My Cup Filleth Up

The Lord really does do what he says he’s going to do.

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There’s a story in the Bible (see Mark 9:14-29) about a man who brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus and basically says, “If you could do anything to fix this, that would be great.”  Jesus looks at him somewhat incredulously (implied by the use of the most emphatic form of “if” in the Greek) and says, “What do you mean, ‘if’? IF you are able to believe, all things are possible to the believer.”  The dad hears this, and according to one translation, says, “I do believe…now help my weakened faith.”   And let me tell you, often I relate to this guy more than any other character in the Bible.  Because I DO believe the Lord, just…weakly at times.  I want to be this powerhouse believer, never wavering, never feeling nervous, never questioning, but I’m more likely to be the one saying, “Yeah, God, I know you’re perfectly capable of doing ______, but are you actually gonna?”

Sigh.

Such was the case when I went to Denver over my birthday weekend.  I had a lot of expectations of the Lord because he had been shouting “REDEMPTION! REDEMPTION! REDEMPTION!” over the 6th of May since the start of the year.  I just didn’t have a lot of optimism that J was in line with all of it because there have been sooooo many times where I was hopeful, and my hope dropped like a bird shot out of the sky in the face of whatever mess J was dealing with at the time.  But I resolved to trust God regardless of how shaky I felt, and I went – this trip was the Lord’s idea to begin with, so once I said yes, I committed to it with everything I could.

And it was a fantastic weekend.

It was a little awkward at first; plus, flying sucks these days, so who’s really ever super-happy after stepping off an airplane?  But I had a great, blessedly quiet hotel room – we both agreed that a neutral space would be better than me staying with J – and after getting a good night’s sleep, I felt a little more optimistic.  We spent the whole of Friday driving through the Rocky Mountains, stopping whenever we wanted to, eating good food, and having good conversation.  We really enjoyed each others’ company, and by Saturday night, I felt a physical and psychic shift. (Have you ever had that happen?  Where you feel like your reality has literally been picked up and moved over a couple of inches and it takes you a second to recalibrate yourself?)  We sat in the hot tub at my hotel, and J poured out his heart to me.  Sadly, I couldn’t hear most of it because of the VERY loud children in the pool, but I could feel the truth and the sincerity of what he was saying.  I didn’t tell him that until after we had gotten out, though. 😀

The bottom line is: things are not what they were.  The old truly has passed away, and all things are made new.  We’re still in the process, but we are watching God’s promises unfold before us.  How gracious is he that our little, tiny, weakened faith is enough for him to work with?  I am so very optimistic for our future now!

The rest of the story in Mark finds the disciples asking Jesus why they couldn’t cast the demon out of the boy, and he told them that kind couldn’t come out except by prayer.  I say that to say this: if you need to see God move in a situation, PRAY.  And give him your little, tiny, weakened faith, and let him take it from there.  Don’t try to demand the hows or wheres or whens.  Let him do it.  If he says he will, he will.

Also, M and I are planning to move back to our beloved Alaska this summer, with J to follow when the Lord releases him to (at which time my cup shall overflow).  How this came about is for another post, but I will say that it is well in line with the words the Lord gave me for 2018: restoration, equilibrium, and tabula rasa.  I’ve applied for pretty much what seems my dream job, so hopefully I’ll have even more good news to share soon.

He’s so good, y’all.  He really is.

Unlucky #13, Huh? Hold That Thought.

Today is my 13th wedding anniversary.  It’s supposed to be a fun-filled, celebratory time, and it’s not.  Instead, this anniversary has served to bring to the forefront – yet again – something that reeeeeeeally needs to be different going forward.

I’m a little bruised, a little sad, a little angry.  I’ve stayed in bed reading all day, though in retrospect, my book choice, Chris Perez’ To Selena, With Love, probably hasn’t done my mood any favors.  I’m going to eat my soon-to-be-delivered panang curry, and then I’m probably going back to bed, where I will watch really dumb YouTube videos and ignore everything else except my son, who is wonderful and growing into a very responsible young man.  And eventually, I will sleep, and then, said in my best Scarlett O’Hara voice, tomorrow is another day.

And I won’t stop believing that the Lord is, even now, working behind the scenes on my behalf.  I will stand on this truth until the day I die, knowing that it never won’t be the case.  Even this present darkness (see Ephesians 6:12) will eventually disappear in the light.  One of these days, things are gonna get good, and I’m here for that.  Things are going to be different, and I’m definitely here for that.  In the meantime, I remember that the Lord gave me “restoration” as one of my words for this year, and I know that even today is not beyond His reach.  Post title notwithstanding, I don’t actually believe in luck or lack thereof:

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives.
                            – Because He Lives, by Bill and Gloria Gaither

Freedom From the Danger of “That’s Just How it Is”

This post will be a little different from what I usually write, and some of you may take umbrage at it, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for a while now. Please read with an open mind and heart.

We live in a confusing, chaotic world.  Every day, we’re bombarded with relentless input telling us who we should be, what we should like, how we should dress, etc.  We’re told what’s “normal.”  We’re told what’s “exceptional.”  Some of us grow up being told we are nothing, and we internalize it.  Others of us grow up being told we can be whatever we want to be, and when our 4’11” self tries to be the next Michael Jordan, we realize we might have some unrealistic expectations.  Our parents, our friends, our cultures – each has a different idea of what we should be.  And all this noise leaves a lot of us feeling like abject failures.  Like we won’t ever succeed or fit in.  Like we’d better just accept that that’s just how it is and move on, doing the best we can to get through each day.  That acceptance stops our destinies in their tracks.

I watch so many people I care about living this “reality.”  They either try to become whatever they’re told they should be, or they rebel and end up somewhere equally disastrous.  Either way, they’re living a lie because they don’t know the truth of who they are.  And I just have to say something about it.  Because back in 2009, I got heartily sick and tired of all the noise, and I decided I was going to cut through it and get to the truth.  And I did, and I grew so much over the following years, and I’m still growing.  That’s how it works when you taste the truth – you’ll never, ever be able to get enough of it and will go after it for the rest of your life.

It came down to a single question.  I turned the Lord’s own query from Matthew 16:15 back on him.  “But you, who do YOU say I am?”  And, y’all, I am telling you that this is THE way to find your true identity.  He Who knew you before He formed you in your mother’s womb (see Jeremiah 1:5) WILL tell you.  It won’t be an overnight process, and you’ll have to be willing to set down every single preconceived notion you have about God, about yourself, about EVERYTHING.  But He will lead you gently; He will bring people to speak into your life; He will heal all the broken places, and then you will understand that “that’s just how it is” is not a phrase He ever, ever utters.

It’s an incredibly brave choice to ask this question, especially if you’ve had a rocky or nonexistent relationship with God.  I don’t want to preach at you or try to convince you of anything because honestly, no one can do that except for Him.  I just want you to know the option is there for you, and it is an absolutely fruitful one if you are willing to go into it wholeheartedly.  If this post has piqued your curiosity in any way, I am more than happy to talk with you, pray with you, steer you toward resources that I’m aware of.

Today is a great day to never again have to believe that “that’s just how it is.”

 

Blooming in the Desert: An Uneloquent Post of Appreciation

The Lord’s kindness takes so many forms.

My 2018, so far, has been full of kindness.  My situation has not yet changed for the better, but it’s as if the Lord is determined to shower me, in the midst of all the chaos and unknowns, with sweet little reminders of his affection.

  • Random strangers shouted, “Bless you!” from across the street, two different times, two different places, as I sneezed.
  • A good friend has committed to checking on me once a week, until I no longer want or need her to.
  • Facebook friends and family were astonishingly generous with their praise when I (uncomfortably) posted a photo of me all dressed up for a night out to see Hamilton with my kiddo.

Small gestures, these, but I have felt them like water on a thirsty ground.  They are reminders that I have value.

Speaking of thirsty ground, one of my favorite places in the world has been offering up its kindnesses, too: the Anza-Borrego Desert.  I discovered it in the spring of 2017, during the superbloom that resulted from unusually heavy winter rains, and it was instant love.

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Superbloom in Anza-Borrego Desert

Its 600,000 wild acres of mountains, sand, canyons, and badlands seem to whisper to my soul.  I find I can breathe freely in its wide-open spaces.  (And the night skies, oh my goodness.  The tiny little village in the middle of the desert, Borrego Springs, is an International Dark Sky Community [more info here], so there are no streetlights for 50 miles in any direction.  You’ll never find a more perfect view of the Milky Way.)  So I get out there as often as I can, sometimes to stay the night, sometimes just to take my little Renegade off-roading, but always to hear the Lord and regain a bit of equilibrium.  I dream of building an artists’ retreat there someday – there’s a robust art scene in Borrego Springs – where people can come and be inspired by the harsh beauty of the land.  And, of course, I will use it, too.

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The Milky Way from Galleta Meadows in Anza-Borrego

I was wandering around the Borrego Art Institute last summer, and I began speaking with one of the ladies who worked there.  I found myself telling her about my artists’ retreat dream, and the next thing I knew, she was showing me vacant lots all around the area.  We had an instant connection, something that rarely, if ever, happens to me, and I came away from that day feeling the Lord’s hand over me like a warm shelter.  I looked for her on subsequent visits, but I always seemed to miss her – until this last weekend.  I had a tough week and drove out to the desert on Saturday, journal, Bible, and snacks in hand.  I spent some time writing, but as the sun began going down and the winds picked up, it got chilly, so I decided to go check out the latest exhibit at the Art Institute.  And there she was at her desk.  Her cheery “How ARE you?” led to me unloading about my life, which led to her and her coworker praying over me right then and there, which then led to an invitation to her home that evening.  And when I walked in her door, it was as if I had known her and her husband my entire life (in fact, her husband had said something similar when she showed him the photo of us she had insisted on).  Soon I was covered with cats and little, yappy dogs, and a fantastic conversation ensued.  By the end of the evening, this older couple had wrapped me in a cocoon of love and total acceptance, had opened their home to me anytime I should want it, and prayed over me again.  I think that night’s sleep was the best I’ve had since coming to California.  The next morning, I got texts detailing what a blessing I was to them.

Y’all.  I barely know what to do with all this kindness, but something deep in me is so hungry for it.  I, too, am thirsty ground, and here come the gentle, soaking rains.  It feels like I have things to learn yet, but they are not harsh lessons.  I can hardly believe that I might get to learn what it feels like not to be cracked and dry.

“And yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave [me] rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying [my heart] with food and gladness.” — Acts 14:17, New Pellucere Version 🙂

I am so thankful for his kindness.

Gratitude and Self-Care, Inspired by You and Fart Girl

I’ve never made New Year’s resolutions, ever.  I think they’re well-intentioned but very silly.  That said, I like to stay open to new ideas and experiences, and for whatever reason, this turning of the year seems to have a freshness to it, a sense of promise that 2018 WILL be different.  So, I’m going with it and really taking a look at my life.  2 recent things, in particular, have got me thinking.

First, I was blown away by the amount of support I received after my last blog post.  Frankly, I didn’t know that many people even read my musings!  But so, so many of you reached out to me with messages of love, encouragement, and prayer, and I can’t adequately describe how much your words mitigated that “utterly alone” state that I described in the post.  One friend wrote,

“It’s not always easy to put our experiences, pains and struggles in writing for all the world to see, but it is a step in healing and a more joyful future.”

You know what?  She was right.  As I wrote that post, I felt both extremely vulnerable and also like the proverbial weight had lifted off my shoulders.  I’ve had a sense of being lighter, free-er, since then. My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who was a part of this “step in healing.” ❤

And that leads me to the second thing.  I’ve really been thinking about the concept of self-care, and truthfully, I’m terrible at it.  It’s even difficult for me to acknowledge that I need to do it because I’ve always been one who saw everyone else’s needs as far more important than my own.  But I had an opportunity to spend the New Year’s weekend with my best friend from grade school, the “Fart Girl” of this post’s title (named by my son, so funny, and so appropriate – she’s had the best fart stories as long as I’ve known her!), and I came away inspired, as I usually do on the rare occasions we get to see each other.  FG has always been very driven and successful in virtually every area of her life.  Last year, she found out she was a type-1 diabetic, and she immediately began learning everything she could about the disease.  I got to watch her take care of herself all weekend, and she was very matter-of-fact about it.  There was no fanfare, just her own assurance that she was worth taking care of.  We went on many walks after meals because she has learned that doing so levels out her blood sugar, and I remember the moment it clicked for me:  I need to find the things that help me manage stress and DO them.  Right then and there, at the moment of high stress, I need to be proactive.

So, my lovely readers.  Here I am in another moment of vulnerability.  Because the thing is, I know all the “shoulds.”  I SHOULD get adequate sleep.  I SHOULD write/paint/go for walks.  I SHOULD eat regularly.  I SHOULD set boundaries for when I’ve had enough of something.  But I have difficulty implementing the “shoulds.”  I need some practical advice.  How do YOU take care of yourself without feeling selfish about it?  How do you carve time out of your very busy schedule to tend to your own needs?

My 2018 already feels better than 2017 did, and I think coming to these realizations is partly why.  But I know I’ve got to follow through on them, not let them stay realizations.  I am beginning to understand that things really are going to be okay – I’m going to be okay – if I take time to implement necessary changes.  So let me know your thoughts.  Help this girl get out of survival (reactionary) mode and into living (responsive) mode.  I’m looking forward to your suggestions!

Pellucere and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Years

Hi, y’all…do any of you remember me? A long time ago, I used to write this blog called “Pellucere” fairly regularly. And I promised to be open about struggles and joys alike, in the hope that my thoughts might speak to someone out there.

And then.

A lifelong dream came true.  My family and I moved to Alaska.  We acclimated, bought a house, were in it for the long haul.  I was very excited for my future.

Except.

That lifelong dream took us to a literal wilderness, but it also took J to a spiritual one.  Things were about to get REAL, and REAL was about to SUCK.  And I disappeared, and I’m still working my way back up to the surface.  There’s a book to be written out of all of this, but for now, this Cliff’s Notes version will have to suffice.

Jan 2015: I woke up to the words, “I want a divorce.” I said no.
April 2015: I started having weird health issues, which I’m still fighting. I also started working for the State of Alaska.
Dec 2015-April 2016: J’s company got devoured by a Big Name Telecom Co. He couldn’t find a new job.
June 2016: We walked away from the house we’d bought, my favorite house I’d ever lived in.
July 2016: We left our stuff in storage and moved to the San Diego area, in the hopes that J could find telecom work. We lived on my savings until it was gone. J found VERY part-time consulting work for a company out of Texas.
Dec 2016: J packed a suitcase and left. He was gone for 5 months. He came face-to-face with a lot of his stuff and realized that no matter where he ran, it went with him. Our cat died. M and I tried to remember to breathe.
May 2017: J came back. Still no full-time work, but he seemed to be different in a good way. We were still all crowded into a tiny 1BR apartment and living out of suitcases.
June, July, Aug 2017: As he continued to not find work, J slid back into old behaviors. Tensions mounted.
Sept 2017: As more truths came out, I realized my entire marriage had been built on false pretenses. But I also remembered the promise of the Lord regarding it, and I clung to that promise like it was my only source of oxygen.
Oct 2017: J took a full-time job in the Denver area. M and I stayed in San Diego. Everything that could be shaken began to be shaken.
Dec 2017: We’re about to go into a new year, and I am struggling with the process. Because that’s what we’re in. I asked the Lord many months ago to burn my marriage to the ground, and he did. And he has promised beauty for ashes, but these things take time, particularly when you have to wait for other people to make choices and learn.

Y’all, I am not a person who needs a lot of people around her.  I’m not someone who falls apart at the drop of a hat and needs someone to shore her up.  I’ve always been very introverted and self-sufficient.  But over these last 3 years, I have learned the difference between loneliness and being utterly alone – and being utterly alone is not something humans were designed for.  I have not had anyone – ANYONE – walking with me through this.  People whom I thought would be lifelong friends, who would always be there, well, they aren’t.  Sure, a few people know a few details, but I have worn my aloneness like a leaden shirt.  I have wept more than I thought possible and slept less than humanly necessary.  I have gotten up every morning and made it through each day, one slow, plodding step at a time.  But I am raw with aloneness and the suffocating sense of everything being out of balance. And, oh, I am tired.

I have to look forward, believing for better days.  I have to.  So here’s to 2018, a new year, in which anything can happen.  Here’s to restoration and color and creativity and fullness and life.  Here’s to ample finances, abundances of love, plethoras of purpose, and destiny fulfilled.  Here’s to hope and joy, laughter and redemption, justice and mercy. These things will be mine again.

And if it crosses your mind, could you hold me and my family up in prayer?

 

Wasillaversary!

You know how you go into things thinking you don’t have any preconceived notions, but then life happens and you catch yourself thinking, “Wait, that didn’t turn out like I planned,” and all of a sudden you realize how very preconceived notion-bound you’ve actually been?  Yeah…that’s been the last 12 months for me.  Which is why I disappeared from the blogosphere, why I spent many, many hours overwhelmed and crying, and why I’m so very glad for the changing of the seasons.  Let me give you some of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on how you look at it).

Exactly one year ago, on a rainy afternoon, Lechuga and I pulled into Wasilla, Alaska, our new hometown.  And right from that very moment, things did not happen as we thought they would.  If you recall from an earlier post, the plan was for her to get an apartment, where I would stay until my boys got here.  Instead, we spent all our money on 2 weeks in a cabin, and then we moved in with a total stranger for a month.  That was July through most of August.

At the end of August, we finally moved into a rental, where we waited 3 more weeks for our stuff to be shipped across the continent.  And that rental — let me tell you about that.  It was a nice, fairly new house.  With a stupid, stupid layout.  In which you could hear virtually everything everyone else did from every room.  I’m not even kidding.  That home was never comfortable for any of us, and I know that was by design because the Lord told me it was a picture of what he was doing in our lives.  He wanted us transparent with each other, out of our comfort zones, and he wanted to expose things that needed to be dealt with. (Later in the year, he told me this was a year of establishment, so the ordeal in this house finally made sense — often, you have to tear down old to establish new.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.)

September:  M started his new school and got really lazy.  All of a sudden, he couldn’t remember to do his chores or homework, or even that he HAD chores and homework.  In retrospect, he was going through his own adjustment period, as well as picking up on the tensions in the house and not knowing how to handle them.  I couldn’t find a job.

October, November, December: More of the same.  Both Lechuga and J were facing (or avoiding, in some cases) their own issues, and there were times I felt like I had 3 children instead of 1.  There were also times I didn’t come out of my room for 2 or 3 days on end because I couldn’t deal with another minute of it all.  I spent much time on my face, seeking God, seeking wisdom.  And God had told me he wasn’t going to talk to me like he normally did for a period of time because he wanted me to learn to hear/see/experience him in new ways.  I, who am perfectly content not to exchange a word with another human for days on end, have never felt so very alone.  I still couldn’t find a job.  On the plus side, no job meant I could go aurora-chasing all night long whenever I wanted — and I did much of that.

January:  One morning, I awoke to the words, “I want a divorce.” (Note: I have full permission from the hubby to share everything in this post.) My husband, whom I love tremendously and look at as one of the greatest gifts in my life, was going through a very dark time of confusion.  In the 10 years we’d been married by this point, there were a few deeeeeep issues that he just didn’t want to see, and God put him on the spot in this house.  And it got horrible.  You know how a wound festers and hurts the most right before it busts open and begins to heal?  That was my marriage.  But I dug my heels in and said, “No, I won’t agree to that,” and God gave me wisdom.  I never, ever want to go through anything like the following 3 months again, but I will say that when the tide finally turned, it was beautiful and recognizable.  I still couldn’t find a job.

February, March:  These were the months where I learned to choose love when faced with an onslaught of bile, indifference, sarcasm, dishonor, and all the other ugliness that comes from not knowing who you truly are.  But the Lord told me he had an anniversary gift for me, and right around the 12th of March, J began to get his breakthrough.  All the yuck was finally torn down, and establishing of the new began.  It was a slow process, and even now is still going on, but there has been measurable progress, and that brings incredible healing.  In February, I had a job interview and then a second one with the State of Alaska.

April:  After a THIRD interview, I finally got the job.  But two days before I was to start, I had some kind of weird allergic reaction, and my face puffed up and turned red like I had sun poisoning, and my skin got flaky and gross and rashy and ITCHY all over…and I had to start the job looking like that.  I’m still not happy about that, and I’m still dealing with the rash, although the swelling went down after 3 weeks or so.  I’m headed to a naturopath next week because I’ve exhausted my knowledge for figuring out what’s going on.  I did a candida cleanse, put myself on a low-histamine diet for a month, took Allegra, slathered myself repeatedly with shea butter/coconut oil/essential oils, drank gallons of bone broth and ate copious amounts of gelatin gummies, and tried to alleviate as much stress as possible (ha!).  I’m out of ideas.

May:  My birthday and Mother’s Day came about, and the beginning of more family time, as people’s priorities began to realign.  The woman who took us into her home when we move up here passed away.

June:  And the establishing continues. We bought a house!  There’s a great story to be told, but this post is already over 1000 words long, so I’ll tell it in another one.  At any rate, the house is perfect for us, and I smile when I think how the Lord put it here 5 years ago, knowing we’d move up and fall in love with it. 🙂  Kudos to J for finding it, by the way.  I would never have even looked at it if he hadn’t expressed interest, and the moral of that little tidbit is that it’s easy to miss a blessing if you don’t look for it.

July:  It’s our housemate’s turn to come face to face with stuff that needs to go.  And because I didn’t get permission from her to share, I’m not going to say much, except that things are a little awkward right now, but it’s a necessary part of the process, and this, too, shall pass… M told me Alaska feels like home now.  And J told me, just two days ago, “Come hell or high water, I’m in this with you.”  He has never said such a thing to me before, and I felt something significant shift and click into place when he uttered those words.  Moreover, I believe him: we ARE in this together.

So regarding those preconceived notions I had?  Since it was such a BIG move, a BIG life change, I guess I thought we were going to get here and immediately start doing BIG things for God — big, GLORIOUS things.  The reality is that it’s been a very, VERY difficult year, and you can’t begin to imagine how happy I am to have it behind me.  I will state for the record that I still wake up every morning profoundly grateful to be here.  I still ooh and ahh over the mountains that ring 3 sides of this valley, for they look different and ever more beautiful each day.  I still dream and hope and offer myself for this lovely state and her people.  I still call this little town home.  And I’m glad to be established. 🙂