Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sunday Night Blues

Remember in high school, you'd leave school on a Friday afternoon with a light heart and spend the weekend sleeping in, hanging out with your friends, and running around town with boundless energy? And then all-too-soon, Sunday night would come and you'd have to face reality and your homework and another week of school?

Well, this Monday through Friday gig? It kind of reminds me of that. I did the bedside nurse thing for 5 years almost to the day. There were a lot of pros and a lot of cons, and I hope to get back there someday. Sure, I hated working weekends, it wore me out when 12-hours felt like forever long, the unpredictable schedule was infuriating, and I loathed working holidays. But this cycle of 45 to 50 hour workweeks and a weekend that goes by too quickly? It kind of crushes your spirit.

So kudos to you who have been doing this for 5, 10, 20, or 30 years. Truly, my hat is off to you. When do you go to the doctor or run errands or get a haircut? How do you find time for sanity? And do Sunday nights ever get any less depressing?!

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I can't tie these past few months into a neat and tidy bow because they're very much still a work in progress. I can't talk about many of the details online, but changing jobs has knocked me off my feet in a whole lot of ways. I have so many thoughts swimming through my head, but there's one very tangible thing I became aware of this week: God has been faithful through my tears and my unmet expectations.

He's teaching me a lot of lessons about control and he's teaching me that I can still rest in him regardless of circumstances. Every Sunday night, I'm sick to my stomach with anxiety and I truly don't know how I will get through the week that stretches before me. It's unfathomable and uncomfortable and I know I'm completely unprepared for the questions and phone calls and expectations that I will face tomorrow morning.

But the past two weeks, I've sat down every single morning and admitted, God, I can't do this. I can't pretend to know what I'm talking about. I can't pretend that I anticipate the doctor's every need. I can't get through this day without you. I don't know what it looks like to pray unceasingly, but I know will all my heart that I need you if I'm going to make it through today.

And he does. He gets me through the day by no merit of my own, but with a peace that truly surpasses understanding. My heart has been shockingly, unbelievably calm amidst the crazy the past two weeks. Now staying calm when I get home? That's a different story altogether.

But tonight, in this one moment, I know I can wholeheartedly thank God for bringing me to my knees because I'm finally getting a glimpse of how his strength is made perfect in my weakness. Each Sunday night, I just know the chasm is far too wide and I won't make it to Friday. And every Friday I realize I don't deserve any credit for having made it through.

I don't want to take this for granted. And I can't wait to see what God has up his sleeve because he makes all things (even especially the hard things) work together for my good.



Your Love Never Fails by Jesus Culture

Nothing can separate
Even if I ran away
Your love never fails

I know I still make mistakes
But You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails


   You stay the same through the ages
   Your love never changes
   There maybe pain in the night 

   but joy comes in the morning

   And when the oceans rage
   I don't have to be afraid
   Because I know that You love me
   Your love never fails

The wind is strong and the water's deep
But I'm not alone in these open seas
'Cause Your love never fails

The chasm is far too wide
I never thought I'd reach the other side
But Your love never fails


    You make all things work together for my good

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cookie Cake

You know how I cope when I'm stressed? I bake. I love love love baking. I don't love the stress eating that sometimes comes out of baking when... well... I'm stressed. But I do love baking. I mean, you mix the same ingredients and you get the same outcome. Predictable. Orderly. Unlike the rest of life, right?


I made these the other night and then, to prevent eating the whole pan in one day, I took them to work. I kind of just left them in the break room and didn't tell anyone that they were gluten-free. Or worse, that the main ingredient was beans. Shhh...

They were gone by lunch, irregardless.

Gluten-Free Cookie Cake

1 can of chickpeas, drained
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup peanut butter or almond butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup white rice flour
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Dump the chickpeas, vanilla, peanut butter, and brown sugar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the egg and pulse until incorporated. Then add the flour, flaxseed, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix until smooth.

Stir in the chocolate chips at the end and then pour the mixture into a greased 9-inch pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes until golden and cooked all the way through.


P.S. You might want to eat these with a side of Beano. Just saying.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Life is hard

I didn't want to write again until I got out of this funk I'm in. Let's be real, my blog is becoming a little too Debbie Downer, even for me. So I waited a week or two. Yet here I am, still in a funk and I don't know that it's leaving any time soon. Life is hard! I feel like overcoming one hurdle just leads to another. And when I recognize that my own selfishness is creating my hurdles? Well, that's never fun. How come I can get myself into messes so easily, but I can't get myself out of them on my own?

I hoped and prayed for a season of rest this January and February. My Teaching Assistant job is over, I'm on a break from school, and I took a clinic job to maybe have a little less work stress and a more predictable schedule.

Joke's on me because once again, I find that I placed my hope in the wrong place. This clinic job... whew. High-risk pregnancy is a high-stakes area, and one I really know nothing about. So I'm starting from scratch and it's stressful. It's hard. It's a lot of tears. It's also a lot of overtime, which is nice for my bank account and terrible for my sanity and my relationships.

When oh when will I learn?! Only God brings peace. I know that in my head, I feel that in my bones, but my heart is bent against that truth right now. For immature reasons, I'm holding back on surrendering my all yet again. Even though I don't want to be, I'm a little mad at God.

I've learned a lot this year. I've seen God's loving hand on the worst circumstances. In fact, I can even see it now. He's telling to me rely on him, trust in him, seek peace in him, hope in him. Despite my circumstances. But oh, I'm so tired.

I never used to understand people who said they were ready for heaven, but I'm starting to see the attraction. I'm weary of this world. I'm weary of the tenuous balance between waking up and wanting to do better, and the stark awareness that when I try to do better on my own accord, I am doing a disservice to the cross. Because I can't make my life what I want it to be.

And the life I want? It's the one where "He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, not crying, nor any more pain, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4

So maybe this is too dark, but it's where I am. I need to let go of my pride and admit that I am weak-- which is okay, because He is strong.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lovely

This simple truth from the Jesus Storybook Bible's version of creation has been pressing on me lately:

We are lovely because He loves us.


Not because we're beautiful inside or out.

More importantly, when we aren't beautiful inside or out.

God created us. And He loves us. So we are lovely.

This is a hard, hard truth for me to swallow and I'm kind of buried in it right now. Bear with me as I try to preach the Gospel to myself here.

I thought I had the self-loathing thing down pat. For years, I used the label of eating-disorder "survivor" to pacify myself. Like, I'm not nearly as bad as I used to be. So I'll just sit here in my survival shell instead of pursuing things of true and lasting beauty??? Ummm I can't believe I'm typing all these ugly thoughts out. But I know I'm not alone.

The truth is, I have struck a balance between bouts emotional overeating and a regular exercise schedule. My weight has fluctuated within a normal range for the past few years: a little skinnier in the summer, a little fluffier in the winter. It's a cycle completely dependent upon self-control and lack thereof.

Then, 2012 became (among other things) the year of unrelenting acne. Stress, hormones, and who-knows-what else made a perfect mess of the part of me that's most visible to the world. Unlike a sweatshirt that hides a few extra pounds, there has been no hiding this acne. Now that I'm on accutane, it's even worse because I'm still breaking out, but my skin is also ridiculously dry and flaky, so makeup just accentuates the dryness.

To be honest, though, even these things are small matters compared to what lies within. At the same time my acne grew out of control, my marriage was imploding and exposing the idols in my heart-- revealing the worst of me to myself. The past year has made me feel quite un-lovely in deep ways I never thought possible. What I once found decent about myself, was now wretched. It just wasn't good enough. I wasn't enough inside or out. For anyone. I wasn't enough of a wife to hold my husband's attention. I wasn't a smart enough nurse. I wasn't a dedicated student. I wasn't a good friend. I wasn't a good daughter, sister, co-worker, you name it. But truly, all those things aside, I wasn't enough for me.

My confidence was once at least held up by a semblance of denial and a healthy dose of, if they don't like my sweatshirt and jeans, that's their problem, not mine. Now? It's all out on the table and I'm trudging through the thick of it and I'm finding that I really can't fix this pain. I can't will it away. I can't outsmart it. I know that even if and when this accutane does its thing, I will feel so un-lovely if nothing changes in my heart. This holiday season, I ended up in tears in the bathroom before every single social event we had on the calendar, crying that I just wanted to feel beautiful for one day. Is that so much to ask?!

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When I disrespect myself, I'm saying to God, look, I know you tried and all, but you didn't do a very good job here. I know better. This is ugly. All of it.

The thing is, he already knows our hearts are ugly, because we are humans and sinners by nature. But he offers us grace upon grace upon grace in spite of that. In fact, because of that. I see now how much I need it. God sent his Son to justify our legal standing before the gates of heaven, and the Holy Spirit to sanctify our daily lives that we may constantly repent and turn toward the Gospel.

This is me repenting, I guess. Over and over again. I thought that if I was self-depreciating enough, people would have no expectations. That way, showing up somewhere with frizzy hair and no makeup would be better than not showing up at all. Joke's on me, though. I worked my way in a downward spiral until I felt unworthy of anything and incapable of true beauty. My sin is exposed and I cannot get stuck in this cycle of seeing my sin, skipping the cross, and moving straight to repentance and behavior modification. (Thanks for reminding me over and over again, Jami). This pattern will lead straight to despair every. single. time. Because I will never been good enough, but He is.

I am lovely because He loves me.

I am lovely because He loves me.

I am lovely because He loves me.

I did nothing to deserve that, and that's okay. I need to need my Savior. I am less than nothing without him.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Renewal

Last year went by in the blink of an eye. It's true that the days are long but the years are short. I must start 2013 by apologizing: I've been quite morose lately. On the blog and in real life. Introverted, introspective, and greatly concerned with things of no great importance.

I know that in many ways, today is just another Tuesday. I'm so grateful, though, that it's a tangible bookmark. It's a milestone met. It's a reminder that in Christ, the old has gone and the new has come {2 Corinthians 5:17}. There is hope! And life! And a fresh start that relies not upon my own resolve or self-control, but God's mercy!


How beautiful that we awoke to a snow-covered ground this morning. Last winter was ugly and brown, but this winter we had a fresh snowfall before Christmas and New Year. A wonderful reminder that in our perpetual sin, God's grace can still cover us. Indeed, "because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!" {Lamentations 3:22-23}

I'm not making resolutions this year, because 2012 taught me that when I make plans, God laughs. In fact, it's like Anne Lewis says: "There are four ways God answers prayer: No, not yet; No, I love you too much; Yes, I thought you'd never ask; Yes, and here's more." My goal for this year and for all the days remaining to me is to sit in God's presence daily, and to be present in daily life: the good and the bad, the messy and the real. I want to be mindful of Him, and allow HIM to direct my paths.

When I worry, I cling to the idols of control and busyness (which slays me because I hate busyness yet I fill my days with it). But when I hope in Christ, I find joy even amidst my sorrows. In light of that, I do want to share my favorite moment of 2012. It whispers of deep pain before and great hope after. Like this first day of the new year, it marks the end of one extremely difficult journey, and the beginning of a somehow more challenging one, but a truer one.

Ross and I renewed our wedding vows at dusk on Friday, July 13, 2012 beneath the heavy realization that we are not enough. We can't make our lives good. We cannot pay the price for our own failures or those of our spouse: it's too much to bear. Thankfully, at exactly the right moment, God intervened and knocked us off our feet. He pulled us out of deep waters. This past spring, we both saw things clearly for the first time. As two sinners striving to love selflessly, we're still learning a great deal about God's love. Even when our spouse fails us or betrays us in big or small ways (as they inevitably will), we are still called to love them as God loves us-- sin and stubbornness and all. Only God never disappoints.

video

When Ross came to pick me up to meet the pastor that evening, this song started playing on the radio and it sums up this past year perfectly. It's so filled with hope, and I couldn't have said anything better myself.

Redeemed by Big Daddy Weave

Seems like all I could see was the struggle  
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past  
Bound up in shackles of all my failures  
Wondering how long is this gonna last?  
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me, son  
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won 

And I am redeemed  
You set me free  
So I'll shake off these heavy chains  
and wipe away every stain  
I am redeemed  
I'm redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy 
Named by the voice of my shame and regret  
But when I hear You whisper,  
child lift up your head, 
I remember, oh God,  
You're not done with me yet

And I am redeemed  
You set me free  
So I'll shake off these heavy chains  
and wipe away every stain  
Now I'm not who I used to be.  
Because I don't have to be 
the old man inside of me 
'cause his day is long dead and gone
Because I've got a new name, 
a new life, I'm not the same  
And a hope that will carry me home

I am redeemed  
You set me free  
So I'll shake off these heavy chains  
and wipe away every stain  
'cause I'm not who I used to be  
Oh, God, I'm not who I used to be  
Jesus, I'm not who I used to be  
'cause I am redeemed  

Thank God, redeemed