And Then I Was Angry…

Days 10 & 11… & 12? of 31 Days of Connecting

I’ve known for awhile that I wanted to write about the year of 2013 – or as I call it, The Year of Mourning. And I’ve known if would be hard – and it is. But I’m grateful for such a receptive and encouraging audience. You guys are the voice of God to me as I work.

This is it. Part 3 of my story. (It started here.)

*****

They say grief has five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. I had clearly been living in denial of my loss for far too long. At the beginning of my mourning I felt a deep sadness settling into my soul. Each of the losses was felt, individually and collectively. I carried them with me.

But, one of the losses took awhile to come to my attention. Actually, I didn’t perceive it as a loss, because I thought it was my fault. I thought I was doing something wrong. And I thought I was the one responsible to fix it.

It was the loss of financial security.

For several months, our income amounted to about two thousand per month. With a mortgage, medical bills, student loans, and other ongoing expenses we struggled to get by. Well, I struggled.

I thought the loss of our financial security was my fault because I believed I wasn’t handling the money correctly. I wasn’t saving enough. I wasn’t being thrifty enough. If only I tracked every penny every day, if I only bought sale items  and used a coupon with every item I purchased then maybe things would be alright. Since I sometimes forgot – since I sometimes paid full price for a box of cereal or a gallon of milk, since I bought myself a t-shirt at Target for $5, it was my fault we couldn’t stay within our tight budget.

And I thought I was in the wrong because I shouldn’t be depending on financial security. Oh the spiritual abuse I heaped on myself was heavy here. If I only trusted God, then we would be ok. If I only trusted God, it wouldn’t matter how much we had, because I would be content. If I only trusted God, then life would be rosy. No problems. No pain. No loss.

But I didn’t.

And I just didn’t want to acknowledge these losses: The loss of security. The loss of trust in God. Because if I didn’t trust God, what kind of pastor would I be?

But God didn’t let me hide that loss – He didn’t want me to go on living as if I trusted Him when I didn’t. He didn’t want me to pretend I was ok with our low income. In fact, He forced me to face it.

It happened one night when Tim and I were talking and Tim said to me, “I want to give the house to God.”

Come again?

“What do you mean?” I asked, defensively.

“I want to entrust it to Him. I want to surrender it to Him and use it the way He wants us to.”

I looked around our living room. The sofa we got at a garage sale, my Target armchair, the bookshelf Tim made after we got married, my electric piano…

And I saw us having to get rid of it all.

“No!” Fear, frustration, panic, and a sense of abandonment filled my heart.

Hadn’t we done enough for God? We moved to Colorado so I could go to Denver Seminary in order to spend the remainder of my life serving Him. We made financial sacrifices within our careers in order to honor Him. We stayed in Colorado to serve Him. I had given up family, friendships, and finances trusting Him. And He didn’t seem to care a wit about me in return.

How could He ask for my home, too?!

Bitterness crept into my heart, my defenses were up and my claws were bared. There was no way I was going to back down, not now.

If God wanted me to acknowledge my losses, I was going to. And He was going to have to deal with it. Because I was done. I was done trying so hard to please Him. I was done acting like I was ok with where He had called us. I was done being the placid, submissive, loving daughter of God I felt I needed to be.

Anger was here. And it wasn’t going anywhere for awhile.

I didn’t talk to God for a week.

*****

Dilemma: What do you do when you’re not talking to God but are one of the leaders of a prayer and worship ministry? What do you do when you’re not talking to God and have a church wide prayer event in the middle of your strike on God?

I went reluctantly.

I felt like a fraud.

Thankfully I didn’t have any responsibilities at that prayer event or I would have had to tell somebody I couldn’t talk to God. I was in hiding.

Did I have to pray?

The first thing the leader of the event did was invite us all to take a moment to be alone with God. To pray, to worship, to get ourselves ready to pray together.

Begrudgingly I went into our church’s prayer cave. I could hide here, I figured.

Sitting alone, in silence, David’s words crept into my heart. How long, Lord? How long will you forget me?

I pulled out my phone, searched for this phrase in my digital Bible, and found the rest of Psalm 13:

psalm 13

I brushed away the tears. The psalm became my prayer. His unfailing love? His salvation? His goodness to me? I wasn’t so sure. But if God was willing for these words of pain to be His Word, then maybe I could speak them to Him, too.

How long will I be alone? How long must I mourn? Grieve? How long will I be sad? How much longer do we need to be here? How many more goodbyes do I need to say? Please answer me. Please relieve me of my pain.

I went through the evening as one reciting the multiplication table: rote. I knew the motions. I knew the words. I just didn’t have the heart.

Then, the leader of the event asked for us to break into small groups, lay hands on, and pray for the staff members and their spouses who were there that evening. I was completely caught off guard. Did I want to be prayed for? I didn’t know. Could I be prayed for? … Sure.

I watched as groups of people migrated to the staff; then three, a mere three, came to Tim and me.

Yes, these three could pray for me. I trusted them.

I don’t remember if we talked first. I don’t think so. They just started praying.

I surrendered to their voices…

One woman who I’ve known for a long time, but not well, spoke – and she spoke my heart.

She spoke of how I love people deeply. Deeper than others love.

And she prayed about how it must be so hard for me to be away from my family when I love others as much as I do.

How did she know that?!

She prayed for strength.

She prayed for healing.

I wept.

31 days of connecting

Advertisements

“Praying Our Goodbyes” – Words of Wisdom from Joyce Rupp

Day 9 of 31 Days of Connecting

Thank you all for your encouraging words concerning my recent posts. It’s healing for me to finally write about it – I’m overjoyed that God is using it to heal you as well. 

When I began to grieve, I realized quickly that I needed help. Because I had shoved some of my feelings down for well over a decade, I didn’t know how to mourn my losses. Writing them down helped – but it only helped me realize that they were there.

How does one begin to sort through the mess of pain and tears that causes your stomach to ache, your chest to heave, your heart to burn? How does one begin to understanding the feelings of shame, abandonment, and helplessness that comes with grief? How does one begin to see why we feelings like these are good, helpful, or even healing?

When I began to grieve, I turned to a book I had on my shelf for a couple of years, but had never opened. It is called Praying Our Goodbyes by Joyce Rupp. Within pages, I found hope and confidence that this journey through the depths of heartache was exactly where I needed to be.

I would like to share some of Rupp’s words of wisdom with you, today. I hope that as many of you are seeking healing in your own seasons of mourning this book could become a resource for you, as it is for me:

One author speaks of an “existential loneliness” that permeates every human spirit, a kind of unnamed pain inside, deep within us, a restlessness, an anxiety, a sense of “all aloneness” that calls out to us. I prefer to name it an “existential ache.” It is a persistent longing in us, and it happens because we are human. It is as strongly present in us as autumn is present in the cycle of the seasons. I believe that this ache is within us because we are composed of both physical and spiritual dimensions. Our body belongs to the earth but our spirit does not. Our final home is not here, although “here” is where we are meant to be transformed by treasuring, reverencing and growing through our human journey. No matter how good the “good earth” is, there is always a part of us that is yearning, longing, quietly crying out for the true homeland where life is no longer difficult or unfair. 

Every once in a while we get in touch with this truth in us. It is not a sadness exactly, not a hurt or a pain as such, but some tremendously deep voice that cries out in bittersweet agony… It is the autumn in all of us, the truth that life can never stay just as it is.

This inner ache is felt especially when we sense the mystery of life or the supreme uniqueness of who we are. It is present when we recognize the fleetingness of all that we know and all that we cling to upon this good earth. We have a strong longing at this moment to hold onto all of it, and we realize the impossibility of doing so. We seldom put words onto this melancholy. We only dimly sense its presence. But it colors our moods and pervades our activities and weaves its way through our unconscious. It is present in our edginess or in blue days that seem to have no cause. It raises its voice in our inability to concentrate or to feel full satisfcation even when everything in our lives is going smoothly. It makes itself felt when, perhaps just for a brief moment, we recognize our mortality and the swiftness with which time passes…

This loneliness, paradoxically, joins us with all others in their aloneness. There is a great strength and comfort in this. It is only when we are willing to meet the absolute truth of that aloneness within us that we are no longer alone… that we are able to break through to a level of consciousness that assures us of the magnificent bonding that we have with other humans and with God. We begin to see the ache as a natural part of our humanity and of our inner journey… We realize that we are not the only ones who are going home, that we are not the only ones who are still unfinished, that we are not the only ones whose lives calls us to many partings before we are one with the eternal hello

If we are attentive to the inner ache, and if we grow in accepting its truthful message, then we will more readily move through our own particular goodbyes. We will be more open to the growth of the human journey.

– Joyce Rupp, Praying Our Goodbyes, (Ave Maria Press, 2009) pp 7-9 (italics and bold are my emphasis)

I will continue sharing my journey, tomorrow.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

For the first time, I acknowledged my loss…

Day 8 of 31 Days of Connecting31 days of connecting

My journey of 31 days is taking a little turn. Over the next days – as many as it takes – I want to share my recent story with you. It started here, yesterday. Please start there. I pray that hearing my story of connecting – of REconnecting – will help you connect with God, others, and yourself.

In January 2013, I felt life was going really well. Ben was one, Jack was four, my depression was under control, I had excitement for Scum of the Earth Church and sensed that God was bringing something new to our community through a movement of prayer and worship.  I had hope of redemption and faith that God brings things around for the better – hope that I had been missing for a few years. At last God had reminded me that He brings joy to life, not just endurance.

So, when we held our first night of prayer and worship at Scum, I was filled with anticipation and expectation of what God would do.

The evening was beautiful as people came and saught the LORD. And God was moving. He was redeeming. He was encouraging. He was speaking. I was honored to be part of it and more confident than ever that this was where I was supposed to be.

Then one of our leaders asked my husband, Tim, and me to pray for his health. I prayed. Tim prayed. When we finished, he turned to Tim and told him how impactful his prayer was. That there was power in his hands.

He said nothing to me.

I felt myself fall to pieces. My confidence vanished. I was hurt that he didn’t recognize God’s work in me – I feared maybe God wasn’t working in me. I battled with my insecurity and shame until I finally told Tim, “I feel useless.”

Tim then wanted to ask that same leader we prayed for to pray for me. I was horrified and scared to discover where these feelings were coming from. Was I under spiritual attack?

But we asked the leader, and he prayed over me. Then he said the thing I least expected. He said that fear is often connected to grief. He told me I need to consider what I’ve lost in my life and how that has affected me and caused me to fear. My fear and insecurity was not an outside attack, but God was healing me by revealing my deep pain.

I was bewildered. I had never considered myself as needing to grieve. However, within 24 hours, I had a list of lost relationships; more than 20 individuals whose relationship with me had been severed in some way. From middle school friends to professional mentors. From relatives to peers. From best friends to boyfriends. Deaths. Illnesses. Moves. I had said goodbye to so many people and I felt the hurt of them all.

For the first time I acknowledged my loss.

And my pain.

I wrote in my journal:

Sometimes I fear no one loves me as deeply as I do them. That Tim could not be as crazy about me as I am about him. Or that friends don’t want my friendship. Or even, Lord, that I have to earn your favor… Now, being away from family, having few friends, or even close co-workers, I feel afraid of losing more, being rejected all over again…

I began to grieve.

day 8to be continued…

 

I Was Dishonest with God

Day 7 of 31 Days of Connecting

Over 9 years ago, Tim and I moved to Colorado so I could get my MDiv at Denver Seminary. When our son Jack was born the day after I turned in my final assignment (wrap your head around that for a minute), my heart ached to return to Minnesota to live near our family. When they all came to visit for Christmas that year and had to leave again, there wasn’t a dry eye in the apartment.

Kaihoi's Pics 045 Kaihoi's Pics 048 Kaihoi's Pics 053

I did everything I could to move back.

Since Tim had decided to become a mechanic, we toured automotive schools in the Twin Cities.

I applied for every job I could find in my field both within the cities and out of them, but female pastors are not necessarily desired – especially during a great recession. I got few responses…

I was offered a position in Kansas. Middle of nowhere Kansas. I turned it down. That would have only been pulling me further from family, not closer.

I had an interview for a position in Willmar, MN. My Dad’s hometown – but that didn’t pan out.

We continued to pray, cry, and try to discern where God had us next.

One Sunday night Denver, we were in church during one of the most raw, uncomfortable, and honest services I have ever attended. I loved it. I had never felt at home at Scum of the Earth Church. It was not my culture. But when the staff was willing to put themselves out there in such vulnerability and honesty, I found myself asking God, can I find this anywhere else?

No.

And then He told me, I want you here.

Here? At Scum? I asked.

Yes, here.

I cried.

I was relieved to finally have an answer, but I was devastated that God was keeping me from my family. My support system. With tears streaming down my face, I said yes.

I said yes quickly, because I believed it was what God expected of me. I did not ask why Denver and not Minneapolis. I did not ask why He was keeping me from my family – though my heart was wounded. I did not ask if Scum would be a good fit for me. I just submitted without question. Like a good Christian girl does – or at least what I thought a good Christian girl did.

 

31 days of connectingBut my lack of honesty with God about my feelings that night, my lack of lamenting to God about His call away from my family, my lack of questioning His call, my quick yes to God, actually hindered my walk with Him… 

(more tomorrow)

Has God ever called you somewhere difficult? How did you respond?

An Apology to My Readers

Day 6 of 31 Days of Connecting

I’ve been sucked in, again. Sucked into looking at my stats, checking out my followers, spending far too much time (in my opinion) “plugging” my blog when in reality, I don’t think this is what God wants me to do.

I’ve become concerned about my image over the content of my writing.

I’ve become upset over lack of response, when God wants me to respond to Him.

I’ve become preoccupied with this blog, instead of focusing on the work He has most definitively called me to.

When I joined 31 days, I joined to:

  • grow as a writer
  • write every day (so that I learn to write every day – AKA grow as a writer)
  • explore what it looks like to connect with God, self, and others (because it is very connected to my book)
  • join a community of writers on the interwebs

That’s it.

As I joined #write31days, I also joined Twitter. Twitter. The social media platform I said I would never do and really have no interest in… maybe I’ll find it beneficial… maybe.

I have also compromised in spending FAR too much time on this blog – and it has not been worth it. I have not gained and I don’t think you have either.

Also… also, I have lost the vision of sharing myself with you. My reader. And so, I’m sorry.

I do plan on continuing on in this 31 days of Connecting. But I hope to bring to you a bit more soul. A bit more of me.

I really want to bring people closer to Jesus. But I know that unless they see me walking with Him, it’s really nothing but words on a page.

I hope for more for you. More for us.

May God be with us.

I lose my track of my mission in Christ because I get caught up in a popularity contest. What about you? Where do you lose track of your walk with Christ?

Receiving from God when I’m so so tired

Day 5 of 31 Days of Connecting

You ever have those weeks when your kids don’t let you to sleep? Yeah, that’s been my week. I’ve been woken up because of bad dreams, sickness, and the big ol’ “Hi Mommy!”

Hi? It’s dark outside. Go back to bed.

As my two year old says, “I so so tired.”

I feel like I’m always tired, but this weekend I am exceptionally so.

Last night I got ready to bed a couple of hours earlier than usual, but was kept up late because of a fever (poor kid), woken up at 3 am, and again at the usual 7am wake up time.

I felt a little panicked today that I wasn’t going to be able to write about what I planned to write about. Church. Worship. Connecting with the Lord over His Supper. But I didn’t do that today. Exhausted, I spent the morning on the couch with my sick kid watching the “best of” Bob the Builder (we were all waiting for that countdown, right?). And as Bob built a new community and saved a scarecrow from a high tree branch, I felt the fatigue settle into my bones.

What do I do with that exhaustion? Believe that God is expecting more from me? Or lean into Him to give me strength?

I have that choice every day. So often I feel helpless in my weariness. Out of control and slightly horrified as the day goes on and more and more seems to fall to pieces.

OR, I can stop trying to do it all on my own and turn to Him. When I turn to Him, I not only feel comforted and strengthened, but I have better perspective. I can see that not everything NEEDS to be done right now, but I am able discern what is most important, because He helps me.

day 5

Today, my strength is renewed not necessarily physically (I need sleep for that), but emotionally as I regain my hope and confidence in the midst of yet another challenging day as a tired mama.

My favorite line right now in those verses is this one: His understanding no one can fathom.

He understands it’s exhausting. So, He helps us.

This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Meeting God in the Nothings…

Day 4 of 31 Days of Connecting

day 4

Today, we have nothing planned. Well, almost nothing. No work. No meetings. No writing (I’m writing this on Friday) No house cleaning or laundry or dinners… Nothing I don’t want to do.

That’s what my Saturdays have turned into. Nothings. And in those times of Nothings, I have found the space I need to rest, rejuvenate and reconnect with God.

It typically takes me most of Friday to calm down. To turn my brain off from work and to turn to what’s important. It takes me a couple of hours on Saturday to wake up, to fully wake up to the day and to realize that this is the Lord’s day. The day I take to create a bunch of nothingness in order to read, pray, connect with my family and to just be.

It’s glorious.

I’ve been intentionally practicing Sabbath for a few months now. Intentionally setting aside my Saturdays to have nothing planned. I was afraid at first that if I did that everything would fall behind. That I would only wind up with more to do on the other days of the week. But that has not been the case.

Because I take an entire day to do nothing but be attentive to the Lord and the needs of my relationship with my family and myself, I find that I am much more attentive to what is needed every other day of the week. Because I take the time to train my ear to the Lord on Saturday, I can hear him better on Wednesday. Because I let myself rest and unwind on Saturday, I am able to start up again at church on Sunday.

Because I meet God in the midst of nothing, I find that I have everything.