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.

you. shall. not. pass.

Hello, October. You make my heart leap joyfully at your arrival this year. Your colors are majestic and magical, inviting me into pure awe and wonder as I contemplate your beauty and delight in the splendor of nature on display always and ever before me. It’s like heaven is showing off. The warmth and beauty, the rich, bold array of color bursting forth.

I feel somewhat like I can catch my breath after a nine month string of events that have unfolded this year (and are still unfolding). 2019 has brought much adversity for us, and I have heard the same for others around me. This year, as difficult as it has been, accompanied by relational conflicts and endings, has also brought with it a blessed and gracious offer to start again. A clean slate. A new beginning. It’s like heaven opened up and released a blessing and at the first glimpse of it, I jumped up and caught it mid-air. I am deeply grateful for this blessing.

This is also the year that I have gotten angry and fed up enough with myself and the destructive, unhealthy patterns I kept repeating into my adulthood. As an Enneagram Nine, this is huge for me. Because when I say angry, I imagine myself as Gandalf the Gray (symbolizing the wisdom that lives in me) when he encounters the Balrog in the Mines of Moria (the Balrog symbolizing destructive, unhealthy personality habits and cycles), confronting the Balrog and declaring firmly: “you shall not pass!” This summer, I imagined myself confronting these destructive habits and cycles, powerfully declaring to them, “you shall not pass!” And it really does feel like this is a major turning point, reorienting my life’s direction. Not only have I been destructive to myself, but also to others around me.

I began the process of inner work when I turned 24, which is also huge for a Nine (apparently there is something called inertia, this self forgetting mechanism that ignores self development, and instead focuses on everyone else around them). I don’t know what the statistics are for this personality type, but I know from my own life experience that I am committed to the journey of my soul. I am committed to healing and being made whole by the power that lives and dwells in me in Christ. Or as Jung would call it, my “whole making instinct” has officially been triggered. In the midst of feelings of excitement about the unfolding of reality, I am also feeling tired and scared and still working through clearing out residual toxicity from my former life.

Which brings me to another thing. Toxicity. This buzz word in our society is a buzz word for good reason. However, as I grow, something continues to irritate me about the use of this word. The reality in life is that all of us at some point in our lives are toxic. Ignorant to this reality, we then project our own toxicity out into others around us and blame them for being the toxic ones. This does not help us heal, folks. When we can grow up and wake up from our ignorance, we can humbly admit our own toxic contribution and begin to heal that toxicity. When we say that someone else is toxic, what we are really doing is participating in the scapegoat mechanism, which is accompanied by the belief there is something wrong with that person over there and I need to save myself from them and save others from them as well to make peace with the situation. While there is some truth to it, yes that person over there *may* be toxic, it is also true and likely that the one who blames the toxicity of someone else is ignorant to their own toxic contribution to the situation. There may be some relationships lost in the process of our healing, yes. And it does hurt greatly. But if we don’t do our own inner work, then we will only continue to project out that which lies within lurking among the shadows. I think I could live my entire life from this philosophy: I can’t fix or change or heal someone else’s toxic, destructive habits and patterns. But I can wake up to my own and do the hard inner work on myself that must be done.

Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.

Rumi

I think I used to have some kind of messiah complex, believing that I could rescue and save someone else from their own destruction. How foolish I was.

I think this quote could sum up the lesson I have learned over the past 5 years. I am still learning, slowly; gradually becoming who I always was, hidden inside this mysterious truth that I am a child of God. I am awake. I am grateful for a revelation of this divine mystery and I am free now to be who I already was all along.

Peace be with you, friends. Go now and heal! If you’re interested in finding healing and want to start somewhere, I highly recommend the work of Dr. Nicole LePera. You can follow her on Instagram @the.holistic.psychologist. May you be healed and may you be open. Much love. ❤️

she spoke up

Somewhere deep within she knew that it was the end.

It took some time to surrender to her inner knowing, but she knew it was time.

So she spoke up.

She mustered all of the courage she could find within herself and she spoke up.

In the weeks following, something happened and it surprised her.

She didn’t expect it, but she realized it was an invitation.

An invitation to be resurrected.

She had been dead for a while and she didn’t even know.

She remembers being resurrected once before, but this time it is different.

She is stronger on the other side this time.

She is realizing she has the power within her.

So she is starting to speak up more and more and more.

And now her heart knows things it didn’t know before.

And it is setting her free.

Setting her free.

She is free.

no more silence

Hello, dear friends. We just came home yesterday from vacationing with friends down in Florida. I told my husband Andy that I’m ready for campfires and sweatshirts and the cool, crisp air of Autumn. Anyone else feeling that way? Well, we are almost there and when it arrives, I plan to fully embrace and live in that season of life. I am planning to do that now with every season that unfolds. Even now as this summer comes to a close, I am reflecting on the ways I have been able to approach life differently than I did before.

I can’t quite explain it, but I have found myself feeling much different after about a decade long season of silent wilderness wandering. I think I could call it several things, but that seems to be the description my soul recognizes. All I know is that I am emerging from a dark place that lasted many years. And as much as I tried to escape it, I couldn’t. But this feeling I have now on the other side of that decade is one that is not totally unfamiliar. It is this familiar feeling of meeting myself again for the first time. This has been a reoccurring experience, a pattern if you will, of self-discovery and spiritual growth, and I think it may very well just mean that I am a dynamic, changing soul. We are not static beings, but dynamic; we are fully alive and growing constantly. I think this description is all I can muster for the process of spiritual (or soul) growth.

And now I have this burning passion once again to write– to document my experiences with God and share them in a raw, vulnerable way. I don’t exactly know what will come forth from what is inside, but after a decade of silence, inner wrestling, and life experience, there is no lack of material that’s for sure! All I know is that I have lived long enough in silence and that God has been softly and gently speaking to the depths of my being to come forth and show myself to the world again. It’s like God has spoken to my dry bones to rise and live once again. It’s frightening, this expression, this permission I am giving myself to once again share my soul vulnerably with the world. But I must trust that this burning passion that has been ignited once again is not solely my own, but a shared passion with the divine nature that has made its home and has settled in comfortably to the depths of my being. And it is from this place that I will write. This deep place is my truest self, it is who I have always been. It’s just funny, because I’ve spent so much time trying to find myself, but I realized that this identity I have searched for has been right here in front of me, with me, a part of me this whole time. It’s this mysterious identity planted inside that has had me experiencing unprecedented joy in recent months. Sherlock Holmes may be a fictional character, but it is true that what I have been looking for has been hidden in plain sight.

The kingdom of heaven is here all around me and also within me. My heart is beating again and I am saying yes to God in ways that have surprised me. So here goes nothing. Feel free to walk with me and know that I am also walking with you as your own journey unfolds before your eyes. May you light up like never before and learn that you don’t have to go anywhere to find what you are looking for. It’s right there, right next to you and right inside you. Go in there and see for yourself. It’ll be the adventure of a lifetime!

Oh, Penelope

Penelope tells me that I have nothing of importance to contribute to the already loud and noisy environment that is the internet. Penelope thinks she is so clever. And she is. But she spews vicious, critical words at me. She must be so bitter. And for good reason. Her husband left her to go off on some life adventure into the great, vast unknown. I feel like Odysseus sometimes. I identify with him and his journey, because that’s what the journey of the soul feels like to me. I digress. I just found myself overlapping my own story with a mythical one. Oops.

Penelope. Oh, Penelope. You are a loud voice in my head. You tell me things and persuade me to believe them. And I do! I am so gullible, I believe everything you say. But every time I believe you, I discover that you are not telling me the whole truth. You are a deceptive little creature, stuck in that small section of my brain with no escape. It’s no wonder your voice is loudest to me. You are desperate to be free. That makes two of us.

The internet is so loud, you’re right about that. It feels like every time I sign in to Facebook or Twitter (that account was short lived), that I am walking into a room of a million people, viciously attacking one another, competing violently just to take the stage for a small moment of soapbox fame. And once that fame subsides, the fight begins again. There is no rest from it.

But you know what, Penelope? Even though you do speak some bits of truth to me, I decided that your voice is no longer the voice I am to listen to when it comes to decisions about who I am and what I want to speak into this loud world. I’ve decided that I no longer consult your voice. I know you will always be there, and now that I can identify you for what you are, it helps me to identify who I am, too. You are vicious, girl, but I’m over it. Your petty drama is no longer enticing. Let’s see how you react to that moving forward. Maybe if I ignore you, you will realize how small you really are. And maybe that will actually set you free.

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.