Tuesday, October 11, 2016

the trauma of post-grad life

No one tells you that post-grad life is its own trauma. No one tells you that you'll spend nights wondering if the world would be better without you. No one warns about how hard you will be on yourself, the horrific things you will do when you feel bad- for some people, the terrible decisions you will make and awful ways you will treat others when you feel out of control. For me, the excruciating self-talk I engage in (I am meaner to myself than I would EVER be to another human) when I disappoint myself. No one even hints that post-grad life could traumatize you.

People say, "You did well in school, you'll be great," and you feel like a whiny baby when you realize you are not, in fact, great at this. You think you are probably doing the worst job anyone has ever done at this. You feel like you will never have spent enough time doing this to be at the top of your field. And to top it off, your friends don't talk to you anymore. Everyone gets busy, people move, people get married and have babies, and have weird work hours, and stay in school for a higher degree. They make new friends in their new circles, and you feel so replaceable. You feel out of touch. You feel like a bad friend, and like you're not worth keeping in touch with.

Older people rag on us millennials for being entitled and perfectionist. They write articles about how dumb it is that we are displeased with our lives if we don't daily find gratification in our jobs and studies and relationships. And please hear me out here- I see their point.
There is a very valuable trait that many young people my age (and younger) do not have: perseverance. I know the importance of continuing to push forward, even when I am displeased with myself or my job or my relationships with others. I know life won't always be rainbows and butterflies. Surely, plenty of young adults take their perfectionism too far and genuinely are socially hindered because of their entitlement issues. I get that.
But I also think the vast majority of us just want what we've been told we can have: something better than our parents had. If you're like me, you were raised hearing about the trials your parents and grandparents faced. You were probably told, "I work this hard because I want you to have it better than I did." We've been hyped up and encouraged and taught plenty of valuable life lessons and are, upon college graduation, dropped into the world with- best case scenario- a toolbox full of things we aren't entirely sure how to use.

For the first time in our two decades, we are not in school 8+ hours a day, 5 days a week. We suddenly have time to spend thinking about things. Things that aren't papers and reports and projects. All forms of media are telling us all kinds of different statements about ourselves and the people we see and hear about every day. Comparison is a natural thought process. We start worrying about things we had never even thought about before. We realize our world is in an awful state, and it's petrifying. We look around and feel like we had been calmly floating by the sand... but suddenly realize we have drifted so far into the dark beyond that we can no longer see the shore.
The shock of suddenly being alone on a float in the ocean is crippling. There is so much unknown. There are no others around; no one to call on should something happen, no island to paddle to if a danger arises. It's enough to send you into emotional shock.

One of my Psychology professors in college had a theory that every mental disorder was a product of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The more I consider that possibility, the more likely it seems. And when you look at it like that, I think it's impossible to escape 18 years of schooling, 22 years of LIFE, without even a little bit of PTSD. No matter how hard you try, no matter how good a childhood you had. Trauma accumulates, and maybe you don't even realize it until you graduate and have time to think about it.

The 20's are their own time of trauma that no one prepares you for. I wish I had someone in my life who had known to bring a box of tissues to graduation and say, "You'll need these more in two years than you do right now. It goes downhill for a little while here. You might hate it. It might make you stronger or it might make you crazy, who knows."

Some days I think it made me crazy.
I look at myself and wonder how I am such an emotional roller coaster, how I think such odd things, how I can be so dissatisfied with such a good life. I don't know how I am sometimes so lonely. Right now, I am in my 'normal' frame of mind- content, only slightly stressed, overall pleased at the general direction of my life.
But some nights when I lie down, I feel quite alone. I see people, and we have a good time and laugh and do fun and silly things. Then when I curl back up under my sheets, everything feels so heavy. I want someone breathing beside me. I want someone to hold my hand, or even just lay beside me and say, "it's not as bad as it seems."

Maybe all of this is just me. Maybe it's the combination of my artistic heart, my highly sensitive personality, my college experience, my current friendship and relationship status... the sum total of my life so far.
I really hope it isn't.
I hope I am not the only 23-year-old who sometimes listens to her own thoughts and realizes that she has moments she turns back into a 7-year-old. I hope I am not alone in feeling slightly traumatized from my realizations about life these past two years.

I do know one thing- if anyone else out there agrees with any of the above things, then you & I are together in this.
We are not crazy; we are growing.
I'm not always good at believing that, but today I'm trying to be. Today, I'm just reminding myself that my job is to 'keep my eyes on my own paper,' as I so often tell my students. I read this in an article today that greatly helped my mindset about this post-grad life.
It's difficult for me- more so on some days than on others- but that doesn't mean it is my job to judge my work and my progress in it. My job is just to keep going. To try. To show up at work every day and care, and teach, and maybe get a little bit better at it every day.

In this life that some days feels more like a tragedy than a beautiful thing, it is my job to put my thoughts out there when I feel alone- because surely I am not the only one.
It is my job to type out words that convey my thoughts and feelings and experiences- because certainly there is some other traumatized heart out there who can find hope here.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

sept. 15, 2016

Earlier this week, on the ride back to Clinton from the funeral, Casey was talking to me about some things filling his thoughts lately. Shawreth, senior projects, the regular stuff; he mentioned encouraging people to call a loved one. He was really just sharing his rambles with me (which I adore) and didn't realize it impacted me, I'm sure. But I started thinking, ...gosh. I haven't called someone, just to talk, in ages (besides my parents cause they are basically my therapists).
And just after that God slipped my dear old friend Dee in alongside me. So I called her.
Big, wonderful God-things are filling her heart and life, and it was the most refreshing thing to just honestly share our realities for a few minutes. At the end of the call, she asked me about a certain way God has stretched me lately, about the uncomfortability of it. I don't think I had even processed it until that moment that I was asked to summarize with cohesive thoughts.
It was one of those moments that I didn't fully realize what I was saying was a truth in my life, until I started saying it.

Uncomfortable has been the "thing" lately. Teaching makes me uncomfortable. Loving students and strangers and family and old friends and Casey makes me uncomfortable. Sharing my heart and being utterly vulnerable, and expecting no response, makes me uncomfortable.
I really don't know the point of this yet. I just see it's been a theme this past month or so. There have been so many things and situations and convictions that have made me uncomfortable, in the good and holy way, that I have had to choose to do or accept. I suppose I didn't HAVE to, but His Spirit working in me chose them.
Every time, I dawdled. I would rather be comfortable.
I thought of excuses. I thought of possible alternatives. I thought of all the awful things that might happen if I chose the uncomfortable thing (spoiler: none of them happened).
But, because of God's grace and breath in me, I was able to wrestle my flesh and pin it down for long enough to say "OK GO, GOD!"
Holding my breath while the needle plunged in.
Every time, a shot of antidote.
Anti-Becca. Anti-sin. Anti-pride. Anti-fear.
The Virus of Me weakens a bit each time.

Funny that when these seasons ebb away, I always think I'm done. I always forget that there are more corners of me to be swept out, more sickness to bleach away, more virus to eradicate.
More Him to replace me.

I've been chatting with one of my best friends from high school about a similar lesson she's learning. She said something that stuck to me and I want you to hear it too:

"I am so thankful that God relentlessly pursues us and will not allow us to stay in patterns that keep us from seeing His face."

My comfort bubble has been keeping me from seeing His face. This pattern of only doing things that feel nice and known and familiar is only keeping me stagnant and sick. It's only letting the infection grow.

So, I'm bringing a little more rigor and love into my classroom. I'm exercising. I'm making lists of people whose voices I want to hear and faces I want to see, and I'm making plans to do something besides sit at home after a long day of school. I'm making myself turn off Netflix and stop falling asleep watching Parks and Rec. I'm trying to make my prayers more conscious and not subconscious. I'm eating food that isn't processed.
These things are all slow, humiliatingly slow, processes for me. But they are baby steps. They make me uncomfortable,  but they make my heart and mind and soul and body healthier.

A couple weeks ago I ran into my favorite college professor at church. He asked me what I was doing to rid myself of the "stress" and "free radicals" and "toxins". Hesitatingly, I said, "well.....nothing."

So here is the start.
The something after the nothing.
The first bout of shots for this virus.
The first real attempt at identifying and eliminating the toxic things that attach themselves to me every day- literally and metaphorically.
It will be slow, but it will be consistent.
It will be small, but it will keep going.
It will be uncomfortable, but it will make me healthy.

What about you? Can anybody out there raise your hand and say, "me too," or "I've been there!"? Are there patterns in your life keeping you from seeing His face?
Show me your sickness. Get it out so you can heal. Come with me to get the Antidote.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

On the first day of school

If the first day of school is any indication how the year will go, this year will be even tougher than year one.
My day started so well- I got to watch the sunrise (and, of course, cry. You would think I would eventually get over it and stop crying at the sunrise but y'all it is my weakness #beccacriesatthesunriseagain), I got to see all my sweet babies again, I got to have my coffee and a good breakfast, and I had an awesome lunch packed. And even while I was at school it wasn't awful. It was during the drive home that it all hit me.
The behavior problems are still behavior problems, they didn't grow up and magically mature over the summer (or move away) like I had hoped. The huge gaps we have in front of us make leaping seem impossible. The whole state is talking about MY school system, MY babies, MY community in the worst way (if you are curious about that, just google JPS audit 2015/16 and I'm sure it will come up).
I found myself wondering if a drastic change is even possible, and then I remembered my morning.

"Your love is all-consuming. YOU NEVER STOP PURSUING. Nothing I can face could take it away, oh Your love!
Your love is like no other, nothing else satisfies! It flows through the deepest waters, it rests on the mountains high. Your love is overwhelming, brought me to life again! Your love, it will last forever, in You there will be no end!"

Why do we accept the darkness of this world as fact? Why do I assume that my kids are stuck the way they are, and drastic positive changes are impossible? I'm sick of it. I'm sick of feeling like our margin of growth is doomed to be tiny. I'm sick of hearing people talk about Jackson Public Schools as if it is the bane of Mississippi education's existence.
We have our problems, we have our weaknesses, we have plenty of room for growth. As humans, as a school, as a district, as a state, as a nation.
But why do we just accept that and live with it weighing us down? Why don't we try to grow?
Sure, it hurts like hell. I couldn't talk to anyone for my first hour home from school cause my heart hurt so much. I ugly-cried and hyperventilated for another 30 minutes after that. It's not fun.
But I'm tired of accepting the "now" as "forever", personally and for my students.
His love is big enough to change me, to change us, to change history. If His love is big enough to RESURRECT, literally, then why do we live as though that power doesn't exist? If His love is big enough to RESURRECT, then it can change my heart, and trickle down to my students' hearts. It can change mindsets and lives.
It may take a lot of tears- I'm ready to give that.
It may take a lot of time- I'm less ready to give that, but will do whatever is necessary.
It may take a lot of effort- more than I, selfishly, am prepared to give.

It will take more of me than I would like for it to. But that's teaching. That's love. That's LIFE.

I'm so tired of seeing these happy teacher posts. I'm not often a happy teacher.
If you ask my how my school or job is, I will tell you honestly and enthusiastically- I LOVE MY JOB. every day is a challenge, some days I just go home and cry, but I love it.
Loving it doesn't mean I'm always happy about it or a cheerful giver of time and effort and love. But I'm sure as heck gonna try. I'm not going to give up or walk out because it's "tough". There's too much of that in the world already.

Let's keep trying. Let's be persevering. Let's stop using our tongues to tear one another down, and use them to build each other up. Let's be willing to accept change and try things a new way. Let's not mark anyone off the list of CAPABLE or WORTHY or LOVELY. Let's just give a bit more of ourselves and see what becomes of it. Just grab a little bit of hope and start walking into the day clinging to Him.

“The Lord takes pleasure in those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy and loving-kindness.” Psalm‬ ‭147:11‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Yeah, if today is any indication for how the year will go, it will tear my heart out even more than last year did. It will require more of me; it will be tougher than last year, but it will also be more rewarding than last year. I am determined to find and cultivate growth everywhere I can this school year.
It's gonna be a long ride through the darkness, but I bet the sunrise at the end will be spectacular.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

inspired by a new picture in an old frame

hello, virtual readers. it's been a pretty minute since I slipped some words into this space, but it felt like the right time. it's funny how for a season, a couple years ago, I felt like I had nothing but words. They poured out of my fingertips onto the keyboard- into emails and blips of google docs- and slipped from my pen in journal entries and letters and little jots here and there. They pulled me along as they flew out of me, I think.

and now they don't, not so much at least. not as easily. they drift around me a lot. maybe I just keep them to myself more now. maybe I finally learned how to store things up and ponder them in my heart. maybe it's good, maybe it's not.

so here I am, with some words. whether they are important or not is not up to me to say, but I'm glad you've kept reading this far. stay a little more, please.

I just did a tiny thing that felt really monumental, and I'm quite emotional about it.
I changed out a picture in a frame. I put the frame in a place I look every morning. (then cried.)

to explain why this is monumental, I have to backtrack a good bit, so please bear with me.

summer of 2014. specifically, the beginning of august. I had been dating Casey Key for nearly four blissful months.

(somehow a lot of things come back to this. I want to go ahead and clarify that this is not because of Casey. I love that man dearly, and I love our story, but not because of him or me or us. things don't revolve around that because of us. 
things revolve around it because it's a turning point on my heart's journey to the Lord. 
Casey is a huge part of my life because Jesus is a huge part of Casey, and of my relationship with him.)

so after four months, I thought we were kinda serious- at least I was serious about it. in all honesty, I knew six days into dating him that he was the only person I ever wanted to date or kiss or love.
for him, figuring it out wasn't that fast. I'm glad it wasn't.
anyway, I fly with his mom to Houston to pick him up from working at PineCove for 6 weeks. this was during the season I had a lot of words, therefore I had written him 42 letters, one for every day. I had also mailed him a lock of my hair, but that's beside the point.
during this time in Houston, I met his mom's birth mother (this is important and you'll see why in a minute). we picked Casey up from camp; I was smitten, he was less than thrilled to see me. we drove back to his house, talking about his family and hearing stories of his parents dating and all that fun stuff. so many times on that trip, I thought, "I just want to be part of this family."

we get back, talk a bit, and all part ways to get some sleep. the next morning we all go to his parents' church together. once there, Casey doesn't talk to me, doesn't get very close to me, doesn't hold my hand or lay his arm across the back of the pew. we get Cane's for lunch and take it home. we eat with minimal talking. Casey seems very off, and i'm internally freaking out. I ask him if I should just go ahead and drive home, he says "yeah I think that would be good."

the alarms in my heart start blaring.
I knew. this was it.
he walks me to my car, muttering about dragonflies. he opens my door, I get in, he gives me a peck that I don't reciprocate.
I immediately regret it and give him a decent peck back. I close the door and drive away and cry most of the way home.
I try not to act like anything is wrong. I tell myself "he was just tired". I don't let myself cry at first.
a few days later I ask him if everything is okay with us; he won't answer me.
"can we just wait and talk about it in person when I get back in town sunday?"
I write a sad song, I say "fine."

I wait and wait and wait. the slowest week of my life.
I call my mom on sunday and cry for hours. I knew it was coming. I tried to tell myself, "we're not about to break up." I tried to suck up my tears and be happy and go to dinner with friends.
He texts me, "can I come over?" at 9 PM.
He comes over.
He's wearing yellow.
He gives me a sad smile and it takes so much of me to keep from crying.
Liv leaves us alone to talk downstairs.

He says a lot of things I don't remember.
I force myself to look him in the eyes the whole time.
I force myself to not say anything, not guessingly finish any of his thoughts, let him say what he means.
I don't cry.
he talks a lot and I remember none of it, just the look on his face. just seeing my refrigerator behind him. just shaky insides.
he ends with saying he guesses this means we are breaking up for good.
I ask a few questions, I still don't let myself cry, I sit and stare a bit. I try to breathe the thick, awkward air between us, but it hurts my chest.
he asks if he can pray for me.

he holds my hands. I want to pull them away but he holds them.
he utters a sentence and my shaky insides burst. I cry big alligator tears, bigger than I had cried in many years.
my tears fall on the backs of his hands, I remember that part so vividly.
when the first one drops he pauses his prayer and says "don't cry, please" so shakily, but I can't stop. he keeps praying. I think he cried some on the inside.

"Amen." we look at each other. I'm crying. he wells up. I sniffle my tears in a little. we stand up, awkward goodbye, i don't even want to hug him but I do.
he leaves me with a note on yellow paper, "don't read it until I leave."

he walks out. I walk to the kitchen table and sit. I open the letter.
it feels like I disintegrated in that moment.
heaving sobs and trying to read through my tears and wanting to hate him but having no reason to.
"it seems that our relationship may be coming to a halt..."
"I can't give you what you need right now as a boyfriend..."
"Please keep loving like you do. seriously, scare people by how evident your love is for them."

I call my mom and tell her. I'm surprised she could make out any words through the sobs. I walk upstairs and fall on liv's bed and tell her and cry and cry.
I cry myself to sleep. I wake myself up crying. I cry in the shower, I try to stop, I tell myself "you can cry now, but when you start blow drying your hair, you have to stop." I blow dry my hair. I cry some more.
I text close heart-friends and tell them, and I cry at their responses. So much love, and support, and loyalty.

For three days, I managed not to cry in public, but I would walk in my front door and sit on the piece of my couch he sat on, and cry and stare at the wall. for hours.
I would run to the bathroom at the school I was student teaching at, just so I could let a few tears slip out when they needed to.
I cried every day for months. I hated seeing him.
I wanted to hate him, I wanted to be mad, but I just kept loving him, and that was worse.
I vowed to myself that I would love people so much that it scared them, and I reminded myself of that every morning.
I started writing.
I wrote 30 pages of what will hopefully someday become a book.
I would always start out being sad, and it would turn into me realizing how much I loved him. how willing I was to be stabbed in the heart by God's will for our relationship.

That was the first time I had ever died to my self. You hear in church about "dying to self," and "denying self," and that kind of stuff. it was all just jargon before that. I thought I knew what it meant, but I didn't.
I finally, then, learned what it was. it wouldn't have happened if Casey had not been listening to God's heartbeat. I hate that part of the story. I hate that it had to happen, but I'm so thankful for what that season did to each of our hearts separately.

we were 'apart' for six months, but we stayed best friends. after the first week of silence, we texted daily. we met every couple of weeks for coffee and life-chats that still lasted a minimum of three hours. we still talked about the hard things, the deep things, the us things. we chose the hard and holy choices. we stayed close.

in a moment that was nothing short of miraculous, after six months apart, Casey told me he still cared about me. I shared my feelings too. We realized we didn't want to date other people. We talked and prayed about it for a couple weeks, just to make sure we weren't jumping back into something because it was easy. we sought wise counsel.
then we came back together and said, "Yep. this is it."

our story didn't stop there, but that chapter ended and another began. We're very different people now than we were two augusts ago, or than we were when we got back together, or than we were a month ago. God moves our relationship closer to Him a bit more each day, and some days I hate how difficult it is. But goodness, am I thankful for our season apart and our seasons since then.

NOW, here we are. two augusts later. two thousand sixteen. it feels like lifetimes have gone by.
and yet the other day, God gave us the strangest way for this part of our story to come full-circle.

it was saturday, we were at his house for his brother's graduation and going-away party. his mom's biological mom (the one I had met in Houston) came to town for it. It was the first time I had seen her since That Weekend in 2014. when we were alone, I commented to Casey "isn't it crazy that it's been almost exactly two years since I first met Sheila? the last time I saw her was That Weekend." he agreed, we talked about how glad we were for that season to have existed, and to be done. I thought that was the end of it.

later that night we sat at opposite ends of the table during a family card game. something ticked in me, and my heart started shaking again. it felt just like that time when we sat at the table after church and he wouldn't look into my eyes.
later that night, I got weird about it and we talked about it and I realized I'm just going to be a mess this August. last year I was consumed with first-year teaching prep, too much to realize anything else going on around me. this year, the memories of 2014 started drowning me.
I cried and he comforted me and we prayed together, and the next morning I assumed I was fine.

We went to church with his parents. I started being startlingly aware of the similarities in "this time in 2014" and now.
We sat on the same row.
But this time he looked at me. He said my name the way he does (he doesn't even know he says it a certain way), the way his eyes crinkle in the middle of it. He held my hand and squeezed it and saw my eyes fill with tears at the memories, and offered his shoulder to cry on. He stuck by my side and held my hand, even when I shrunk away and tried not to hold his because the memories hurt.

After church, we were planning to return home and eat leftover pizza, but I asked his dad what the lunch plans were anyway.
"I think pizza, but we may stop by Cane's and pick up some chicken too."

I laughed out loud. I looked at Casey and said, "OF COURSE!"
Nothing else would make sense. God was flashing this in front of my face and I couldn't help but laugh. I was weird most of the afternoon though, and I tried to pull away from Casey, like I do when I want to be alone in my hurt and not bother him with my heaviness.
We finally had some time alone to talk, and I let out my big tears again, about how much it hurt to see this in front of my face again, about how scared I was that things would be too similar to 2014.

I kind of wish I could share Casey's heart in those moments. He is nothing but the most loving, tender, patient human in the face of my panic and worry. I love many things about him, but that part of him is one of my favorites. I am so glad God gives him the strength and patience and grace to love me well, especially in those times.
Casey always soothes me and helps me breathe again in places I never realize I have been gasping for air.

And to finish off that circle, I left my hug-pillow at Casey's house accidentally. My hug-pillow is the one I hug closer at night when I miss Casey and wish he could be beside me.
When I drove back from the Key house and realized I had left the hug-pillow behind, light-hearted laughter bubbled out of me and it felt like an agonizing leading-tone chord had finally resolved back to tonic.
How perfectly wonderful that this time, the only thing I left at Casey's house was a pillow, and not our relationship.

and now, back to the tiny thing that felt so monumental:
I rediscovered my favorite picture frame tonight; in it was a picture of my favorite day of the 2012 London semester program.
I took the frame from the dusty windowsill it hid on, and dusted it off. I opened up the back of it and took out the old picture, and put a new one in.

And then I remembered how much it hurt to leave London behind. To move on without something that I loved so dearly, with only a vague promise of returning someday.
So I whispered a "thank you" to my Jesus, who has heard my heart these many times over these many days.

"Thank you for taking some things away, for letting them die. Thank you for bringing them back to life and finishing the circle."

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

the place I know You well

I find You here in a familiar place. A soft, hollowed out piece of metaphorical earth.
Askew on my woolen picnic blanket. Well-worn flip flops. Dimpled thighs. Pages fluttering in the springy evening breeze.

This is a place I know You well.
This is a place I have met You so often.
This is the place I held my broken heart up to You daily, for a time, and hoped You were crafting gold. I wanted you to be blowing glass and planting bulbs and resurrecting dead hopes.
And You did all of that and more.

You always called me Little Bird in those days, and some afternoons spent in that hollowed and hallowed spiritual ground, I swore that if I held my ear to the ground long enough I heard Your heart beat for us. "Lub dub lub dub" became "love Me, love them". It seemed like if I stared at the wind moving the branches until I couldn't see them for the darkness of nightfall, that I could see the whispery hem of Your goodness moving around me. Only the fringes. But I could see them and hear echoes of Your grandness.

These days I hardly know what to call this season, this place. I guess it's one of those things that doesn't know its own name just yet. But I'm glad my Jesus is personal and close and whispers these little reminiscences to me when I wake in the dark more often than I wake to daylight. I'm glad He carries my heavy heart every day and is moving even in my inability to pick up my cross daily, even in my lack of words to pray.

Anne of Green Gables said, "If I really wanted to pray I'll tell you what I'd do. I'd go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I'd look up into the sky- up, up, up- into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I'd just feel a prayer."
And most days in this season, I feel a lot of prayers. Frequently I even feel them without saying them. Maybe you theologians and superChristians have words on why this is not good or unhealthy- I'd love to hear them. But I'm going to keep on feeling my prayers, at least for now. I believe my God likes to lean his forehead against mine and feel my weights with me and help me breathe and forgive and carry on.

Like today. Today I received three letters of encouragement. THREE! All on the same day. (All from actual people but ultimately from Him. Ultimately yet another "be weak and carry on" because I am not yet good at refraining from relying on my own strength.)
I also witnessed the most gorgeous sunset tonight from my favorite view in Clinton AND
MY SUPER HOT INCREDIBLE LOVING, INTELLIGENT, MAN-AFTER-GOD'S-HEART BOYFRIEND was elected president of his service club at our school (which is kind of huge and I am so elated with him and proud of him so I had to brag!)

Life is dark and heavy most days this season. It's rarely light or simple or free of spiritual warfare. Satan just doesn't like the grace that God is pouring out over me & my sweet little school, honestly. But it is so rich and vibrant and good and I am beyond-words-BLESSED to have Casey and my incredible family and friends and love-letter-writers in my corner. To have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (and what felt like the land of the dying). To be serving a Lord who empathizes and intercedes and whispers. To be able to look into the sunset and know He isn't done with us yet. And maybe one day I will look back on this place as another one where I knew Him well.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

heart stuff

I know I post a lot of sappy things about Casey, but bear with me for a second while I gush. I promise I have substantial things to say in just a second! My reasoning is that I'm only gonna fall in love once so I might as well be as obnoxiously sappy about it as I can while it's all so new and wonderful.

Gush: Casey far exceeds my grandest hopes of what I might someday end up with. Like many girls who were raised in a southern baptist church, I had my little list of expectations and hopes and he blows them all out of the water. He slow dances with me while in line for hot dogs at baseball games. He plays hide & seek with me in Target. He lets me walk down the laundry detergent aisle because he knows I like to just walk down it sniffing. He holds my hands and blesses our meals together. He always encourages me to "be a light" in the workplace, and his constant prayer is for us to keep finding ways to love each other and Christ better. He tells the lady at Baskin Robbins that I changed my mind and want two scoops instead of one, when I am too passive to ask for it. He hugs me tight when I cry, wipes away my tears, and always tells me to stop apologizing for myself. He listens to and cherishes my rambling opinions and thoughts. He kisses my tired eyelids after a long day of school. He takes me on roller coasters that terrify me- literal and metaphorical- because he knows in the end I'll be better off for it or enjoy it, or maybe both. He leans his forehead against mine and sings the boy part of Baby It's Cold Outside in perfect harmony to my girl part, in the middle of the bike section at Academy. He sits on the wooden benches of Barnes and Noble reading aloud poetry with me. He looks at me That Way and holds my face in his hands and LoveQuirks like mad. And these are just some of the things that I remember off the top of my head. Casey is too too good to me and I'm obviously just the most twitterpated little thing you ever did see.

Obviously there is a lot that Casey does and is that I love dearly.
Sometimes, though, people what to know what about Casey I most treasure, and that is a hard things to decide on. But I finally, over the past few months, have found my answer.

When people ask me what I love most about Casey or what most attracts me to him, I always tell them about how he embodies Christ as He is described in Zephaniah 3:17. "The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love; He will rejoice over you with singing."
If you want me to expound on that, ask me and I will, but this is not the time.

I love how Casey's heart reflects my Savior's. I love that he is a physical representation of Christ to me, that they way he cherishes me and bears burdens with me draws me closer to Christ. The problem is, Satan hates it. My flesh hates it.
It is excruciatingly difficult for someone you adore to just so tenderly and gently reveal your own heart-gunk to you. You might think that's dumb, it shouldn't be painful since they're being so gentle about it. But no. The simple loving manner used is almost 'burning coals'-esque. It somehow is worse when he's loving and humble about it (which he always is and UGH how annoyingly wonderful to have someone so freaking patient and meek pursue my heart daily) because it makes my gunk be revealed more realistically, and alllllllll the gunk comes out.

Sometimes for me the best way to clean out my gunk is to just announce it and share all the gruesome sin-details of it all so here goes.
My heart gets very proud, on both ends. It never sits stably in the middle, in selfless humility, but drastically wavers between arrogant pride and inadequate pride. Between "I am everything" and "I will never be anything". Really it just centers around Becca so dang much. Pride tricks me cause really any kind of thinking about me before/above others and Christ is pride, but that's not really how it's billed. We're led to believe that arrogant self-reliance is the only form of pride but my heart is the prime example of there being two sides to the coin.

Lately, there has been so much realizing how gunky and prideful my heart gets. I'm pretty sure that half the time Casey doesn't even realize he's being a vessel for God's conviction. He is so often a mirror-holder to me that helps me compare my heart to the Lord's and stop comparing myself to other humans.

This morning in church I was reminded of the deep truths of Proverbs 4. Most of us who were raised in church are familiar with Prov. 4:23, but how many of you know the verses that precede and follow it?

“My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” Proverbs‬ ‭4:20-27‬ ‭ESV‬‬

A while back I was struck, upon reading this passage, by the various parts of the body/life that this addresses. This morning, I was reminded of those realizations once again.
When Solomon tells us to pay attention to his WORDS, he tells us they are LIFE and HEALING to "all their flesh". These words that follow are directed at various parts of our flesh that can easily lead our HEART, or spirit, astray.

Crooked speech & devious talk: someone please explain to my why it is so much easier to engage in judgmental thoughts and words as an adult in the workplace. Is it just teachers? Is it just because I'm new to this and insecure and feel the need to judge others more harshly so that my failings don't seem so glaring? Or is it just humans in general, and I've been in such conservative circles I've avoided it this far? Either way I hate it. I hate feeling the drive to gossip or use less-classy language. But it's so present and it's such a struggle for me, which is weird and humiliating, cause it's never been much of a thing I dealt with before.
But sure enough, "crooked speech and devious talk" drag my heart down. However, when I let my mouth overflow kind and grace-filled words, my heart is refreshed constantly.

Eyes & gaze: this one is a no-brainer. Where your eyes focus, your heart focuses. If my eyes focus on others' strengths and weaknesses compared to my own, my heart sits stagnant in pools of self-love, pride, and comparison. If my eyes focus on others' achievements and things that I lack, my heart surges with jealousy and envy. If my eyes focus on my own inadequacy, my heart slumps into self-deprecation (which is also pride) and negativity. No matter what my eyes focus on, eventually my thoughts and heart will center there too. So I must be constantly asking myself: what are my eyes fixed on? What do I spend my time on? What do I invest mental and emotional energy in?
One of my all-time favorite verses, Philippians 4:8, gives us the key to centering our thoughts around Him.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
‭‭it's as if God knew Becca would need these recommendations and gave them to Paul back when he was writing to the Church in Philippi. He knew my eyes would focus on everything but Him. He knew my heart would get distracted by what I let fill my vision. So He said, "okay. Instead, here's a list of things you should think about and fill your mind with: true things. noble things. right things. pure things. lovely things. honorable things. just things. commendable things. excellent things. and things worthy of praise. dwell on those."
Because the only things that exemplify those traits are gifts He showers, so ultimately we are looking back to Him. We are fixing our eyes and hearts on His goodness. "I steady my heart on the grounds of Your goodness," says Audrey Assad in her song Good To Me. That is the only way to combat wandering, distracted gazes- steadying our hearts on His firm foundation of goodness and righteousness.

Feet & their ways: where I go and what I actively do has so much effect on my spirit. What am I walking toward? What am I actively doing? Do my feet walk to my bed (to watch more Netflix) more frequently than they walk to others' aid? Am I honoring the temple of the Lord that my soul lives in? Immediately after sharing with us what we should fill our minds with, Paul says in Philippians 4:9
“What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Christ has taught and given and spoken and shown us everything we need to walk with Him and abide with him. It's now a matter of putting into practice what we have already learned and received and heard and seen.
It's not necessarily a matter of 'discipline' to follow Christ actively (though it often requires discipline to be effective and efficient as His ambassador). It's a matter of the heart. It's about setting my heart on the "Christ" setting and not letting my flesh distract me or delay me from that.

The great thing is, this is not a work I can do. It's a work I can invite and put into practice once it starts, but I cannot initiative a move of God. Only He can. Only the Spirit working in me and weeding the garden of my heart and filling me daily can change the direction of my eyes, thoughts, words, feet, and heart.

Someone once asked Charles Spurgeon, "Why do you have to be filled with the Spirit?" To which he responded:
"Because I leak."

I'm realizing that I leak a lot. And I rarely fill my heart back up with Him. And that's where all the problems start.
BUT I'm forever grateful to be surrounded by people who care to point out my leaks and hold up a mirror to me and fill me back up with His truth + grace.

welcome to midnight.

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