Saturday, May 31, 2008

Realization upon realization

(I have been asked by the women of my church to share my testimony this next week at a prayer breakfast. After writing this piece this morning, I am realizing that this really is it. Didn't even realize that is what I was writing.....Guess this is what I will be sharing next Saturday morning.)

The last few days have opened the floodgates within my mind and my spirit. I feel more free to express myself than I ever have. I have realized that I need to write for me and me only. Writing is the process that allows me to fully experience my life. If others like it, great. If others are upset by it, sorry about that. I will always be sensitive to others' feelings, but this is my story. They are free to write their own. And I encourage them to do so!

For so many years, I have failed to write because it would not be perfect. Basically, I wanted to sit down and write the finished book in perfect form to submit to a publisher. That is insane. So much of writing is allowing the ideas to flow. Of learning how to capture them. Of learning how to describe things in interesting ways. Of riding the rhythym. So my new motto goes something like this. "Write what is true today, and then write a new piece tomorrow."

This morning through my journaling process I have learned that my choices in life have not been "bad" or "wrong." But rather they have been distinctly and utterly my own. And I have done the best that I have known how with the tools that I had at the time the decisions had to be made. No regrets. And what is more exciting to me is the realization that the driving force in my life has been the gathering of more and more tools to use to better relate to others, better manage my life, better care for myself and better commune with God. But the way I am before I get a new tool is not "bad." If anything it is just untrained. Thank goodness there are lots of things to learn in life! Plenty to keep me busy.

I had deep and unplanned dreams for many years to be a photojournalist who traveled the world, camera in hand, hair pulled back gently in a ponytail at the nape of my neck. Plain cotton t-shirts, supportive tennis shoes, and a thick notebook at the ready. Photographer. Writer. Capturer of the moment. Seizer of the Day.

Until this morning, I had considered myself a failure. Never been able to travel much because of lack of money. Pretty much stationed at home caring for my family. But look at this layout and tell me it isn't photojournalism.....describing life as I see it on a daily basis. Infusing the average and common life that surrounds us each day with new meaning. That is what I do. It might not be photographing an African safari (well, it has its similarities sometimes!) but it is infinitely more meaningful to me. I know my life has been profoundly changed by reading others' journaling. (That is what gave me the courage to start losing my weight and loving myself afterall.....) (click on image to read journaling.)

Truly, being able to find meaning and a new opportunity for growth from a huge pile of unfolded socks has to be from God. I am not able to see things like that and find the humor in those situations on my own. But we had a very memorable ceremony the other night that fully dissolved my job of Sock Worker forever. Each had to come forward to claim their beloved cotton foot coverings and plegde to care for them regularly on their own. It was classic, if I do say so myself. I will post the ceremony later for other mothers of large families to use if you wish!

Back to the program, these are the lives that are within my care. These are the hearts that God has entrusted to my guidance. These are the souls who are striving to discover who they are and what they might be able to do to make the world a better place.

And, yes, I think I can help in that process. I think I can help because I am actively trying to discover the same things for myself. It changes daily as new people and things are placed within my path. You have to learn to listen to yourself and to God. You have to learn to trust that what you are hearing and what you are thinking is right. You have to have the confidence to define yourself. You have to have the respect to listen to others when they tell you things you need to hear. You have to have the courage to stand firm when you really would rather run and hide. You have to have the curiosity to keep seeking out new experiences from which to learn. You have to have faith that pain will not last forever and that if you delve deeper into the pain when it seems too much to bear, that you will emerge on the other side a changed person. Not better necessarily, but more mature. More developed. Sharper and purer from the refiner's fire. And most of all you have to realize that if you are open to it, you will continue to grow and change forever. Because that is the deal God has for us if we are willing to accept it. He will continue to use us and mold us and define us for His glory.

But, friends, sometimes it hurts. Hurts so badly you think you can't keep on living. Sometimes you grieve so hard for things you have lost or experiences you will never have that you want to just quit trying. Sometimes you wonder why you are such a fool for believing such a radical God. Life could be so much easier if we just sat this one out. It wouldn't hurt so badly if we didn't keep opening ourselves up to others only to be hurt again. It wouldn't interfere so much with our own goals and plans if we would just turn away from the Voice. If He would just leave us alone, we think we would be at peace.

Never. I would never experience peace without the knowledge that all that I am going through will someday somehow be for His eternal glory. He can only use it all because I allow it. But that is the only way I can stand firm and sometimes walk directly into the fire. And I am here to say, without a doubt, there has never been a time I have been through a trial that has not made me stronger and more ready to help someone else at a later time. But there have been times I honestly thought it would kill me first.

So, I have defined myself as a failure for having not traveled the world taking priceless photos of the people in faraway lands. But I realize today, that I have traveled the topography of the human heart in ways that continue to amaze me. For me to be sitting here in a positive mental state medicine-free, in an organized home, among 5 happy, well-adjusted children, with the love and support of a faithful husband to whom I am open and available, almost completely debt free, and fully open to relationships with others .....well that is simply a miracle.

A beautiful, complex, divine miracle. And I am so humbled to be used by God as an interpreter when needed to those experiencing any of the things I have experienced. I have been physically disabled twice and on a walker, unable to perform simple daily tasks. I have been so severely depressed that I slept 18 hours per day and could not answer the telephone or leave my home. I have lost a baby and endured all the well-meaning remarks of how it must have been God's plan. Ick. Double Ick. I have gone through times so emotionally challenging that I thought the emotional pain would never end. I have lived in a home with things stacked so high around me that I had to walk through paths of boxes and stacks of things in order to get around. I have lost 50 pounds of weight that I really never thought I could lose.

But things have changed. And I have cleared it all out. Bit by Bit. I have learned how to break huge jobs down into small parts. I have learned how to keep working at things even when it seems you will never succeed. I have become a devotee of "baby steps" as a way to do anything. You can do anything for 15 minutes. (Go get a timer, and see if I am not right. You just have to keep coming back to do it again and again for 15 minutes each time.) I have learned how to give God my paralyzing fear and social anxiety. Minute by minute if necessary until it is no longer crippling. It might not ever fully go away, but it becomes manageable. Sometimes it does go away completely. It just depends. I have learned to be flexible and to not expect things to always be a certain way. I flow freely back and forth within certain confines dealing with things as they arise. I have learned we have choices and how to make them. Then, more importantly, like today, how to learn to love myself for the choices I have made. What else have I learned? I am sure there are many things I am forgetting that I can add later. Or not. I now know that my list does not have to be exact and complete in order to be a good list.

Each of us has our own calling. We are made to do and be different things, knowing full well that God can change and equip us at any time for something completely different. I choose to let go and go on that holy roller coaster ride. And for me, right now, one of the callings on my life is to share my experiences and the things I have learned with others. I know for a fact that my sharing things that seem too personal to share or too awkward for some has saved lives. The comments I have received have told me that it has touched their lives right smack dab in the middle of their gut-wrenching pain and it has given them hope. So I keep plugging along, bit by bit, trying to stretch myself further and further so as to have more about which to write. For I only feel qualified to write about the things that I have experienced firsthand. That can be a scary prospect to which to surrender. Think about it. But it is worth every minute of it. And I can't imagine having lived a life without so many opportunities for realizing God's abiding presence. Much of the last 10 years has been spent living directly in the palm of His hand because things were too fragile for me to imagine it any other way. But that is ok.

Life is good. God is good. Amen.

Please comment if this spoke to you....for that is my inspiration for writing....

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