changed me as a person in a lot of ways. I definitely became more introverted when I had historically been more extroverted, which is a good thing in many ways. (relating to people at times became a little more difficult, though, maybe?) I came to value my time, energy, resources, etc. more but also became more protective over these things. (selfish maybe?) I came to appreciate gentleness, softness, slowness, silence, calmness, etc. more than ever (good things, but laziness and a disconnect from the world at times crept in amidst all of this maybe?) I had gone from one extreme to another. It was time to find some middle ground, pick up the pace, etc.
I grew discontented with the town I was living in as I began to experience personal growth changes within myself again. It was primarily a retirement community. So, there wasn’t much to choose from by way of dating options and quality friendships with people I felt I related to. The small pocket of younger generation that did live there was rather spoiled from too much money, closed minded, cliquey, and/or directionless. I’m generalizing, of course. But, overall, things just weren’t working there anymore. Because I did not quite have the motivation at the time to pick up and move to a new place (I had moved so many times in the past that I had developed a dislike for moving. It will make you a minimalist, though!), I decided to try to start a business that would be strongly aligned with my gifts and passions, as well as hopefully become my way out of there. The profession I came up with was Professional Organizing. I like it because it enables me to work one-on-one with individuals, be creative, create order and efficiency (simplify), analyze and solve problems, etc. It hits on all the opposites I possess and like. While it is something I am good at, I went into business very naively. I mentored under a Pro-Organizer located a couple of hours away for a little over 6 months while still working at the restaurant and then thought I was golden to start a business in it. Ha! I should have had a business plan, networked more with people that ‘mattered’ for my business, had more start-up money to hire marketing professionals, etc. A couple of years into the business I took an organizing job an hour outside of where I was living – the university town in which I went to college. It was an accounting firm. The owner and I hit it off and were talking about how difficult it is to run a business. I told him I was seriously considering going back to other-employment because I made more money waiting tables during college than I was making as a small business owner! He informed me he had a job available he would offer me if I was serious. I took some time to think about it, spoke with him some more, and then decided to take it.
Prior to beginning my work at the accounting firm, I had settled into a relationship with someone whom I knew wasn’t a life-long compatible person for me. Yet… I dated him for 2 1/2 years. No excuses here. Upon entering my life, he simply quickly became my best friend. He was a great person who had a wonderful heart, and I did grow to love him deeply. Some of my fondest memories to this day are moments spent with him. But deep down I always knew we would never work long-term. To be honest, I really shouldn’t have stayed in the relationship for as long as I did – for his sake most of all. It wasn’t fair to him – despite the genuine love I did feel for him. Nonetheless – prior to ending our relationship, I moved back to the university town where I was then working in hopes of shaking off the lull I was in, as well as reduce the fuel cost of my daily commute to work. It obviously helped with the commute expense, but it didn’t help get me out of the funk I was in. That’s when I decided it was time for yet another big life change. It was time to end the relationship.
I began trying to find a church to attend and sought out strong female Christian friends by starting a Christian women’s group through the website meetup.com. It had been a longtime desire and prayer of mine for the Lord to bring strong Christian female friends into my life. I eventually found a church I liked, but the women’s group didn’t really take off. It was hit or miss from week to week as to who would show up – if anyone. So, I eventually let the group go and just focused on church. I joined a small gospel community group through the church and began attending the church’s outreach meetings. As a lover of dance, I also got back into salsa dancing, which I did a lot of during college. I met a couple great Christian women through a volunteer effort I had become a part of through the church. I was starting my own sort of casual ministry with the homeless in my area of town, and I had also started my very first organic vegetable garden. So, things were looking up! I was finally getting my groove back. A consistent prayer I began praying around that time was for the Lord to help me learn to love as He loves. Then… I met my, now, husband.
My marriage has definitely challenged me to love more deeply than any other relationship in my life. And I’ll be honest… I have failed many, many times to love my husband as the Lord would have me to. I must say, though, that the sheer difficulty of responding well to his insensitive and, at times, abusive treatment makes it especially challenging. Marriage can be incredibly challenging, and constant forgiveness is absolutely necessary for even the best of marriages to survive – much less thrive. It has been because of my marriage that I have become so aware of how little I am capable of loving well without the Lord’s help – especially when my spouse is being very antagonistic and controlling toward me. It’s hard to always know the Christ-like way to respond in those moments, much less process all the sensitivities and wounds you have developed over time when in the moment. Let me be clear for those of you who have read my first blog post… loving an abusive person well – to me – means walking that fine line of having compassion for someone’s brokenness while also having healthy boundaries in place – NOT enabling destructive or unhealthy behaviors. The tricky part is determining safe ways to uphold those healthy boundaries with someone who often blows right through them with no regard for you or the relationship. Depending on the level of abuse, I’ll go so far as to say isn’t possible. Sometimes separation is the only option – which was my case.
The Lord’s ways are so much greater than mine, thank goodness, which takes me back to the topic of self-discipline. Through my relationship with my husband, I have come to discover that – despite his difficult personality – I, too, have strongholds around some of the things I listed above when writing about the personal changes I underwent during my ‘simplification’ phase. When my husband doesn’t accept me and love me like I think/know he should, I sometimes get angry. Depending on the circumstances, this can be very understandable. It’s what I do with the anger and what I’m not believing about myself that can make a bad situation turn worse. I’m NOT supporting submission to an abusive person. I am saying, though, that it’s not fair to me when I let his sin affect me so much that I then sin back in return. It’s also not fair to myself to care more about how he is loving me than resting in the Truth and knowledge that God loves me more than any human being will ever be able to – with true, unconditional love. I am far from perfect, and it’s important that I own my portion. I only have control over what I think and do. So, I need to be willing to acknowledge where I can make improvements – if for no one other than myself and God. It is very difficult to respond as God would have me to when my desires/strongholds get challenged (directly or indirectly). I have to constantly stop and go into silent prayer and ask the Lord to help me during these times. It requires an incredible amount of discipline when faced with doing the opposite of what I ‘feel’ like doing. Therefore, I have began realizing more and more just how undisciplined I actually am and that it’s something I need to be more intentional about in various areas of my life, not just my marriage. Discipline in one area of life can serve as empowerment for discipline in other areas of life. This is what I am putting my hope in right now, at least.
As I think back over everything I’ve shared above, I believe it was sometime around when I took the job at the accounting firm that ‘settling’ began to take hold of me. I had always been a dreamer and go-getter. However, it seems I gave up on myself when I decided to take that job. I was disappointed that my life had not turned out as I had hoped even though I had made choices all along the way that I felt were the right ones for me at the time. So… alongside disappointment, self-doubt crept in. There I was… moving into my late 20’s without two things I had hoped to have by then – a successful business/career and a lifemate. I have to be honest and say that by then I had also lost a lot of my internal strength to maintain challenging disciplines. I had became so spontaneous and in-the-moment during those amazing three years I lived so simply at the lake that making myself do much of anything I didn’t ‘feel’ like doing was rarely required of me. Everything I was doing in my life during those years exuded passion. So, it was a joyful time that didn’t really feel like work even though I putting a lot of effort toward accomplishing a great deal. And, even though I knew it was time for a change at the end of those years, I found it a struggle to push myself to achieve difficult goals in things I wasn’t passionate about again. It’s been really challenging for me ever since then! I had gotten really comfortable with not having to force much in life and adopted the philosophy that ‘nothing should be forced’. Ya know… the idea that the Spirit gets squelched when we begin ‘forcing’ things? These days I’m thinking a lot about how one best remains open to move as the Spirit leads (assuming I discern the spirit correctly) while simultaneously exercising self-discipline through staying committed to challenging things and people. I have a great deal of self-doubt right now regarding my ability to discern when to stay committed and when to let go – especially now that I am so internally resistant toward pushing through unenjoyable circumstances yet also see how valuable it can be to sometimes stay the course. For example, my situation … It seems like the healthiest thing to do would be to let a destructive relationship go. However, as Christians, aren’t we also called to stay the course? Even amid relational messes? To be peacemakers whenever possible? To approach the other person/people with prayer and love and patience and humility and assurance that the Lord will see you through it? There are numerous examples of people who endured an incredible amount of pain for the sake of the Lord’s work. Obviously, not every situation has the same answer. Maybe all the energy I’ve been putting into this marriage would be more fruitful elsewhere. But how do you discern the answer – when to remain committed and when to just let go?