I have no recollection of a sparkle in your eye when you looked at me.
I needed a father whose eyes lit up when I entered his line of sight.
I never felt treasured.
I needed a father who considered me a gift.
My worth was diminished by everything you loved more.
I needed a father who loved me most.
Your attention was what I craved, but even throwing myself into your hobbies wasn’t enough to gain that attention.
I needed a father whose affection I didn’t have to earn.
I wasn’t taught the value of a daughter.
I needed a father who showed me I was significant.
I felt threatened by you.
I needed a father who protected me.
I didn’t have permission to express my emotions and feelings without negative repercussions.
I needed a father who provided a safe place to explore my emotions.
I wasn’t known by you—my thoughts, interests, passions, and capabilities were overlooked.
I needed a father who saw me.
Father’s Day is not a day that I can celebrate with enthusiasm. Father’s Day is complicated. It is a stark reminder of the essential absence of a father figure in my life. Those of you who have known me a long time might be confused by that statement. Yes, my father was present in the home as I grew up, but he was absent in every other way. When I search my memory for instances that relay evidence of having a well-fathered heart, I come up empty.
After decades of ignoring the deep sadness and grief of not having the father I needed, those wounds are breaking through the surface of my heart, ripping open those tender spots that long to be healed. Currently, I am wrestling with the fathering heart of God. I’ve heard, all my life, that He is a Father to the fatherless, a good Father, a loving Father. Yet, when you grow up not only without a solid father figure, but also with a worldview shaped by the belief that a father is someone you have to tip-toe around lest you upset him, making a connection to the true Father-heart of God is difficult, at best.
Believing, deep in my heart, that I am a beloved daughter of the King is a challenge when my human understanding and experience tells me I am easily replaced and unwanted. Accepting that my heavenly Father wants nothing more than to spend time with me is unlikely when my experience tells me my presence is a bother. Knowing that I don’t have to work to earn the love of Father-God seems too good to be true when I feel unwanted.
All this is further complicated by the fact that I have a lot of unanswered questions about my sister’s death. Because how are you supposed to believe in a good Father when He’s allowed the person closest to you to die? It’s almost too much to bear.
For now, all I can do is push those questions aside as best I can and focus on solidifying my identity as a significant and irreplaceable daughter and God’s inherent character as a Father. Because until that belief is deeply rooted in my heart, mind, spirit, and soul, every other truth falls on deaf ears.
When I first began intentionally digging into this landmine of suppressed hurt, the Holy Spirit whispered a phrase to me:
“You were my daughter first.”
I’ve not fully unpacked the depth behind that statement yet, but I’m content to camp out there for a while.
I may not have the father I needed on this earth, but I’m clinging to the knowledge that my true Father is pursuing my heart, showing me how a Father loves His daughter one glimpse at a time until the deep knowledge of it replaces my experience with an earthly father. I’m counting on Him to re-Father the little girl inside me who needed a good father.
Have you ever had an experience so transforming that you couldn’t quite find the words to wrap around the magnitude of its bearing on your soul? An experience so powerful that you simultaneously want to hold it close to your chest and savor the intimacy of it while also desiring to shout it from the rooftops?
Last week, I attended Discovery!—a personal development retreat in Austin.
For months, several friends (one in particular—you can guess which one), their family members, and a few friends of friends have raved about their Discovery experiences and implored me to go. But because the program works most effectively if you don’t know what the weekend entails going in, none of them offered any details other than “it’s hard, but so worth it.” My anxious, likes-to-know-all-the-things brain struggled with this lack of information.
When the #EpicBookTourTPD ended last August, I slid into a deep, dark hole. As I wallowed in that pit one evening, Anna once again asked me to give Discovery a shot. Weary of saying no and, honestly, just trying to make her stop asking, I signed up.
A few days later, I cancelled my reservation because I was terrified of the unknown.
And I slid further into the pit.
By the time February rolled around, I was numb again, stuck in old thought patterns, resigning myself to the reality that I would always be trapped in this cycle, that losing Jess had done me in and there would be no coming back from it.
One Saturday evening, Anna and I sat in the car and she laid out my options: counseling, Grief Share, or Discovery. Again, she shared how Discovery had helped her and, with tears glistening in her eyes, she asked me to trust her because she knew it would be beneficial for me—and would provide a quicker result in one weekend than months of counseling appointments or Grief Share meetings would.
I agreed to go, signed up again, and tried not to think about it for the next six weeks.
On Friday, March 23, I, along with 32 others, walked into a large conference room not knowing what to expect. As the doors closed behind us, our connectors—those who had gone before us and convinced us to come—cheered and shouted in the lobby. They knew what was coming; we had no idea.
(Because I’m now one of them and know all the details, I’m purposefully leaving them out. Just know that not being able to share all the things with you is hard for this [written] words girl!)
I walked in room still apathetic and numb, highly skeptical, and searching for a way to get out of the whole weekend. I walked in carrying a load of guilt, anger, and undealt with grief. I walked in with a broken and buried heart. I walked in with terrible pain in my neck and shoulders that had been there for months.
Over the course of the next 57 hours, I resisted, surrendered, wrestled, fought, yelled, sobbed, grieved, unburied, trusted, encouraged, gave, received, supported, stretched, recovered, and celebrated.
Saturday was brutal, but beautiful.
On Sunday evening, I walked out of that room with my whole heart back. I walked out of that room without the long-present tension in my neck and shoulders. I walked out genuinely laughing and smiling rather than hiding behind a mask. I walked out empowered to stand up and fight for me. I walked out lighter and freer.
It’s taken an entire week to reflect and begin to process the weight of my Discovery experience, and I’m still just scratching the surface.
The other side of Sunday is everything I want and everything I need.
The other side of Sunday brings light.
The other side of Sunday brings hope.
The other side of Sunday brings freedom.
I’m living on the other side of Sunday, and that’s more than enough.
I’m tempted to let 2017 slip away quietly, to bid it farewell without the fanfare of a final blog post–because reflecting on all this year is and was and will be is a lot for a heart to handle.
(Just forty words in and already I feel the tears burning at the corners of my eyes.)
It was the worst best year I’ve ever experienced and trying to process all. the. things is overwhelming, razor-sharp, exhausting work. So, I’m just diving in to share an unedited glimpse of some of my highest highs and lowest lows of the year. This won’t be a cheery, tied-up-with-a-pretty-bow kind of post, but I hope my honesty meets you where you are, somehow–even if that means we sit in a heap of ashes and tears while remembering.
Between Thanksgiving 2016 and March 2017, I traveled back and forth between Texas and South Carolina a lot. My sister’s health was declining rapidly (damn you, cancer) and I was almost literally living with one foot in my native state and the other in the state I was trying to claim as my new home. Unsettled was the new normal I never asked for.
I’d had to quit my job in Texas in order to be so transient, and it was for the best, ultimately. It gave me the chance to spend some sweet last days at the beach with my sister and allowed for memories that gave me the strength to carry on through the rest of the year.
In January, I finished the first draft of my book manuscript. 55, 000 words in one document, ready to be edited and pitched to an agent. (One of those goals that hasn’t yet come to fruition.)
After two weeks of working furiously to map out a cross-country route and secure places to stay along the way, the #EpicBookTourTPD rolled out of town on April 1st. I was also leading my third launch team at this point (Jamie Sandefer’s Love You From Right Here).
Barely two weeks and four states in, I got the middle-of-the-night call no one wants to get (or make) while sleeping in a sketchy hotel on the Las Vegas strip. (I’m choosing to leave out a lot of details here, not only because this was and is a deeply personal period, but also because I don’t remember a lot of the two weeks that followed that call. It still feels like a nightmare to recall what I do remember.) I cried nonstop for at least three straight days, then tiny tears leaked out of the corner of my left eye for weeks after that. I stopped wearing eye makeup for the first time since I was thirteen. The last weekend of April, I flew from Salt Lake City to Greenville for her memorial service where I had the excruciating honor of eulogizing my little sister.
If it hadn’t been for the support of my closest friends who listened when I needed to yell or cry or talk about my sister, and the distraction of the book tour, I would have crawled into a hole this year. There were (and are still) occasions when I did crawl into a hole and had to be dragged out.
In the midst of the shattered mess of grief, I was given the gift of fulfilling a dream Jess and I had: a cross-country road trip. I knew, without a doubt, that she would kick my ass if I quit the book tour, so I grabbed her travel mascot–a green, plastic dinosaur named Migrating Monty–while in S.C. for the memorial service and flew back to Utah to rejoin Anna. Monty sat on the dashboard of the Epic Book Tour Mobile for the remainder of our trip, a constant reminder of my adventure-loving sister. I’ll never forget driving through the Colorado mountains the week after the memorial service when Hanson’s “I’ll Be With You In Your Dreams” started playing.
From April to August, Anna and I crisscrossed the U.S.A., covering 40 states, meeting hundreds (thousands?) of people, and driving a cumulative total of 23,461 miles.
In April, I was talked off the ledge of getting a grief tattoo in Vegas.
In May, we traveled from Colorado to New York and back to Texas. We saw Niagara Falls–the sightseeing highlight of the book tour. We got tattoos in Winona, Minnesota.
In June, we left Texas again and went east, traveling as far north as Pennsylvania. When we passed through the Carolinas, I had the opportunity to take Anna to my hometown to meet my people.
In July, we headed south to Florida and back to Texas before making a second trip to Utah, then coming home for two days before Anna headed to her birthplace in Mexico while I spent a few sweet days with my heart-friend, Kelli, in New Mexico to conclude the book tour.
Through August and most of September, I laid on the couch.
Seriously. After four months on the road, sleeping in a different place every few nights, and thousands of miles of sitting in a car–all while being in the shock stage of grief–left me entirely drained. I’d put my hand to the plow and did what I had to do. But once it came to an end, I turned inward, fast.
In late September, Anna threw me a lifeline, fished me out of the deep waters of depression, and offered a simple question: “If I make you an appointment, will you go?” (If you’ve read her book, you know what that question signified.) I said yes and she made the appointment for my first counseling session–something I knew I needed, but just the thought of beginning overwhelmed me.
October brought an opportunity to use skills I didn’t even know I had when Anna and I built a website and online course to disperse her expansive knowledge on leading launch teams. Turns out I’m pretty good at web design and have since helped design another website for a friend. Who knew?
November was a hard months for reasons I won’t disclose here, but it forced me to find my voice again. I flew to SC for a brief visit over Thanksgiving and cuddled my nieces, which is always good for my soul.
December began with a retreat I didn’t really want to attend, but I went anyway. And instead of pretending I was happy to be there, I gave myself the freedom to be real and let the other five women there know that I was struggling. Best decision ever. That weekend deserves it’s own post, so stay tuned.
My trip to S.C. for Christmas turned into a disaster from the moment I stepped in the Dallas airport until the time I boarded the plane back to Texas in Charlotte. An already hard holiday tipped the scales as everything that could have gone wrong did. Yes, there were some bright spots, but overall, it sucked.
So here we are. A few more hours of this year left.
I still have a lot to process, and I’m fully aware that it will be slow going.
Because of the way excitement and joy have been so entangled with grief and loss this year, I haven’t felt like I have permission to celebrate the good. And, honestly, that makes me angry. It’s not fair. What should have been the best year of my life–traveling the country, settling into a new home, discovering new talents, and working toward healing from old wounds–has been irrevocably robbed from me. And while I’m working on allowing myself the freedom to acknowledge the happy moments of 2017, they’re still greatly overshadowed by the broken pieces.
I love that writing is a cathartic outlet for processing the moments that make up my life—the celebratory, the nerve-wracking, the gut-wrenching. The words on the page hold the emotions of a few minutes, days, weeks, months, years; they convey the details that were most striking to my senses in a given timeframe. I love that the lessons I’m learning and the insight they bring are preserved on the page and within the tangled webs of the internet through my blog.
I love that I can share my growth with those who are a few steps ahead of me or a few steps behind me in the journey. I love that writing has provided connections with many women I wouldn’t otherwise know. Women who have reached behind them, taken my hand, and helped me find my footing on the path. Women who are finding their own footing who I can reach back to and guide along the path as those ahead of me have done.
But I hate it sometimes too. I hate it when I go for weeks (even months) without writing something other than to-do lists (I write an awful lot of lists these days). The absence of catharsis through the written word weighs heavily on my soul and my mind is bogged down by all the thoughts and lists of blog topics that pile up like hundreds of cars in the ten-mile New Jersey Turnpike traffic jam I once was unfortunate enough to experience. (Ironically, it was re-reading a seven-year-old blog of mine that reminded me of that scenario this morning.)
I hate it when I start thinking about numbers—wondering how many people actually read my blog, or berating myself for not posting on a regular basis, or lamenting the fact that writing blogs “the right way” doesn’t flow easily for me (I don’t think I’ve ever written a post that was less than 800 words).
I hate the pressure to say something witty, or to make a profound statement. If I let those thoughts run wild and free, I can talk myself out of writing for quite a while.
But when the release comes—when I allow the mental block to crack, when I sit in front of my laptop and let the words start flowing, I’m always a bit surprised at the sentences, the paragraphs, the pages that begin to appear on the screen.
Words are in me. They always have been. Words are as much a part of me as breathing. And just as I need to inhale and exhale in order to breathe, I need the words that pour into me to also pour out of me.
You’d think I would have learned this lesson by now.
That I would carve out time each day to jot a few sentences…a few paragraphs…a few pages.
Interestingly, as I’m sitting at my desk typing this post, my phone buzzes with a calendar reminder: Manuscript Deadline, today at 7:30 p.m. Last October, I tasked myself with having the fifty-thousand-word, first rough draft of my book manuscript completed by February 27th. I surprised myself by meeting that goal on January 14th. And as happy as I was to have accomplished the task that seemed so impossible, I immediately started letting all my insecurities about writing a book start piling up: who am I to write a book? Who’s going to actually read this book? Are my thoughts valuable enough to sandwich between a front and back cover and share with the world?
For the weeks sandwiched between January 14th and yesterday, February 23rd, I did not peek at the manuscript. I pushed it aside, knowing that although I needed to let it sit and rest for a bit, eventually I needed to open it back up, poke around in those pages, and begin the messy process of editing all those words.
A lot has happened in my personal life since the night I pushed my manuscript aside. Some parts of those weeks feel like distant memories and other parts of those weeks are still very tender spots that need care and attention. I’m walking a fine line of knowing what is mine to share and what isn’t—which is a huge reason that I’ve been absent from this blog. My story is closely woven with the stories of others and much of what is happening in my heart, mind, and spirit is so entangled in the stories of others that I can’t fully express it.
It’s a season that I both love and hate.
I love the growth and new opportunities that are placed before me daily. I love the new people I’m meeting. I love that so many aspects of my life that are now normal or becoming routine were once some of my greatest fears. I love the paradox of it.
But I hate that my heart is in many places while my physical body can only be in one. I hate that arriving in one place means leaving the other. I hate the paradox of it.
It’s a season in which breathing deeply—inhaling and exhaling both air and words—is the greatest act of self-care I can offer myself.
Had I known how the events of last year were going to flip my life upside down, I would have been far more nervous about embracing my #OneWord. I probably would have been very wary of the whole concept.
2016’s word was unbound.
And 2016 undoubtedly was full of un-binding. So much so that I couldn’t even begin to list examples.
Every bit of the growth required from becoming unbound was beneficial, though often painful. Growing pains are real, y’all.
Last year also brought a secondary word with it—brave.
All year long, people told me I was brave, encouraged me to keep being brave. But being brave is hard because it mostly means doing things afraid—with your heart threatening to march out of your chest, your knees knocking, and your stomach turning flips.
Frankly. I got sick and tired of being brave. There’s a page in one of my notebooks where I scrawled in large, frustrated letters “I’m tired of being BRAVE” after someone sent me a text telling me I am brave.
I was DONE with brave by the time December rolled around.
Then my sister gave me a ring for Christmas that was engraved with the words “Be Brave.”
This ring, that phrase from the bravest person I know right now—my sister who is fighting a ridiculously rare cancer and all that it brings with it.Those two words inscribed on a piece of metal that sits wrapped around my left pointer finger on a daily basis have given me permission to continue living unbound—even when it means doing so in Texas rather than South Carolina.
In my Unbound blog last year, I referenced the story of Lazarus being raised from the grave. Can you imagine him awakening to the grave clothes binding him? Did he have to be loosed from them? Did they fall off on their own? I don’t know. But the image that came to mind as I asked God for an explanation of “unbound” was of Lazarus being shed of his grave clothes. Strips of cloth being loosened from his wrists, falling from his head and around his shoulders, piling around his feet.
He was unbound from death.
I was being unbound from fear, anxiety, depression.
That kind of freedom is exhilarating, for sure—but it requires walking in a new way and changing how you’ve thought about the world around you. When you’re stuck in darkness and suddenly there’s a glorious light filling the space you’ve occupied for a significant amount of time—you squint; you allow your eyes to adjust to the brightness.
It seems as though I’ve been squinting an awful lot over the last year—staring at brilliantly lit truths that have been revealed until my eyes have adjusted to the reality—truths that reveal who God is and how He sees me as His daughter.
As the new year approached, I was actively seeking my word for 2017. Within a few days, I thought I’d found it, but I didn’t tell anyone. When I got back to Texas, Anna asked me if I knew what my word was.
“I think so—but I don’t want it. I’m already sick of it.”
What is it?” she asked
“Brave,” I exasperatedly spit out.
It fit. I’m going to need some brave this year.
But as the first week of 2017 passed, it didn’t feel like it was quite the right word.
I made lists of words that came to mind. I looked up their meanings, their origins. None of them stuck.
I stopped trying to figure it out. I thought maybe brave was it after all.
Then a few nights ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table and it struck me. Like unbound, I’m not even sure how it came about, but suddenly the word was in my spirit and I knew it was the one. As the word planted itself in my mind, I scrawled it on a notecard and wrote the reference to one of the verses I tucked into my heart at the beginning of last year—Romans 7:6—underneath it.
Immediately, words started forming in my mind and I flipped the card over to write then down:
When you become free, the ties that once bound you, that held you captive—whether mentally, physically, or spiritually—must be untied, unbound. Once they’re unbound, they must be released, because even if they no longer bind you, you cannot be truly free unless you let them go.
Consider this: Let’s say Lazarus gets a little help from his friends with unbinding himself from his grave clothes. But he’s eventually left standing outside the tomb. What if he ended up with a fistful or two of the cloth that had bound him in death and the darkness of the tomb. What does he do? Take off walking around town with those (smelly) strips of fabric in his hands? Carry them around for the rest of his days?
Or does he drop them as he steps away from the tomb?
Does he cast them aside?
Does he release them from his possession?
I may have been unbound from the chains of depression, and I may be walking a new path, but there are still many things—material possessions, messed-up thought processes, and comfort-zone coping mechanisms to start with—that I’m still holding onto. When you’ve been held captive for a while, freedom is a bit intimidating.
But living in-between captivity and freedom is not where I want to settle in—and if I sit back and don’t step into 2017 with the intention of working toward fully becoming who I was created to be, then I will likely remain in that spot.
I’ve come too far to keep holding onto those old rags.
With only one day left in the year, there are far too many thoughts rolling around in my head to record them all.
Sitting in the recesses of the notes app on my phone is a moderately long list of topics and thoughts for blog posts that haven’t made it out of my brain yet. They need out. Desperately. But lately it’s been really hard to focus on writing. I fight the actual act of sitting down and writing so adamantly.
Pouring your heart out into words is hard work. It takes effort and energy—both of which are in short supply these days. Just keeping my head above water is all I can do some days.
2016 has been such a weird year.
It’s been a really freeing year.
I gained a tribe of internet friends who have become real-life heart friends.
I got rid of my stuff, moved across the country, and embarked on a journey that has taken me places I never imagined in the last six months.
I found pieces of me that were seemingly lost. 2016 has grown me in remarkable ways that have left me in awe of who I am these days. It’s given me confidence and backbone.
But 2016 has really sucked, too.
Earlier this year, my sister was diagnosed with a rare abdominal cancer. It’s a disease that doctors don’t even really know what to do with.
I’ve been vague and mostly quiet about that aspect of the year, because it isn’t my story to tell. It’s a story that greatly affects me, but it isn’t my story.
This part of the story has required me to take every day on step, one minute, one hour at a time.
I don’t quite know what to do with 2016.
I can’t tie it up with a pretty bow—or even a lopsided one.
I’m anxious to see it go, but grateful for the good moments it brought.
And if I’m completely honest, I’m a bit apprehensive about 2017.
Starting tomorrow, I’m joining a group of new friends (half of whom I haven’t actually met yet) to work through a goal-setting webinar over the next few days. The coming year is full of possibilities—most of which are going to require more leaps of faith off scary cliffs. (And I thought moving to Texas was the hard part. Ha.)
I’ve also been trying to land on my One Word for 2017.
This year’s word (UNBOUND) came out of the blue and gave me a run for my money.
It turned out to be a fairly accurate guide for 2016.
I think I already know what 2017’s word is, but I’m not positive yet.
When I wrote about choosing my word for 2016, I had every intention of following it up with a six-month update.
But then I threw my life into the spin cycle when I returned from Splendid in the Hills and moved to Texas in June. Suddenly, it’s November and I don’t even know where to begin.
In January, I had no idea that this year would bring such radical change. I knew it was going to be different; I did not expect to spend most of it in Texas.
I never thought I’d make it this far. I expected myself to have already given up and run back to the Carolina mountains. I didn’t think I had it in me.
From the moment I decided to move to Texas, I told myself it was only for the summer, maybe part of the fall, but it was just an exploratory journey that would end with me back in SC by the end of the year.
Increasingly, I’m discovering just how capable I am.
Capable of wrestling with my emotions and wounds of the past that haunt me.
Capable of following through and accomplishing the goals I set for myself.
Capable of standing on my own two feet.
I’m capable of all those things—and so much more because I have a place of position in My Father’s kingdom. Everything I need to pursue His business has been provisioned to me. I have the authority to operate under His name.
Know what that means?
I am a woman who has significance and is irreplaceable.
I am a SIGNIFICANT and irreplaceable woman.
I have a place as the daughter of the King on the throne.
And I am choosing to acknowledge that, to accept that, to own that, because that is who I am.
I am approved, I am significant, I am irreplaceable.
I am not the little girl who is trying to seek approval and prove herself as a valid daughter.
I already have that position.
It’s not up for grabs, for consideration; it’s not up for any kind of argument.
It is TRUTH.
It is what IS.
And I am choosing to walk in that.
I am choosing to own that territory and walk in that.
After too little sleep due to a rare and lengthy late night phone call, I’d poured my coffee on the counter rather than in a mug that morning.
I’d gone to work and taught my littles in a bewildered haze over the conversation I’d had with a new friend the night before.
My thoughts were frantically searching for order at the edges of my brain.
The weight of change hung in the air, palpable yet mysterious.
There was a drive to begin processing the innermost chambers of myself that had been buried deep.
I was sitting in a hard wooden chair in a quiet library.
In South Carolina.
My fingers pounded angrily at my keyboard.
Earbuds muffled the sound of my audible sighs.
The error message flashed before my eyes again and again:
Username and password do not match.
I’d tried every possible combination, but couldn’t remember the right password.
The email I’d used to create the account was no longer accessible and customer support was no help.
Reviving the old blog was not happening.
Two years of absenteeism from writing meant I couldn’t find my way back to my blog. I could read what was there, but editing and adding to it was out of the question. But the burning desire to write was back. I needed an outlet.
Little did I know how vast a season of change I was headed into that day as I wrote:
A new season.
Isn’t it interesting when the changing of a season actually coincides with new seasons of our lives?
(And the creation of a new blog because you’re locked out of your previous one. Grr.)
I’m finding myself there today…
anticipating the growth of new friendships
as the leaves go dormant for winter;
celebrating the domino effect of God-breathed events over close-held prayer
as the leaves begin to blaze radiant and descend their lofty perches.
The air is crisp,
with more than a hint of expectancy drifting along for the ride.
And, for a change, I’m attempting to drift with it,
without the usual anxiety, excuses, foreboding, etc.
that comes when newness is on the horizon.
Today, I’m sitting in a comfy recliner in a living room.
With last year’s “new friend” on the couch beside me.
The sound of planes flying overhead reminds me of my first-time flight back in April.
These days, the error message I’m fighting most persistently is the one that says this can’t possibly be my actual life. That at any moment I could wake up and discover this entire year has been a dream. (On some fronts, that would be a relief.)
My fingers roam the keyboard now because the words in my brain need out. They beg to be uncaged and given a voice.
Today, it’s the third…
(Geez. I have to stop and tell you that in itself is actually relevant. Three is the prophetic number of confirmation. And today was a day that held a bit of significant confirmation for me. As I typed the word “third” I laughed aloud when I realized it, because OF COURSE. One day, I might manage to form a coherent explanation of the ways that number has followed me around this year.)
It’s the third day of Autumn.
And I’m neck deep in the season of changethat has been developing these last twelve months. I feels like I’ve covered more ground in the last year than I have in my entire life—spiritually, mentally, physically, relationally, emotionally, and geographically.
And I don’t expect it to taper off anytime soon.
Amazingly, I’m far more at peace with that expectation than I would have ever dreamed.
For someone who hates math as much as I do, and for as much as I’m a words girl, I pay attention to numbers. Dates, particularly. (Important ones and not-so-important ones alike are seared into my brain. Scarily so, at times.) I can still tell you off the top of my head that my sister, cousin, and I attended an N*Sync concert on February 5, 1999. (Not-so-significant.) I can tell you that my acceptance letter to NGU arrived the day before my birthday (July 22nd) in 2005. (Significant.) I am the date keeper in my family, and given my ability to support my memories with contextual evidence, it’s not often that my mother or sister can argue with me when I ascribe a date to a particular event. It’s a gift. (Or a weird talent?)
Dates matter to me. Always have and likely always will. They are not only markers of time, but placeholders for significant moments along the timeline of my story.
I just realized that today is significant. It’s a date I’ve been holding out for all summer. It’s a date that says I’m more capable and a bit braver than I thought I might be. And while it’s felt like an ever-more-ordinary Sunday, it’s one that holds a little more significance.
When I decided I was making the leap and moving to Texas, my brain wouldn’t quite let me commit fully. When I met with my bosses to resign from my job, I told them it was possible I’d be back at the end of the summer, but understood that they would need to find my replacement. When I broke the news to my grandparents, I assured them that this was a trial run “for the summer.” And I even told myself that I just needed to stay for “three to six months.” And because I already knew I had plans to return to the Carolinas for the fall Splendid retreat, I had a built-in safety net of coming home in November.
I arrived in Texas on June 11th. Today is September 11th. (Yes, it’s a day that holds a lot of significance for our nation. May we never forget that day 15 years ago—I was lying in the living room floor doing biology work when the news hit the Today show.) Three months I’ve been here in the great state of Texas. Three months of vacillating between wondering why I’m here and believing I’m supposed to be here.
For most of July, I was ready to get on a plane back to South Carolina. August consisted mostly of just putting one foot in front of the other and getting through each day, hour by hour. As September has arrived, I feel as though I’ve turned a corner.
Last Thursday morning, this bustling house I’ve been so generously welcomed into was empty and quiet. As I sat in the corner of the living room, sipping my coffee, I checked my countdown app. Within this app is a list of events I have the opportunity to attend here in Texas over the next few months—reminders that each of them is a time-marker during my three-to-six-month trial period. The last of those events is the Splendid Retreat in North Carolina in November. As I scrolled through the events, I stopped on the countdown for Splendid: 63 days. Just over two months.
I closed the app and stared at the wall in front of me, my thoughts drifting over the last few months and the upcoming ones as well. 63 days.What if that’s it? If I decide I’m not coming back after Splendid, I only have 63 days left. Then, as unassuming and quietly as could be, the words settled in my mind: I want to come back.
Oh. I do? I’m not ready to call it quits and take this as an out? I want to come back?
Yes. Yes, I do.
When I came to Texas for the first time back in April, I had no idea what a wild, life-altering ride I was in for. When I returned to South Carolina a week later, it was not the way I came. And a week later, I was preparing to move to Texas for the summer.
Three weeks after the Splendid retreat in Texas, I agreed to meet a new friend (that I’d not yet met in real life) for dinner. C and I hit it off immediately and got straight to the heart of matters. She’d already heard part of what unfolded at Splendid and wanted to know more about why I was moving to Texas. As I told her how I’d ended up signing three times during the retreat and how I believed that those three times signified the three years I’d lost to depression and lies, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Do you know what the number three represents?”
“I used to. Refresh my memory.”
“It’s the number of confirmation.”
Oh. Well, of course it is!
The number of confirmation.
My three-month-aversary in Texas.
The realization that 63 days is not enough time left to be okay with bailing.
We’d crossed the state line just half an hour earlier when the faint brushstroke of it caught my eye in the blushing Texan sunset…
The reality of returning to Texas had suddenly shown up. I was back—not returning the way I’d come before and for a much longer stretch this time—but I was here once again. Back in that state I’d never had an inkling of desire to visit for the second time in less than two months. Four weeks ago, I’d made a decision that propelled me into a lightning-fast series of actions: move to Texas—which meant resigning from my job, getting rid of 95% of my stuff, shoving most of my remaining belongings in a tiny storage unit, saying a lot of goodbyes, and setting out on an epic cross-country road trip with my mom and sister.
…As we moved ever-closer to my new landing spot on the other side of Dallas, I saw it. Peeking from behind the clouds, backlit by the setting sun was a barely-there rainbow.
You know those steps you sometimes take that propel you forward a bit faster than you would’ve liked, but couldn’t stop once you were in motion? None of the metaphors I’ve come up with thus far really do justice to this feeling. For example, I’ve thought of images that range from the stumbling steps of walking off a moving sidewalk too fast and almost running yourself over with your baggage (hello, ATL airport–not that I would know, personally, of course) to jumping out of a plane and forgetting you even have a parachute. Nothing suffices to describe all the feelings.
I’m a words girl. If you’re reading this, you clearly already know that. The written word is my preferred method of processing; I live and breathe by the written word. (Thoreau didn’t coin the “choicest of relics” phrase without cause, people.) Most of the time, putting my thoughts and feelings into words comes fairly easy. Not so much this week. For starters, it’s been such an incredibly weird week that I’ve been unable to articulate exactly what I’ve felt. When a blog post starts percolating in my brain, it usually stems from a single word or phrase. Since I arrived in Texas Saturday evening, I’ve been asked several times, “How are you? How are you feeling?” And I haven’t had any words other than “weird” and “floundering” to answer those questions. Until this morning, when Anna and I had chat about this crazy-good thing I’ve done. And suddenly I had my word: surreal.
“What you are doing is surreal. Look it up—what’s the definition of surreal?” she asked.
“’ Marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream,’” I replied, after a quick Google search.
Fine. Point taken.
This thing that I’ve done in the last month—returning from a weekend retreat and moving halfway across the freaking country? It sounds crazy, looks crazy, and could very well be crazy. I know. Believe me—I KNOW. But if I look back over the last few years—and the last year in particular, I cannot help but see a trail of markers—breadcrumbs, if you will—that have lead me here.
Last summer life was much the same as it had been for the last three—I was surviving, going through the motions of everyday life, pretending I was as happy as I might have seemed. Don’t get me wrong—there were plenty of good things and people in my life, but I was not living life to the fullest. The Gallaudet incident sucked far more out of me than it should have, perhaps, but it left me broken, empty, and trapped in fear, anxiety, and depression.
And although I had stumbled into #the4500 Facebook group earlier in the year, I was not very engaged there…yet. Only one of them was my actual Facebook friend—and that was Anna, who had sent a request in April. In July, I commented on a post where folks were posting screenshots of Jen Hatmaker’s interactions with us on Twitter, leading Anna to find me on Twitter and follow me. That was, for the most part, the extent of my interaction with the group.
And then September came, and I was reading Daring Greatly, and next thing I knew Anna and I were talking on the phone for the first time…and here I am, barely nine months later, typing this blog post in her house.
If that isn’t surreal, I don’t want to know what is.
Since that first phone call in September, way too many “little” things have happened for me to ignore their significance–one of which Anna reminded me of this morning: “The ENTIRE East Coast shut down in January…for YOU…so I could meet not only you, but your mom and Jess, too…” Yes, I suppose you could look at it like that. Thank you, Snowpacalypse 2016.
Sometimes the breadcrumbs along the trail turn out to be more the size of loaves–it all depends on your perspective. All those “coincidental” events might’ve looked like breadcrumbs a few months ago, but from where I sit today, they look a bit more like loaves I was handed to feast upon.
A week ago today, I loaded a few boxes and bags into trunk of my mom’s car and embarked on a two-day, one-thousand mile road trip with the two most important women in my life. I’d originally intended to fly to Texas, but I’m incredibly grateful that Mom and Jess decided to drive me out. We had a blast as we crossed five state lines and made some fun stops along the way. But perhaps the greatest reward of the journey was their meeting and spending time with a few of the women who have impacted me the most in #the4500—Anna, Rachel, and Julie. It’s really difficult to explain the culture of #the4500 to those who aren’t a part of it; it was hard for me to understand it until I arrived at Splendid. But because they got to experience it firsthand, I believe it was easier for all of us to part ways on Monday afternoon. When Mom turned to me just before she and Jess departed and said, “You’ve got good family here,” I knew she understood—maybe not fully, but enough to know I was not going to be left to flounder my way through this transition.
Leaving SC wasn’t easy. Some of my very dear friendships have had to shift in order to survive the transition. That breaks my heart, but I know it is necessary and I’m willing to make space for those friendships to find a new rhythm. I’m so thankful for all the people who have cheered me on. In the two weeks leading up to my departure, I had so many wonderful conversations with friends who wanted to know all about how God has worked to orchestrate this venture—Christine, Cathy, Julia, Becky, Angi, Camille, Kayla, Olgui, Susan & Mary Carol, Jenna & Melissa, Susan & Lisa, Brent & Shannon…I’m sure I’m leaving people out. I wish I had all of those conversations in written form to reflect on. What I do have is the knowledge that you are my tribe. You are praying and cheering from the stands of the arena. For that, I am so thankful.
I won’t lie and say this week has been easy. It hasn’t. For several hours Monday afternoon and evening all I could do was lie on the couch and breathe. My heart was racing and I almost felt trapped. I didn’t say a word for 24 hours. In the days following, I’ve been in a mostly calm state of mind, but there have definitely been moments when I’ve let myself question everything about this move. For those of you have texted to check in—Kelli, Christine, Taylor, Julie—thank you for caring for my heart. And Anna, of course, gets a heap of thanks and admiration from the depths of my heart for welcoming me into her home.
While I know I’m here for a reason, I’m not entirely sure what that reason is yet. What I do know I have here is a tribe and community ready to receive me. I don’t have a polished plan. I don’t have a safety net. Yet, the words I hear from the Holy Spirit every time I pray about this transition is “be still…wait…I have a plan…”
So, for now, my plan is to just do the next right thing and let Him handle the rest. He’s already got the loaves waiting along the path ahead.