Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Loneliness and Idolizing The One

For my whole life, Loneliness has been my nemesis. For the most part, I'm pretty good at avoiding contact with him. As a textbook extrovert who draws energy and joy from the presence of other people, I stay busy and connected. But lately, I've been engaged in battle with the sworn enemy, and I'm losing. I was easy to engage because Loneliness found me defenseless. I'd laid all my armor down along the way and didn't even realize it.

I talk a lot of smack about being independent and free and strong. And all of that is true, but what's also true is that I'm a girl who needs to be deeply cherished and taken care of and passionately desired. What happened to the girl, who last summer, was fulfilled and content and joyfully free? When did she become needy and lonely and woefully confined? Where was the breakdown?

A year ago, I was dating Jesus. He was all I needed. I made room for him and he filled my empty spaces and I THRIVED in his presence. At some point, I decided it wasn't enough and I blew him off. I decided I was ready to date, that I was ready to love and be loved, that I needed a companion and passion and someone in whose arms I could fall asleep. I began seeking The One. I sought strong embraces and lingering kisses and innocent hand-holding and passionate caresses. I came dangerously close to settling for someone I knew was ultimately very wrong for me, all because Loneliness was stalking me.

Loneliness is a bully and a liar. When too many hours pass without a text from whichever man I'm seeing, when no one reaches out to make plans with me, when I crawl into bed and stare at the ceiling while sleep evades me, he convinces me that I'm not worthy. He whispers, "You're not beautiful enough. You're not lovable after all. You don't matter; you're expendable." In my weaker moments, I believe him. I know that his lies are designed to pull me under and drown me, and yet I cling to them as though they're buoys in the raging sea. I didn't use to feel this way, a mere twelve months ago.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to love and be loved. It's a God-created need. I believe with my whole heart that He desires that for me. The breakdown is that I've made an idol of The One - of the very idea of him, of the search for him. I worship him and adore him and sacrifice for him, and in the process, I've shoved God out of the way to make more room for him. I cannot be content this way, ever. I cannot be fulfilled or joyful or healthy or productive because the reality is that all idol worship eventually destroys the worshipper.

I need to date Jesus again. I need to turn away from idolizing and romanticizing the idea of The One. I'm recommitting to praying for the man God has chosen to love me and cherish me and protect me and care for me. I know that God is preparing me for the most beautiful, perfect, amazing love. He promises that he knows the plans He has for me - plans to give me hope and a future. That plan has never included Loneliness, even during this time of aloneness. I need to be still and know that He will be faithful to that promise. My willfull, impatient self wants to see it done in MY time. Be still and know.... why is that so hard for me?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


This morning as I walked into the office, I noticed that one layer of clouds was moving swiftly across the sky while another, higher layer appeared pretty static. And I thought, "That's how the layers of life work. Some parts move and change while other aspects remain still and even sometimes stagnate.

Then I sat down at my desk, logged on to LinkedIn, and stumbled across a note I'd written a friend almost a year ago.

"I'm doing really well, thanks. Very happy, very at peace, very moving on. 

"Even in the most heartbreaking, soul-crushing seasons, God blankets me with grace and inspires joy in my soul.

"In hindsight, his infidelities and the divorce were a gift. They forced me to receive grace and know how to give it in return. I always had a problem with feeling forgiven and free and worthy, remember? It took the ripping out of my heart to finally fully understand and relish the gift of grace that's been waiting for me all along. Freedom!"

Life sometimes gets stagnant. Grace never does. Grab on to it and let it carry you. It's that powerful.
2 Corinthians 12:9

Sunday, March 09, 2014

recovery - reposted from August 2013

During my divorce, I created a private, hidden blog where I vented and processed and healed. Very few people knew about it. It is something that I will likely keep private for the most part. But there are parts of it that are worth sharing with the world in general.

The following entry was written in August 2013.


It's hard to believe that a year has passed since I logged in here.

So much has happened.

We sold our house after only 31 days on the market. It broke my heart, and I wept openly on the realtor's shoulder after the closing. Since that time, the boys and I have moved again, this time to a perfect little house that keeps them in their school district and affords us the comfortable, single-family-dwelling life we missed in the duplex. It really is a Godsend, and is a story that I'll come back and tell. As sad as I was to lose our dream home, I'm over it now. I can drive by without feeling grief and loss. It's just four walls and a roof and a big wrap-around porch now, but it's not a home. It's simply a house. Home is where your heart is, and that is something I have found to be absolutely true.

Even though the market was barely in its earliest stages of recovery, we profited a little on the house. I used some of it to buy a new car. (My VW Bug, though I adored it so, just couldn't handle being a family car.) At Christmas, we took a once-in-a-lifetime vacation: a Caribbean cruise. I'd always wanted to cruise, but never was able to because my ex thought he would hate it. WE LOVED IT, and in hindsight, it's obvious to both me and Dani that the trip now serves as a huge landmark on the map of our recovery from the divorce. It really was amazing for us as a family.

Darren got engaged. Yes, while we were still married. Walking my boys through that confusion was one of the hardest things I've had to do yet. There was much anger on Ian's part, though he wouldn't ever let Darren see it. Misplaced though it was, I took the brunt of it. I haven't felt sadness or betrayal or disdain about the engagement or the other woman at all, which I think is a great indicator that my heart is in full recovery. Everyone who's met her says she's exactly like me (I'll write about that sometime), which I think is pretty funny. The divorce became final in April, 12 months after filing. It was amicable and fair.

I've lost 115 pounds. The first 60 melted away with little effort, but the last 60 has taken a lot of effort. I've been plateaued for about 3 months and have been losing and gaining the same 5 pounds, but over the last two weeks, I broke through and am losing again - 8.4 pounds since 10 days ago! I still have 60 to go to meet my goal. I've come 2/3 of the way - what's another 1/3? I can do this! IT IS AMAZING TO HAVE MY LIFE BACK. I only thought I was living when I weighed 317 pounds.

The boys and I placed membership at Legacy Church of Christ last fall, but as much as I love the people there, it just didn't feel right for some reason. I've struggled with finding a church home, and have visited so many places. The boys are sick of visiting. Finally, I think we've found it - 7City Church, which is not the denomination I grew up in and spent my adult life in. Even still, it feels good and right, and I'm hopeful that God has led us there for a purpose. I haven't made any commitments to it yet - still praying for confirmation.
Finding a church home is a lot like dating, I've decided. Something about a church sparks your interest enough to make you decide to visit. Sometimes at first glance, you know it's not the right one. Sometimes after the first "date", you think, "Eh, maybe I can get past that quirk. I'll give it another chance." Sometimes it takes three or four dates before you realize that it's not gonna work out, and you're back to square one. One thing's certain - I've met some great people along the way and my faith journey hasn't suffered. I think the variety of worship styles and preaching styles and just the diversity of faith has been really good for my heart and soul. Part of the healing process for sure.

God continues to place people in my life who are simply there to like me and love me and enrich my life in little ways. I've met people who became friends in the most bizarre ways this year - at a Kelly Clarkson concert, through Facebook connections, at Six Flags... and most recently, through a dating website. Yeah. I started dating. That's a whole 'nother entry. Or twelve.

The healing continues, but the war is behind me.
It feels good to be writing again. :-)

sacrifice in perspective

So I've been off of Facebook now for four solid days. Frankly, it has been much harder than I thought it would be. I thought I had done my due diligence and removed much of the temptation before I even began, but I fooled myself.

The temptation to log on has been intense. There were plenty of naysayers, but the surest way to make me succeed is to tell me I can't, so phhhtt. But the devil is a tricky dude. He knows exactly how to get to me. First, he tried the guilt trips. "But I'll miss you! Your friend is running for City Council and you promised to help promote her candidacy out here! The MAVS are at Fortress and it's your responsibility to give them excellent social media kudos."

Next came the posts that I haven't seen but have heard about. Several people wanted me to know that Dani "had my back" when folks started talking smack about me "cheating" via Instagram. Clearly those folks didn't bother to read my blog about why and how I was giving it up in the first place. I desperately wanted to log in and see what they were saying, to see WHO was talking smack, to see how Dani handled it, and to DEFEND MYSELF. Then I remembered who I'm doing this for, and it's nobody who is out there talking smack. It doesn't matter. It shouldn't affect me.

Thursday, I got a text from a friend who was absolutely giddy that I had already failed at my attempt to fast from Facebook. I asked Dani, "Why do people delight so much in other people's failure?" I didn't answer the text. I realized that her opinion of me ( however misguided) is exactly what I need to not care so much about. It's exactly why I needed to take this break. I'm doing this for ME, because GOD put it on my heart to do it. I know I'm not cheating. Who cares if she thinks I am? Clearly I still care, since I'm blogging about it. Ha. I'm nothing if not a work in progress.

I see now that my "need to be heard" is far stronger than I ever realized. This especially came to light Wednesday afternoon, the first day of Lent, when I received an email from a well-meaning friend.

"Since when did you change religions?" he wrote. "I am concerned that you would practice a Catholic tradition such as Lent."

It took three days before I could respond from a place that wasn't driven by bewilderment and defensive indignation. Firstly, I wanted to tell him to fact-check because Lent is not exclusive to Catholicism. Secondly, I wanted to lambast him about his traditional, conservative close-mindedness. I wanted to say, "I'm sorry, but that lines right up with  the opinion of those who feel it's somehow SINFUL to celebrate Christ's birth at CHRISTmas because, after all, we can't be sure he was born at Christmastime. How unfortunate." But I didn't. Except that now, I guess I have.

What I actually said was this: "You're taking issue with me feeling deeply convicted to do something that can only strengthen my faith, but because it's not a tradition of the denomination in which I grew up, it is somehow questionable? I don't expect anyone else to understand, and I don't need anyone's permission, but I'm surprised at the lack of support. This is a good thing, but I'm not doing it to please or displease anyone. This is between me and God."

I miss Facebook.
I miss knowing what's going on in everyone's life this week.
I miss Brian Luenser's photographs.
I miss weighing in on conversations.
I miss the silly memes and someEcards.
I miss being able to post for Fortress.
I miss tagging friends. So many great things have happened with fun friends this week! And with Aidan! His men's choir won SWEEPSTAKES Wednesday and I couldn't FB about it. He left for JCC camp before dawn Thursday and I couldn't post that, either.
I apparently missed a great conversation between Ric and my mom.

An acquaintance tweeted this week something that spoke to me: "if your sacrifice isn't hard, then it's not much of a sacrifice."

I'm telling you right now that giving up Facebook for 40 days is hard. Leading up to Ash Wednesday, I was a ball of anxiety as I tried to make a final decision regarding giving it up or not. Now that I have, it's a constant temptation to log back on. This is hard, embarrassingly so.

And yet, when I put this trifling "sacrifice" in context with actual sacrifice, I can only hang my head in shame, then raise my eyes in wonder and awe and indescribable adoration. I've often said that I'm a grace addict. Thank God that His mercies are never ending, even and especially for one such as me.

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Why I'm Giving Up Facebook for Lent

You might have a Facebook problem...

...when your 13-year old prefaces every photo op and most conversations with "...don't tag me, Mom."

...when you start seriously dating a guy and realize that one of the first disclosures you made was, "I'm a prolific Facebooker; you're okay with your pic being posted. A lot. Right?"

....when you go half a day without posting and one of your best friends texts you to make sure you're okay - and he's sincerely concerned.

...when you're crunching hard toward a work deadline and sporadically realize that you're scrolling through FB posts again, and you honestly don't even remember clicking the link.

...when you mention to people that you're considering giving it up for Lent and are met with raucous laughter. More than once.

...when you check FB one more time before drifting off to sleep...when it's the first thing you do in the morning...and again after brushing your teeth... at every stop light...and while standing in line at Starbucks....

But the excessive time I spend on Facebook isn't my real problem. This is:
I've let Facebook become the barometer for my perceived self-worth, and that's not only dangerous, it's sinful.When I look at my heart and really be honest, I know that I depend more on that little rush of Facebook-manufactured serotonin to affirm me than I do on the love of the One who created me. I've let likes and comments become the very things that define my worth. It's become an addiction. That's hard to admit. It's embarrassing.  

I've never practiced the discipline of giving up something for Lent before. Last week, when the thought first emerged that I might even consider doing this, I darn near started twitching. I have waffled back and forth so many times since then. "Yes, do it. This is the very point of giving up something for Lent - removing something that impedes your relationship with God." And then, "Are you crazy?? You'll suffer and DIE without Facebook! That's where your FRIENDS live!"

The fact that this decision has been so wrenching for me is further proof that I need to do it. I have tied so much of myself to my Facebook profile that it feels like I'm almost cutting off my very air supply. Every aspect of my life - my connections, my stories, my achievements, my very identity - are filtered and edited through Facebook. I live out loud, and that's something I'm actually very proud of. But for the last year or so, living out loud has begun to look more like self-absorption and over-indulgence. 

So I'm leaving Facebook for 40 days to wander in the wilderness. Here's what I hope to find:

1. fulFEELment
I'm not someone I'd call "religious". I don't adhere to many rules and regulations, especially as they were written out for me in my youth. But I have a deep faith, and regularly enjoy open dialogue with God. He doesn't tell me I look skinnier this week, or that I'm doing a great job at work, or that my house is decorated well. But when I'm listening, He tells me that I'm enough just as I am. He reminds me that I'm good at what I do because He instilled in me a burning passion to do it. He erases my need for constant external validation because His grace is sufficient for even me. FOR EVEN ME. Frankly, I've been too full of me to be filled with holiness. I'm ready to empty myself to make room for Him again. I have never in my life felt more at peace, more full of hope, more gentle of spirit, than I did when I completely emptied myself and allowed myself to feel God, and to let Him fill me.

This is the 3rd verse from one of my favorite old-school hymns:

Day by day His tender mercy,Healing, helping, full and free,Sweet and strong, and ah! so patient,Brought me lower while I whispered,Less of self, and more of Thee.

2. my Story
I have a deep, innate desire to be heard - to tell my story. I always have. Facebook has provided an outlet for for my voice to be heard, but at the expense of actually experiencing the story. I've been too busy seeking worldy validation for it than I have in actually living it and celebrating it. I often post in real-time. Something interesting is happening right now? THEN I MUST POST ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW EVEN IF THAT MEANS MISSING SOME OF THE ACTUAL SOMETHING HAPPENING. I once was an avid blogger, and I loved it. It was a healthy exercise for me to write every night. To this day, I often reference incidents from my kids' childhoods by searching for them on this blog. It contains their life stories in black and white. That is priceless to me, and one day, it will be to them, too. I'm excited to make it a priority again. I have a story to tell, and removing Facebook for awhile will afford me the time and inclination to get back into the happy habit of writing it.

3. The heart of me.
At the heart of me, I know who I am and whose I am. From that comforting truth poured the most authentic creativity. I have a whole detached garage that has been converted into a craft room, and yet I've barely spent any time out there in the last year. I haven't been happy with anything I've painted in more than a year, so I haven't posted any of it. You know what? I've been painting for likes and comments. That has got to stop. Less Facebook consumption, I hope, will lead to more authentic creation. It's time to expose the heart of me again, even if no one else ever sees it. ESPECIALLY if no one else ever sees it. 

4. Presence.
I spend so much time looking down that I forget how beautiful it is to look up and out. I'm here, but I'm rarely fully present. I'm eager to feel the warm spring breeze lifting my hair without interrupting the calmness of that moment to post about it. I yearn to wake up and just lie there listening to the birds singing outside my window without the urgent cacophony of notifications at my bedside. I'm ready to be fully present with the people I love most in the world. Fully. Present. What a concept.


This morning, I woke up and deleted the Facebook app from my phone without ever opening it. As soon as I opened my laptop at work, I deleted the bookmark. I disabled notifications. And somehow still, I'm barraged with constant temptation to log on. I attended a luncheon today where the speaker kept urging us to "check in on Facebook." The fact that Terri checked me in FOR me and then told me about it almost made me quit twitching. For a minute. This is a real addiction, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that I'm having withdrawals already. Even I'm surprised how hard it actually is. I literally feel sad. I feel lonely. Again - proof that it's become unhealthy for me.

I won't be gone forever. Just forty days. When I come back, I'll be less obsessive. (One can only hope, right? lol) People have said, "Why give it up? Just curb your usage. Just be more disciplined." But I know me. In most everything I do, I'm all-in or all-out. I'm not very good at moderation. I need to go all-in with this exercise in self-control. Or rather, all-OUT. And so it shall be.

I'll continue to post on Instagram, and my #100HappyDays posts will still feed to Facebook. But I won't check in to see comments or likes or messages. If you contact me via FB Messenger, I won't read it. If you post to my wall, I won't see it. I'm physically removed. Use email. Text. DROP IN UNEXPECTEDLY. I LOVE THAT!

I will log on as soon as I publish this post to share the link so that no one will think I'm just ignoring them or that I've been abducted "at gun point" in the Ukraine. After that, I will not cheat. I won't be back until Easter. 

I'll miss you guys.
Love, love, love.