If God Sent Me a Letter

Last week, I wrote about some hard questions for God. If he answered me in a letter, I’m sure it would be much more beautiful than my attempt. Here’s what I imagine and what speaks to my heart.

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Dear Jen,

The time will come for answers, but it’s not here just yet. I can tell you there are big things up ahead for you. I’ve known you before you were YOU, and I know there have been so many times in your life that have been complicated and mysterious. I’ve seen you search and search for answers, but there are some things you aren’t ready to know.

I’ve seen you cry, shoulders heaving, and I cry heavy tears with you. I’ve also seen all the things that make you giggle and fill you with joy–the silly songs you make up when you’re alone, the dark chocolate you leave in the freezer, the way your eyes light up every time you see a beautiful sunset or the way blue sky and mountains seem to take your breath away. I smile when I see you smile, and guess what? The corners of my eyes crinkle up just like yours.

I know you are tired. Don’t wish your days away. Each one is filled with my goodness just waiting for you. It’s okay to rest your mind and let me do my work. I’ll let you know if I need your help. Rest.

I know you look back at carefree times and wish them back. Know the hardest days are not pointless. You are learning to trust me, and I know that is not easy. But, I am the Creator of the Universe. Don’t you think I can handle what hurts and scares and puzzles you most? I created YOU; why would you worry I’d leave you in the middle of it, alone? All I ask is that you trust me. I have your back whether you see it or understand it or even feel it.

Just believe it.

This tough stuff right now, it won’t be like this forever. Just as the seasons change and winter is giving way to spring, the times of your life change, too. Keep moving forward. You’ll see up ahead, just around the corner is a new season for you, too.

When you are afraid, I am here. When you have nothing left to give, I am your strength. You have been through hard things before and will make it through again, this time and the next and the next. There is joy right here, every day, just waiting for you. Look for it. Marvel in it.

I love you. I am so proud of who you are. You are enough.

Love,

God

If God sent YOU a letter right now, what do you think it would say? ~Jen

Pony Lessons

“Make an obstacle course for the pony.” These are the directions we were given. Nothing more. The last time I might have been near a pony was when I was little and too timid to touch it (or maybe I saw one on TV, who knows). Regardless, I felt like I was in way over my head.

I know this is a donkey picture, but it's mine and I like it.
I know this is a donkey picture, but it’s mine and I like it.

After picking through the pile of barrels, a bucket and PVC pipes of various sizes, we slowly began to work, arranging everything the best we knew how.

“Have the pony go through your course, using anything in the arena.” Um, just MOVE a PONY?

Puzzled, I wondered if these animals are at all like my dogs, who come barreling around the corner when I call them, ears flopping and tail wagging.

We mumbled and stumbled and urged and pushed and begged. “Come on, little pony, let’s go!” (this makes me laugh, since my horse-owning dad would shake his head).

Glancing over at the beginning of our carefully-placed course and resting his eyes there, the pony seemed curious, almost longing to try it. Still, he refused to move, even with our calm but urgent pleading (I was a nervous, sweaty mess). We tried walking away, hoping he would be interested enough to follow. Instead, he went back to his comfort, his owner.

And then! I got the leash bridle that was over on the fence, and we gently wrestled it on him.

Feeling more comfortable (I guess) with our control, the pony slowly began to move. Relieved, we wove him around the maze of barrels. This won’t take long! But then, we came to a place where he stopped, refusing to jump or even step over the PVC pipe we set between two short plastic tables.  Rubbing his velvety-soft nose, we told him he was doing a fine job.

But he wasn’t going anywhere.

After a long several minutes, we decided to lower the pipe to a more manageable height, and that did the trick. Ah-ha! Soon, he we would be finished! This was possible!

We moved toward the last obstacle, a plastic crate about the size of a cement block, placed lower to the ground than most of the others. He planted his feet and became a rigid pony statue. Was he tired? Unsure? Worried about something? I talked to him, encouraging him to keep going. “I know this sucks, but you’re almost finished!” I said. He stood still, while I thought about how far we had come and understood we still would not accomplish our goal until we got past this thing that was holding us back.

It’s been three days since this experience, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I am a lot like that pony.

Have you ever yearned to do something or live an adventure but then chose to go back to your comfortable place? Maybe it’s a goal or a dream that’s been carefully placed in your heart but money, situations, people or YOU get in your way? Maybe you’ve already gotten started and are so close to the finish but are stuck, wrestling with yourself or something that seems or is really big, wondering if quitting and turning back to that comfortable place is better.

The pony? Well, he eventually (finally!) took one step and then another one until we made it to the big finish.

img_2079.jpgSometimes, simply going forward is just the thing that moves us closer to where we want to be.

Healing From the Inside Out

Sometimes you just know something isn’t right.

The second year of my full-time graduate program in 2010, I juggled a counseling internship at one school and a part-time teaching job at another. Night sweats, constant bloating and fatigue, brain fog, as well as headaches and dizziness were some of the worst symptoms I struggled with during that time. The several doctors I went to asked me if I was stressed. Um, yes, of course I am! I wanted to scream. Get some rest, work out, eat right–those words were my prescriptions, but they made no difference.

I went to three medical doctors and left frustrated every single time because no one seemed to really know what was going on, and I didn’t feel like anyone heard me. Anxiety? Stress? And the best of all…(no joke) PMS? Do you know what PMS is?  I really wanted to slap that nurse in the face. Um, thanks, but I’ve been having periods for decades.

Finally, an amazingly kind doctor listened (she listened!) and tested my hormones, finding that my progesterone was low. Immediately I went into research mode and bought Dr. Lee’s What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Premenopause. I felt like the book was all about me (reading about “premenopause” freaked me out a little bit, since I was in my mid-thirties and did not have children). I read that practically any crisis situation during our lives can cause some of these issues later, which made sense, but the tears flowed when  sexual abuse was listed as a potential culprit.

That was the beginning.

Things seemed to clear up a little after using bioidentical progesterone cream for a few months, as Dr. Lee suggested in his book. The off-and-on dizziness remained, as well as a full-body aching that didn’t easily subside. Thinking that I needed to work out more to relieve stress, I continued to go to yoga classes, strength training and cardio. What I found though, was that I actually felt worse after working out–not it in the usual sore kind of way. I had shooting pain down my legs, my hips ached, and I had headaches that only went away with sleep. You wouldn’t think I had been getting chiropractic adjustments practically every week. I was bewildered when I had to walk out of a yoga class because my leg pain was too intense to continue. Really? Yoga is even too much?!?

In May of 2011, I began juicing and started a detox regimen. For years,  I had reactions from dairy, so I cut most of that out of my diet. During that time, I kept a food diary of everything I ate each day, and I noticed I still had some adverse reactions. At Brian’s request, I agreed to have allergy testing done. Through that, I found I am sensitive to chicken, beef and dairy among other things like vinegar and mushrooms. So, essentially, my entire way of eating changed that summer, and now I am vegetarian (ovo pescaterian to be exact, since I eat eggs and fish). The hardest thing to let go of was dairy–cheese…no more chicken nachos smothered with queso or our weekly pizza. What I miss the least? Chicken and beef, without a doubt. I also removed gluten from my diet and I found that with a meals of mainly fruits and vegetables, my symptoms–all of them–subsided.

My first 25 pounds of carrots for juicing
My first 25 pounds of carrots for juicing

As you can probably guess, changing my eating habits has changed my life. Not only am I a healthier person, I feel better, think better and have more energy. Looking back, I honestly don’t know if the hormone issue came first and caused the problems with food, or vice versa. Without a doubt, the crises in my life and resulting unforgiveness in my heart created years of constant and underlying stress (all the normal stress from other areas of my life just made it all worse). I was on the fast road to disease. No medical professional has confirmed that, and you know what? I don’t need confirmation.

I believe it with all that is in me, and that is why my healing journey continues.

(I wish I had impressive before and after pictures, but they would look practically the same. My changes have been made from the inside out. And clearly, I am not a medical professional but simply sharing my experience.)

Like Oil and Water

But I don’t want to jump into something new!

Funny (or irritating really), this pattern I have noticed. It has become fact that when I post something, my words slap me in the face the next day or few days or over the past week. It stings a little and sometimes a lot, mostly because I feel like I have figured out some things.

For example, I called my last post Nothing Changes Unless We Do, so naturally, most of last week I wanted to rant and complain…about the change that was coming, ready or not.

I love my job working with children and parents and teachers. Like any job, there are good and tough days. For me, I am blessed that the good widely outnumber the bad.

However.

This summer has been amazing (as summers usually are). I have relished time for me, time to sleep, time to write, time to travel, time for friends to visit, etc., etc., etc. Over a week ago, I went back to work–to school in July.  I know, I know, all of you who read this and work year round have no sympathy, and I get it. Just try to understand.

I DO NOT like change.

Change and I just don’t go together like oil and water. Last week, I turned into a whiny, teary, dramatic weirdo. I was exhausted and felt annoyed, oh, about just everything. You know, it was like wearing a tight, itchy sweater with sleeves that are too short.

In less than a week, I felt overloaded by things I routinely would have done and haven’t (including a blog post) or all I hoped to do and still haven’t (blog post done!). Suddenly I felt like I was complaining constantly and worrying– tightening my grip around all I could. I must have apologized to Brian at least 10 times…and then turned around and had to do it all over again.

So, over the weekend, I realized again (as I do every time I go through this) that awareness is part of the process. Just recognizing that I need to be open to the change rather than fearing it is important. Then, opening my mind and heart, loosening my grip on everything, and asking God for peace and strength and direction make a world of difference. After all, the dread over the coming change is ridiculously inflated in relation to the actual event.

Yesterday was the first day of school for our students, and I loved seeing the smiling faces I realize I’ve missed over June and most of July.

I think I’ll go back tomorrow.

Nothing Changes Unless We Do

Based on a recent phone call, I am aware that my last post on seeing all people as precious brought up some stuff. So, here’s my response:

1) Yes, I am aware that most of us have driven past someone who is stranded on the road.

2) I don’t know anyone who gives money to everyone on the side of the road asking for it.

3) I do not expect to and know I cannot possibly help everyone I see who is hurting in some way or another, but…

4) I can do MORE to help make this world a better place every, single day.

We’ve spent months hearing the news regarding the Penn State sexual abuse scandal and then the devastating Colorado movie shootings last week. Every day, it seems there are tragedies that remind us that life is short and unpredictable and messier than we thought the previous day.

At the gym the other night, I wondered how many people were there trying to relieve stress. It’s ironic that the day’s headlines were plastered on practically every flat screen TV that spanned the enormous room. It seems even at the gym we can’t escape the negative yuck that is swirling around us. Sometimes, we may even feel like there is nothing good or safe or happy in the world. While we can’t ease everyone’s suffering or snap our fingers to take away pain, all hope is not lost.

My God calls us to love one another. There are big ways and small ways we can do this. Every day, choosing to make more of an effort to show love to people all around us proves that we can make a difference. All is not lost. There is hope. There is good in the world.

However, focusing on others is not always easy for me. I am polite. I smile and chat with strangers, but I am usually lost in my own thoughts, which sadly (but honestly) also usually have to do with me. So, this means slowing down my pace in the grocery store or wherever I happen to be and seeing with fresh, interested eyes all that is happening around me.

I heard someone say that nothing changes unless we do. So, here are some easy ways to spread kindness–randomly or not and potentially change someone’s day:

  • Write a thank you note for your mail carrier/ garbage collector and leave it in the mailbox or on top of your trash can/ recycling box (no stamp needed)
  • Buy a box of popsicles and share with those who are working outside on these terribly hot days
  • Open the door for someone
  • If you still write checks, scribble a quick thank you 🙂 in the memo section
  • Help someone load groceries into the car
  • Cut up some fruit and take it to a neighbor’s house/ apartment (it’s a great way to meet those living around you)
  • Write a quick note for your coworker, friend, significant other, or kids on a post-it (they’re inexpensive and you have a pretty good guarantee that it will stay where you leave it)
  • Give a stranger $5 just because
  • Smile

It’s interesting how helping others does something internally for us, as well. Giving someone else a tasty treat can also be a treat for you!

What are some ways you fight negativity and selfishness, in order to bring more love into this world?

*Image from Google

An Unexpected Lesson (Review)

A couple weeks ago we were on our way to sun and fun. Swimsuits, flip flops, beach towels were packed (sunscreen was forgotten–isn’t there always something?). Despite the packed cooler filled with goodies for the drive, we had to make a stop for M&Ms and kettle chips. Oooh, junk just adds to the fun of going on vacation!

It was my turn in the driver’s seat, and Brian settled in for a nap.

If you’ve never driven through South Carolina, let’s just say there’s nothing redeeming during that journey. Flat and boring, boring and flat. If you have to go to the bathroom, take some toilet paper since you might drive for hours without finding an exit or even seeing a billboard. This particular drive felt like the real neverending story without that almost-cute-but-just-too-strange dog-faced creature (children of the ’80’s, do you remember that movie?).

So, I drove on and on and on and saw a green and yellow car on the side of the road, flashers on. Whew! That sucks. It’s such a hot day, I thought and then actually closed the vents, since the A/C was a little too cold. As I passed, I noticed the lone driver was pregnant.

I continued on. We have vacation to start! Yet, as I tried to forget her, I felt a little less excited about getting there and a little more like a heartless heap of snot.

Why didn’t I stop? What could have I done anyway? Who knows if and how far she would have needed us to drive her? This could take all day!

And then, I realized even if I did nothing else, I could have given her a very cold bottle of water from our cooler packed with goodies.

But I didn’t. And I didn’t go back (I felt better since there was no exit anywhere nearby to turn around, but then I felt even. worse. for her since there was no exit nearby).

About a hour later, I passed someone else whose car was parked on the side of the road with the hood up. As I kept driving, he was walking…walking down this monotonous road on this incredibly hot day. At least there actually happened to be an exit about half a mile away.

Once we reached our destination and for days filled our stomachs with deliciousness, I walked past a woman crying for food in a place where people spend money like it truly does grow on trees. Ah, I didn’t have my wallet with me and couldn’t have helped her. So glad I dodged that one! It can be so… awkward.

You know, I still wonder how it would have been if I would have just stopped to talk to her like the couple I later saw who did that very thing. Oh, and on our initial drive, eventually, that green and yellow car sped past us, but I didn’t feel much better.

I was reminded that I have been on the side of the road with a flat tire waiting for help to arrive. No strangers stopped to help me, either. As I sweated in my car for close to a hour, I saw hundreds of cars and trucks speed past my own with a force that shook me.

I have not, however, been the crying woman asking for food.

If I needed money so I could eat, I would want to be seen and heard and treated like a living, breathing and very hungry person.

We see these kinds of situations everyday. While at times I’d like to jump in and help, it’s true to say that most of the time I don’t. Is it just easier to walk as if we have blinders on or to tell ourselves that it’s “safer” to stay away? After all, we’ve heard the stories of people who make the choice to beg for money instead of taking an available job or appear to be homeless with a nice car parked around the corner. And oh, the dangers! (Really, I am aware that putting myself in certain situations is not safe, but this is not my point.)

Our vacation was fantastic for a lot of ways. One unexpected reason is that I have remembered what I teach my students and apparently, need to keep learning and practicing.

We are all people with very real needs and hurts with a desire to be seen and heard and loved. Everywhere I look, I want to really see and treat people as if they are in fact, precious. And newsflash: It’s just not my job to decide if they are being authentic or not.

So, giving money doesn’t feel right? Well, even a kind word and a smile can make an impact.

Is this something you struggle with, too? How do you decide in those moments how to deal with it?

That Piercing Light

When was the last time you drove somewhere at sunrise?
                                           Sometimes the morning light is absolutely overwhelming. Piercing.  It’s so bright you can’t help but close your eyes, a scary thing to do when driving. You fumble around blindly for your sunglasses but they’re on the floorboard and out of reach. You feel anxious, worried about getting to  your destination. Then, you pry your eyes open a sliver…just enough to see that amazingly, you are right where you need to be.
                                                                                                                                        We don’t always see where we are going in life. There is uncertainty everywhere we turn–the economy, job security, that doctor’s appointment we put off, even the weather. As hard as it is for all of us to remember from day to day, especially during our loneliest, most heart-wrenching of times, God will keep us on track if we just close our eyes and let Him drive.

5 Minute Friday: Path

I don’t know why I love this so. Maybe it’s the beach, the wind-beaten fence, the narrow road. I fell in love with this place when I was visiting Ireland a couple years ago.

This door hidden in the earth is intriguing. Who knows what one might find on the other side? Treasures of some sort? A whole world of newness and adventure waiting to be discovered?

Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go. He’s the one who will keep you on track. ~ Proverbs 3:6

I believe we can hear God’s voice in the clouds above, a stormy day, standing at the top of a mountain observing the beauty of the landscape. Wherever we are if we listen in the stillness, our path will be made known to us–down a winding road or through a waiting door.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community..

*Check out thegypsymama, who started this 5 Minute Friday fabulousness.

Truth

Remember being completely happy just being?

Insecurity is a nasty thing that can tear us down piece by tiny piece IF we let it. For me, it comes in the form of tiny annoyances that somehow grow into BIG struggles. It’s a sneaky voice in the back of my mind telling me I’m not good enough. I don’t have a voice. No one cares what I have to say. Whatever lies we are fighting, here is simple, solid TRUTH for all of us from Marianne Williamson (Return to Love). I love this!

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God,

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.