something new

Hey guys! So, in my last post I talked about my experience with panic and anxiety during my recent experience with a sinus infection and then trigeminal neuralgia following the illness. What I didn’t talk about was everything I heard about this condition and that this can also be a symptom of other things underlying. I heard from a few people that trigeminal neuralgia can be debilitating and I started to do that thing where I obsessively looked it up and heard story after story about how terrifying and debilitating and excruciatingly painful it can be when it attacks. I was terrified. All I could see in my mind was that I would be debilitated for the rest of my life with never ending excruciating pain that would hold me hostage inside the prison of suffering. And then I relaxed and started to recover from this first attack and the panic and anxiety that accompanied this new thing I was experiencing. I started to return to the present moment. I started to realize I wasn’t actually debilitated right now. I started to realize, again, that this experience and the nature of fear in it was telling me a different story than what I was experiencing in reality.

My nervous system is recovering right now. I am incorporating things to help with this like deep belly breathing exercises every day and contemplative prayer. What I am learning in this is that stress management and self care are very important things to figure out. In hind’s sight, I could see how I accumulated stress from 2019, which happened to be a more stressful year than others. With the increase of that stress and my own ways of coping with stress, it became clear to me on the other side of it that I need to do something new to manage stress in my life. So at the peak of the panic and anxiety, I started doing yoga. I wasn’t sleeping, but I had more energy than I ever thought I had. I did yoga. I went to they gym and walked on the treadmill. I tried the elliptical. I walked around my house. I got moving. Movement and connection to my body in this way has always been a struggle for me. Inactivity was a more natural way for me to cope, but it is not serving me in a healthy way anymore. I realize now more than ever how important it is to move my body. Even doing basic yoga stretches for 15 minutes is enough. So I’m not going crazy with this. I don’t do it everyday yet, either, which is a goal I am working toward.

Meditation and contemplative prayer are also practices I started a few years ago that I am seeing an even greater need for now. There is a lot of buzz in our culture about meditation and mindfulness and for good reason. It is so very needed in our mind-driven intellectual way of showing up. I am learning that meditation is a practice that helps to train the mind to calm down. The mind is an energetic powerhouse, but it cannot be the only one from which I draw. My body and heart are also energetic powerhouses and alignment in all three areas takes discipline and practice. It takes a lifetime of discipline and practice, actually. And there is no such thing as arriving anywhere with it. The mind is the mind. I am learning so much about the nature of the mind and the stories it crafts around my experiences. So far I have experienced a lot of mental chatter around this new experience and I am learning to observe the thoughts and then allow them to vanish into the cloud of forgetting. As I do this, I experience peace. As I was driving into work this morning, I experienced a great peacefulness even though I see this terrible threat approaching.

In my last post, I talked about a dream I had and in that dream I could see a threatening E5 tornado heading in my direction. This new thing is a threat to my ego. My ego doesn’t like another diagnosis and the possibility that my body can experience excruciating pain if this nerve were to attack me again. My conditioned self has also made an appearance and I am learning to challenge these stories now as they enter my mind, instead of being carried by the stories as factual to my current experience. Yes, I am experiencing new things in my body that I don’t like and that quite frankly are scary. But you know what I see right now? I see that I am a participant in the human experience just as you are. I see that people experience terrible things all the time and receive terrible diagnoses from doctors all the time. I see that we are all connected to each other through the pain we experience– the physical, mental, emotional pain we all experience. And you know what? That brings me to a place of peace and interconnectedness that I haven’t experienced before as a whole being. I have known with my mind that we are all connected to each other, but this experience is connecting me more deeply to my fellow humans on a deep heart level.

But guess what, guys? These things we experience that we can perceive as threats to our existence are not truly threats at all. What is divinely true is that we are held together in Love’s cosmic energy and nothing can stop the flow of that Love toward us. Nothing. No bad news or medical diagnosis, no pain, no fear or shame, or even the experience of our own hell on earth can stop Love. Not death. Nothing can stop it and we are not separate, but joined to it whether we know it or not. Something I continue to learn is that when I suffer, I share in Christ’s suffering and therefore the suffering of all of human kind. We share it. We are joined together by it. We grieve through it, together. I also am familiar with the ache in the soul accompanied by trauma and loss and acquainted with the part of that process when the mind and heart can grow numb to words. Words don’t matter at the peak of our grief and suffering. I can say that there is no fear in Love or that there is nothing that can separate us from Love, but sometimes words make the human experience worse. I am learning that the energies of Love and compassion and grace and kindness flow from the depths of our being into someone else’s being simply through presence. The presence of Christ dwells in us. We are carriers of this presence. We do not need to ask for it to come. It is with us and in us one hundred percent of the time at all times, whether we feel it or not. All we can do is trust it and let it carry us like a great flowing river into the wild and unknown of life. Love and peace to you, friends.

May you be at peace
May your heart remain open
May you be aware of your true nature
May you be healed
May you be a source of healing for others
May you dwell in the breath of God

Prayer by St. Theresa of Avila

panic, anxiety, and sinus infections

So, the thing that has pushed me into this transformation season is a sinus infection that led to something else that led to a nerve in my face getting angry. That nerve just so happens to be the trigeminal nerve– the one in charge of three areas of your face and can effect your eye, nose, tongue, and jaw/chin. What I have experienced so far with it is a lot of pain and pressure and burning in the sinus area. When I get a headache, the inflammation causes the nerve to inflame as well and can ache along with the headache. I want to be completely honest and open about how this new experience has affected me. Perhaps you’re also in a similar situation, experiencing something new and totally freaked out about it. Well, you’re not alone, friend, be it emotional, spiritual, physical, or all of those things. This experience has connected me more deeply with the human experience, which is a good thing because I know it is developing deeper compassion and empathy in me, and for that I am grateful.

This all started back in November after the sinus infection and whatever else I had going on in my body at that time, although it is a mystery. I went on an antibiotic and that helped the sinus infection clear up, but I still had fluid backed up in my ears, and an ache in my left ear, particularly. I went to see an ENT doctor and he couldn’t find anything wrong. I went to the ER twice and the second visit got me closer to where I needed to be, which was a neurologist, which was super intimidating. Before I move on, I’ll say that the sinus infection (first time for one of those, by the way) triggered my sympathetic nervous system and I went on high alert with panic attacks and anxiety reaching a level I don’t remember experiencing before. I was very close to putting myself on anti-anxiety medication. I went through several weeks of that. I couldn’t sleep. My body was pumping out adrenaline keeping me awake, and I was frustrated at my body for not letting me sleep. I experienced all kinds of emotion. Eventually, the panic attacks lessened and my body has been recovering after this period of about two months or so. During that period I was also performing my own investigation into this trigeminal nerve situation. I was reading stories and experiences other people had with this nerve and it was terrifying. In short, I was stuck in this vicious cycle of panic, fear and anxiety.

I went to see the neurologist, who doesn’t think this is anything serious. So my analytical mind took over, based on my own investigations. How can she know for sure this isn’t something more serious? This “research”, a.k.a. typing my symptoms in Safari on my phone, has shown X, Y and Z can be happening, doesn’t she know that?! She put me on some medication and told me to call her back in a month to let her know how I am doing. I call back because I desperately want to stop taking the medicine, and she says to keep taking it for three months and to call her again at the end of March. Ugggghhh! In other words, she needs to wait and see how my body responds to this. It is in an unknown stage for now, which means I have to wait. Wait and trust and cultivate patience. It was very hard for me at first, and it is still hard. It is only February 10th for goodness sake! We’ll see what she says in March, but I will be going back in for a follow up in person in June.

What have I learned from this? Well, for one, Dr. Nicole La Pera who calls herself the Holistic Psychologist, says that anxiety and panic are our teachers. Anxiety comes up to show us what needs healed, that we have work to do to face it and then work to do to heal it. She teaches methods that help individuals do their own soul work, and recommends doing breath work, meditation (which I will talk a lot about soon), mindfulness/awareness, exercise and nutrition. She also recommends doing these things daily which is something I have had a hard time with ever since I started a few years ago. Consistency is important for producing lasting change. But it’s hard to start a new regimen without our own inner resistance. And resistance has definitely come up for me.

So what I want to emphasize here is that I am learning that this requires a lot of work, that anxiety, fear and panic have surfaced to show me something else below the surface. For me, it has been facing fear of death and illness and recovering from an overload of accumulated stress from 2019. The anxiety was also present because it is the start of a brand new decade and we are currently in a season of transition as a family. All I can see in front of me is the great, vast unknown. But as I wake each day and step into the unknown, I am learning that it is okay to settle in to this discomfort of not knowing what is ahead. I am learning that real peace is experienced even inside of the tornado and that God speaks out of the storm. After three months, I am more at peace as I wait and actively participate in the unfolding of life. I had a dream a few weeks ago that Andy and I encountered this massive tornado. In the dream, I was completely at peace, even with this tornado in view ahead, a direct threat to our safety. We turned the car around and went back to the house where we were. As we checked the house for a storm cellar, suddenly the sky turned blue and the sun came out and the threat vanished completely. I have prayed about this dream, seeking God for meaning and application to this current experience. All I can muster is the wisdom that tells me that the thing I see as a threat might not actually be a threat at all and that I can trust in Divine Mystery, the Source of Love, to guide my life. I plan to update the blog as life unfolds this year. We are on our own journey and I know you are, too. It’s good to be on this journey with you.

In the meantime, to be an active participant in life’s unfolding, I have been focusing on nutrition. I’m learning some things about the gut-brain connection and about the importance of nutrition. So what I am doing is cutting out sugar (almost completely, except for fruit), increasing the amount of vegetables I eat, and cooking all of my meals at home. I have tried the meal planning thing before, but failed while listening to Penelope who is that limiting narrative in my head, telling me “I can’t”. Well, maybe Penelope can’t, but my True Self knows I can. So I printed a meal planning sheet, and have begun to plan out our meals ahead of time. I am also incorporating exercise and yoga, and lots and lots of contemplative prayer and meditation. Again, I will talk about meditation in another post. As I get into the swing of meal planning and prep, I have given myself until the start of spring to keep this as a focus until I feel more comfortable and it becomes my new habit. After that, I will begin to focus on yoga and exercise. My goal with exercise is to develop a daily regimen. I still have to figure out how it will work for me, but that will be what comes next this year. I have to say, I am finding myself thoroughly enjoying the meal planning and prep project! It’s fun perusing Pinterest for inspiration and I am opening up to creating new dishes that are good for our bodies. And I am learning new things as well. Asher isn’t enjoying this project at all, though. He is challenging with his eating, so I need to get creative and figure out how I can disguise his veggies. I found a recipe for chocolate spinach muffins. I’ll let you know what he thinks about them!

in the midst of transformation

At present, I have found myself invited again by God into transformation. At times I feel like it’s happening whether I want it to or not; whether I like it or not. It is for good. It is a trustworthy process, too, even though fear tells me another story. Even when ego wants to protect me from it. God calls it good and so it is good. My human mind calls it scary. My human body calls it painful. It is a very human experience. It is different this time, though. This is a new layer, one I haven’t uncovered before; a new depth I haven’t yet traveled. But that’s the process: death to the old and then birth to the new. From moth to butterfly. Some may call it reincarnation while others call it resurrection.

Today, I’m still the moth in that dark cocoon. I usually like to process and reflect first before I write, so I can neatly organize the story and deliver it perfectly and neatly wrapped with a bow on top. But I’m done with that. So this time, I am sharing as I live it. Real time. No processing first or analyzing or figuring out what I’m going through first. No waiting until I’ve reached the other side, because quite frankly, when I’m on the other side of this experience, I won’t have arrived at perfection or wholeness yet. The story never ends, it just has chapters and sections. One of my dearest spiritual teachers, Richard Rohr, teaches in his book Falling Upward that there are two halves of life. The first half is spent laying a foundation and building a container of self (ego) on that foundation. The second half fills up that container. I have also heard the concept of the stages of life. I think these ideas can blend together well. There are stages within the two halves. I’m not exactly sure what stage I’m in or if I’ve begun the second half of my life, but wherever I am at present, I am being transformed. Wherever I am, I find myself admitting that I don’t know much at all, and realizing that life is lived as this series of events that unfold, wrapped up in mystery. Mystery seems to be something that the mind and ego sees and desperately scrambles to figure out before it happens. At least, that is how I am observing it. I can accept mystery as a concept, but living, embracing and leaning into it are practices that take time to develop.

And this is where I find myself presently, in the midst of this practice of leaning in to mystery and uncertainty. Another teacher I am fond of describes this as being comfortable with uncertainty. Ha! Comfortable. But when I stop and contemplate that idea, it reminds me a little bit of what Jesus says about how we are given peace that can’t be explained. I have come face to face with the awareness that life is a great mysterious unfolding and I won’t be fully prepared for it all the time. This can look a lot like chaos to me and when I see chaos, Penelope freaks out (Penelope is the name I have given my ego narrative). When she freaks out, I have inner turmoil and unrest — exactly the opposite of the peace of Christ. Maybe the peace that the world gives is the so-called practice of preparing for the worst as this mystery of life unfolds. But I have discovered in the midst of this present moment that preparing for the worst keeps me in a cycle of fear and not in the peace of Christ. If I need to prepare myself for the worst, my mind imagines the worst things that could happen and spirals down into a darkness of which it is not easy to come out. But I wonder if dwelling in the peace of Christ might be experienced as being an active participant in the unfolding of life, unafraid of those what ifs, unafraid of “bad news”. I don’t know yet. I have not yet arrived at that level of spiritual maturity.

Wherever you are in the unfolding of life, know that we are closely connected. My experience is different, but we have something to teach each other along the way. And maybe we can also just relax together in the midst of the uncertainty and just find ourselves grateful for that connection, too.

from fear to faith

I have been trying to write a blog post for the month of January and just keep accumulating drafts. I suppose I don’t have all that much to say this month.

But I am determined to write one post a month! It is a challenge I have given to myself, because I love writing and expressing myself this way. And it feels good to be writing again after taking a decade long break from it. I am not who I was 10 years ago, that’s for sure. I used to think I could teach people about spirituality. I had quite the inflated ego back then. Since then, I have discovered that I am not so much a teacher of others but a learner of lessons that I wish to share with others. So for my January post, I will share with you one thing I am learning right now.

I have spent a few posts mentioning fear recently and this is the topic I talk about most with God right now. I have spent a lot of time in the Bible in the past month or so and it is beginning to come alive again for me. The last decade of my life was a fallow one when it came to reading the Bible. I can go into detail with that in another post, because that is a story in and of itself. But reading it again has been a comfort to my soul. In addition to reading, what I have been learning is a new practice. Any time I am tempted to be afraid, I am practicing turning that fear into faith. How it works for me is simply when a fearful thought comes into my mind, as quickly as I can catch it before it spirals, I say the word faith and hold it for a moment or so until the fearful thoughts move on. I am no expert on this, but it is something small that has been helping me in a huge way in this season. This practice has been inspired by something I read in Hannah Hurnard’s Mountains of Spices. In the preface to the book, she explains the names of the characters she writes about being “the personifications of the unhappy and tormenting attitudes of mind, heart, and temper”, like “Craven Coward”. She writes a paragraph in this preface that I keep returning to as if it is God speaking through her directly to me right now, and I will share that here as a quote.

I was born with a fearful nature– a real slave of the Fearing Clan! But I have since made the glorious discovery that no one has such a perfect opportunity to practice and develop faith as do those who must learn constantly to turn fear into faith. One must either succumb to the fearing nature altogether and become a ‘Craven Coward’ for the rest of one’s life; or by yielding that fearful nature wholly to the Lord and using each temptation to fear as an opportunity for practicing faith, be made at last into a radiant ‘Fearless Witness’ to his love and power. There is no middle course.

Hannah Hurnard, Mountains of Spices

It is not an option to succumb to the fearful nature when I know that my true nature is Fearless Witness, secure and confident in my identity as God’s daughter. I have seasons where fear can feel more intense than at other times and this season it seems to be that way. Maybe it is that way for you, too. And if that is so, know that I understand. So much. And I am holding you in my heart in the flow of the love of Christ alive and strong within me. But know also that fear is not who you are. You experience fear, but your true nature in Christ is first of all love and all of the abundance of the fruitfulness of the Spirit in joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control! So go then and put on your true nature and know that fear does not control you anymore, but the Spirit of Christ does!

advent reflections

I came across this quote recently and wanted to share it along with some things that have been swirling around in my head.

A waiting person is a patient person. The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something there will manifest itself to us. Patient living means to live actively in the present and wait there. Waiting, then, is not passive. It involves nurturing the moment, as a mother nurtures the child that is growing in her womb. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, an Anna were present to the moment. That is why they could hear the angel. They were alert, attentive, to the voice that spoke to them and said “Do not be afraid. Something is happening to you. Pay attention”… Much of our waiting is filled with wishes… we want the future to go in a very specific direction, and if this does not happen we are disappointed and can even slip into despair. That is why we have such a hard time waiting; we want to do the things that will make the desired events take place. Here we can see how wishes tend to be connected with fears. But Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, and Anna were not filled with wishes. They were filled with hope. Hope is something very different. Hope is trusting that something will be fulfilled according to the promises and not just according to our wishes.

Henri Nouwen

I don’t know about you, but I could truly benefit from a hopeful, optimistic mindset right now. I have been feeling fear more than hope in the past few months and it has seemed to affect all things in my life. I think I have identified this season as one of waiting and transition, which is helpful, but it is a dark night of the soul season, and with that, all of my fears have come out to play. This season has whispered into my soul that it is time to confront the reality that life is uncertain and unknown, and not fixed to my ideas. It’s interesting, because uncertainty is always there, kind of just in the background and not obviously standing out. But for the past two years, uncertainty has made its way to the forefront of my consciousness and has decided to make itself known to me, flashing its bright, neon lights in front of me so I can’t miss it this time. These past few months, particularly, it feels like I have been groping around in the dark. I haven’t heard God’s voice clearly or felt that intuitive inner knowing; I haven’t felt much comfort, I have been riding waves of fear and experiencing crippling anxiety and nervousness. But what Nouwen speaks of is an ability to nurture these very moments – to open ourselves up to hearing and seeing God, and hearing and seeing not with our eyes and ears, but with our hearts and intuition. It is this very moment that I am being faced with so that I can be transformed and resurrected anew at the proper time. It is this moment that I am being invited to silence fear and open my heart to hear and see what is happening to me that is for my highest good and greatest joy.

This personal season just so happens to be coinciding with Advent this year and I am trying to start a new tradition for us to share together as a family during this sober time. Asher is 4, so it can be a little difficult to get him to sit still and listen, but we are trying. On the first Sunday of Advent, while Andy was putting Asher to bed after we read our Christmas story with him, I came downstairs to light the first candle of Advent. I found an Advent devotional on the trusty ol’ YouVersion Bible app, and read the first set of verses: Luke 1:26-38. There wasn’t much time, because Andy was having trouble getting Asher to sleep, so I read as quickly and yet as contemplatively as I could. And there it was, for the first time in a while, a sweeping wave of comfort from the Spirit, filling me with peace and love as I read these verses.

During the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel was sent from God’s presence to an unmarried girl named Mary, living in Nazareth, a village in Galilee. She was engaged to a man named Joseph, a true descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Grace to you, young woman, for the Lord is with you and so you are anointed with great favor. Mary was deeply troubled over the words of the angel and bewildered over what this may mean for her. But the angel reassured her, saying, “Do not yield to your fear, Mary, for the Lord has found delight in you and has chosen to surprise you with a wonderful gift.”

Passage from the Gospel of Luke, verses 26-30

I read that and in that moment, could barely move on to finish reading the last 8 verses. It was as if the Spirit was speaking the words the angel spoke to Mary directly to me, in my current life circumstance. And since that moment, I have returned to contemplate these verses and to wonder and relate with Mary’s feelings in her own divine moment. Of course, if Gabriel showed up to deliver me a divine message, I imagine I would also be filled with fear. I would probably shit my pants! But it’s interesting to me what the angel told her. I wonder if she was listening or just suddenly shocked by the fact that a supernatural being was standing in front of her, because Gabriel told her that the Lord was with her and had anointed her with great favor (that is, of course, if Gabriel’s “appearance” was a literal one). And she was still afraid. This struck me so much because of my own dealings with the nature of fear in my life, particularly at present. I was in a moment, swept up by the Spirit, and feeling so closely connected to Mary, this highly favored woman who was also frozen in fear. But it’s what the angel says next that keeps entering my mind, especially when fear shows up for me. Gabriel says “do not yield to your fear, Mary.”

Do not yield to your fear. It wasn’t until a week later that I really began to imagine what this could look like. I began to imagine myself driving down the road toward my house and encountering the yield sign that always comes up as I turn to go home. And I began, in my mind, to replace the car with the right of way with fear and I watched myself pause and yield to it. Fear, then, went on in front of me, ahead of me. And it started to click a little bit. But I clearly have the choice to keep fear behind me and not ahead of me, leading the way. It seems like I have lived so much of my life yielding to fear, allowing it to lead and guide. Well, that is how I lived in my former life. My new life will look a lot more like listening to the Spirit instead of fear and yielding not to fear, but keeping it behind where it belongs.

fear

At the rate I’m going, I will be happy if I can publish one post a month. October was basically spent in sickness this year. I developed sinusitis, which is not something I remember having before. I have lived with allergies and asthma from the time I was young, but sinusitis is a new experience for me. To all of you who have dealt with this, my heart goes out to you, especially if you have to care for little ones. Asher has been sick as well, but not as bad as he has been at this time the past 3 years, thankfully. Anyway, I wonder if anyone else has experienced hyperglycemia as a result of illness? Because that is another layer to what I was experiencing in this. Very strange. Poor health in combination with other major events this year was a bit unexpected and unprecedented. You might find it funny to know that during this experience, I became somewhat of a hypochondriac. I can laugh at myself now, but a more serious side to this was the intense fear of dying triggered by illness this time. I have ridden these intense waves before, but haven’t talked much about it openly.

And after journaling about it, processing it, acknowledging it before God, I don’t know that I will ever be rid of it. I hope that I will, but I am not yet. Perhaps it takes a lifetime to truly settle into trusting in God, confidently knowing that I am safe inside of my identity as a child of God and learning to let go of any identity I have formed about myself that has been rooted in fear. I do not have answers, just questions. When will fear leave me for good? Will I ever be free of it? And all I can conclude right now is, no. But I can learn that I do not have to identify with it or give it power over me. Fear does not have power over me, but fear is a persistent visitor that likes to show up to my house unannounced, triggering my fight or flight response, which is usually when I freeze up and am rendered powerless. In those moments, which can develop into days or weeks, I find myself now returning to the truth I have always known: there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. I know this rationally, intellectually. But I have struggled for years and years knowing how to practice this truth in my whole self, heart + body + mind. I still struggle at 35 with this. Fear is powerful and intense. And fear is no stranger to this soul, but I am grounding myself now heart + mind + body in the truth that I am in Love because I am unconditionally loved by God.

I will fear no evil for you are with me…

David, Psalm 91

In all of these questions about fear, and even in grounding myself in the truth that I am held together by Love, I know fear will show up on my doorstep again, invading my home unannounced. And when that happens, I will return to the truth that I know in Christ and believe that with each visit from fear, I will respond to it with the Spirit’s power that accompanies my human spirit. Day by day, I am feeling strengthened in my inner self by the divine power that lives in me and day by day I am learning how to live, held together by Love.

The outer world can be scary at times. And fear, especially at this time of year, seems to be no stranger to us, as a collective. This experience has actually had me thinking things about how much more connected I feel to humanity, knowing full well that I along with countless others are experiencing something similar, whether it be fear of death or fear of loss and separation from God and loved ones, or fear of failure. Whatever fears come in, know that you are not alone in your experience. But know this: perfect love casts out fear. It might not happen over night. It might be a lifelong cleansing, little by little. But Love will always heal and cleanse when we are open to it.

a snippet of my story

On Christmas Eve, at the end of 2017, I was getting ready to play piano and sing for the first of two evening Christmas Eve services at church. I wasn’t feeling well physically, and I actually ended up coming down with a virus and was sick the whole week of Christmas that year. But more than that, my mental, emotional, and spiritual health had been in decline mode for the last 7ish years. Andy (my husband) and I had been leading worship together for as long as I can remember, really. We led worship for various church related events before we even dated each other. When I look back, music is what brought us together. It was our thing that we did together. I always wanted that in a partner– to share life and have something we could call “ours”, so I assumed it was music.

Naturally, it was difficult for me to tell him that I didn’t want to do it anymore. Imagine how that conversation went! Actually, it was a series of conversations over the previous few years that culminated in that one, really dramatic conversation on Christmas Eve. I quit right there and left him hanging for those services. I remember feeling like I was losing my mind. I don’t know how I came across to him that day, but inside I was a mess and knew I needed to step away to care for myself for a while. There is a lot more to this story, but it has taken nearly 20 years for me to realize that I’m not called to music ministry like I thought I was back as a teenager. I swallowed that idea whole (you know the one I’m talking about, right? “What is God calling you to do?”), and believed for many, many years, that I was called to sing and lead worship. My dream was to travel the world and sing to glorify God! I didn’t give much thought to it back then; it seemed like a given to me.

So much of life has happened to close that door, though, and I was not as aware of it until more recent years. This has been one of the most difficult challenges of my life. I suffered with years of inner conflict over it, too, but in the end, reality was staring me down. I knew from somewhere deep within that this was not my path and I had to face that reality. Not only was I conflicted because this was what we did together, but I was also conflicted because of the opinions of other people in my life. For years, I chose to go along with the opinions of others, while living in a state of inner conflict. I pushed through, always telling myself “it will get better” and “everyone is stressed out; stress is normal and to be expected.” But the truth is, simply, that I don’t want to be on a stage. I don’t have any desire to continue on that path. I realize now that I am the only one who can know how God is guiding and directing me from within. I love the people in my life and I believe they are sincere and well intentioned, but when it came to this area, I needed to learn to hear God’s voice and discern between that voice and the noise of outside voices. For me, it took stopping myself in my tracks and stepping away from the noise itself.

I write this today for no reason other than to share the story of my own journey to God and sorting through this whole “life’s calling” thing. I think our lives have purpose, yes. I think God calls us, absolutely. I’m still asking questions about those two ideas, but I think that “whole-making instinct” has been awakened (thanks, Jung). I am on the path to wholeness in my entire being; on the way to living life from my deepest, truest Self. And it’s not at all what I expected. Andy and I are learning how important it is to cherish the time we do have together, and we are getting more creative about what it looks like to share life now.