letting go


pathSometimes, you have to pull back.  You need to stop talking and listen.  You need to stop producing (and consuming), and just be.  And many times, you need to process things on your own and not post it all over Facebook, Twitter, or your blog.  This, I have found to be especially true in the Season I have been in since winter.

My last post I shared I was angry, and then I went AWOL—at least from my blog. I let my heart process. I let myself be angry, and in many areas I allowed myself to let go.  I also realized that I was trying to use this blog as a means to replace a job that I once felt was woven into the very fabric of my being.  So I stepped back, and felt for the first time in my life, what it is to not have a “role,” and not have “giving” or “striving” be my identity. I have felt free from the lie our culture tells us that our profession/paycheck is our identity and our worth, all wrapped up in one. And I am slowly seeing:

I am more than what I do for a living, and so are you. We all are.

In all of this time “off,” I have felt much of my anger dissipate and forgiveness take root. It has taken a lot of prayer, some grieving, and some painstaking letting go.  And, if I am completely honest, I am not “cured.” Some things, when remembered, still bring a boiling anger to the surface—but it is much more short-lived, and much more easily handed over again in prayer.

I return to you today, because I want to share an observation from my journey with anger. It all centers on one of those questions that I just haven’t been able to let go. One of my main frustrations and questions for God during this season has been “why?”  Why did He allow me to be in a place where I was mistreated and not SEEN for who I really am? (Why did I allow myself to be mistreated?) I have asked this over and over again.

Then, today, as I sat in a Starbucks (I joke that it is my new office), with a former student, telling her the crazy story about how I was hired at the job that brought me to Pennsylvania, introduced me to some of the most special students/people I have ever known, and was also the place of some of my greatest pain (and some of my anger), I realized something HUGE.

It was all for GOOD.

There was a lot of good that came out of the past nine years—more good than the bad, more good than pain. When you come to the end of all of your anger and lack of understanding the past, and you see more good than bad, there is a lot of peace. When you look back and realize that even in the places of pain, God was sowing good, you can’t help but stand in awe. It doesn’t undo what has been done, nor repair all of the relationships that have been frayed, but it does make the journey worth it. It does make you stand in that place in your heart where you have been thrashing around and crying “why?” and instead, begin to lift your hands and voice in worship.

When you journey with God through your anger, rather than allowing it to rot into bitterness, it is amazing what He shows you. It is amazing the gifts he gives, even when we are still struggling to unclench our fists. He shows up, even when we don’t want to. He guides us through the anger, even in the moments where we don’t want to deal with it. And if we are patient (with ourselves), He brings us through to places of healing.

As I said, I am not finished with this journey and there are still unresolved questions. But today I feel like one of them was answered. Today, I feel His peace.

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Sitting on the couch, sick for almost two weeks, has definitely given me a lot of time to think. Though I have distracted myself with a lot of reading on how to make the perfect whole wheat bread and with the happenings of Downton Abbey, there has been one thing that I haven’t been able to fully distract myself from.

On one of our first nights home, after spending the Holidays with family, I woke up in the middle of the night, ANGRY. I had had a dream that I was back in one of the unhealthy places of my past, and unable to get out. Then, as I looked around our dark bedroom, I sensed God say something to me, to the effect of:

You have moved away from that old way of living, that is no longer your story.

I put my head back onto the pillow, and fell into a very peaceful sleep. His beautiful, life-giving words stuck with me over the next few days. However, rather than continuing to give me peace as they initially did, they began to uncover something else.

Inside, I am ANGRY.

There are parts of my story, my life, that I wish weren’t a part of my story. Things that have been said to me, ways that I have been made to feel small, and people who I respected who treated me poorly. There are systems that have let me down. And ways that my voice has either been silenced or ignored.

As God said, it is no longer my story, I am not in those places anymore. But I think what gets me the most, is that for so long I thought I wasn’t allowed to be angry. I wasn’t allowed to question. I wasn’t allowed to disagree. So, I kept swallowing my thoughts and my pain. I kept allowing myself to be treated unfairly.

We live in a culture where “common knowledge” says that we as females are better at communication than men, because we have been encouraged since birth to express our feelings. Yet I would disagree. Yes, we have been encouraged to express many feelings, but we haven’t been taught how to express Anger.

In fact, as women, we have been taught that being angry, isn’t attractive. I know many women, myself included, who are afraid to be categorized as feminists for the very reason that they don’t want to be seen as angry, bitter, or divisive. Sure, it is socially acceptable for a mother to get all “Momma-Bear” angry on behalf of her child, but ask that same woman to get angry when she has been mistreated, and it won’t be as easy.

Very few of us have been told that can be good, and even right at times, for us to get upset. And I would guess even fewer of us have been taught how to speak on our own behalf. We struggle with confrontation. We fear it, when it involves defending ourselves.

I look back at the things of my past that I wish weren’t mine, and I am angry that I couldn’t be angry. I am upset that so often I chose to maintain harmony in unhealthy relationships, rather than speak the truth–rather than speak on my own behalf. I am angry because I chose to stay in unhealthy situations longer than I should have. And yet:

That is no longer my story.

It is no longer my future. I have moved away from my old way of doing things, and I am learning new (and hopefully healthier) ways of living. But, what do I do with this anger?

It feels like an important piece of the journey towards Change. It is something I have to name, before I can learn how to express it and then move through it. Anger is not a place I want to stay, and yet dealing with it is new to me.

So, over the past few days, metaphorically, I have been picking up my anger in my hands, like one would do with mud. I have been picking it up, and holding it out to the One who is promising me more. I have been saying:

“What do I do with this anger? And what does it look like to forgive?”

As I have been sick the past few weeks and dealing with the uncovering of my anger, it has been difficult to blog. Please forgive my erratic posts, and know that I will return more regularly soon!

During all the years we were in school (some of us still are), September brought anxiety, excitement, chaos, and many decisions to make regarding what activities and commitments we would make for the year.

Now, even though many of us are out of school, we are still faced with decisions on how we will spend our time, for some of us how our kids will spend their time, and what we take on this season.  A new class? a gym membership? An area to serve in our community?

Similar to New Years, September gives us an opportunity for a fresh start. So today, as it is “Labor Day,” I want to ask:

How much laboring do you want to do this year (at least in the areas you have a choice!)?

What do you want to take on?

How do you want to do things differently?

Below are some posts that help me put things into perspective and/or have helped me take a break when my schedule has gotten crazy:

5 Ways to Breath in a Breathless World

The Very Best Way to Schedule Your Life {The Law of Life}

TGIF: A (Not So) Beautiful Mind

May today be one of rest and relaxation…and not so much Laboring.

My first boyfriend was way older than he should have been. Our relationship was the product of our school system including the 8th grade into the High School; he was a senior and I was an 8th grader.  Yes, there have been scarier age differences–but after working with Jr. High and High School students for over a decade–let me tell you, my mom was right to be concerned. She only let us continue “going out” because he didn’t have a license, which meant whatever actual “going out” we were going to do, would have to include her (go mom!).

Alas, my journey with the “senior boyfriend,”  however, was cut short, just over two months later, when I couldn’t handle his flirting with other girls any longer. So I “dumped” him at a youth retreat.  Red faced, he went back to playing some crazy game, and I ran teary-eyed to the bathroom, my girlfriends in tow. By the end of the night, he was giving me sad looks across the room, and I was feeling guilty for breaking his heart.

The retreat ended, and back at school my feminist gym teacher gave me a high-five for breaking up with “the senior.” The only problem was that I hadn’t really broken up with him.  I told him the usual “let’s just be friends” and instead of being a turn-off, he took it as a way back into my heart.  Every day for a month after the “break-up,” he would come to my locker and pass me notes between class, begging me to take him back. My 8th grade heart still cared about him, but I knew we didn’t have “a future.”

Finally, one day I came home from school upset.  My mom knew I was still holding on to the relationship and I was having a hard time letting go. She made a cup of tea while I told her the “woes” of my day which mainly involved “the senior.”  I said “Mom, I feel so bad but I know I can’t go out with him again.”

We sat down at the dinning room table, and over her steaming cup of tea, she told me something that I am still learning now, seventeen years later. She said:

Melissa, what happens when you take a handful of sand and hold on to it really tightly?”

“All the sand runs through your fingers.”  Growing up near the ocean, I knew this.

“In life you have to hold people and the things you really want, as if they are sand,” she said. “You have to hold them with an open hand, and allow God to either put them in you hand or take them out in His timing.  If you hold on too tightly, you will surely lose them–but if you keep your hands open and trust God, He will give you what is truly best for you.”

I had to let go of “the senior.” I had to trust that God’s plan was good. I had to trust that by letting go of my first boyfriend, I was opening myself up to new opportunities and relationships in my future. And, as I was only fourteen, my mom was very right!

But now, so many years later, my mom is still right.

Recently I have been reminded to think of the things in my life as sand.  I have found myself over the past two weeks, wrestling and holding on tightly to a dream that I have had since I was eighteen. A dream, I am finding, that is just not meant to be.

In a culture where we were raised to believe that you can do anything, and nothing is impossible if you try, this is hard to accept.

But what if our dreams for ourselves aren’t the right dreams? 

Maybe they are good dreams–even ones that help people–but what if they aren’t the best dreams? The dreams that would truly fulfill how we are wired and gifted?

What if, by holding on to a lesser dream, I am losing both it and the dream I am meant to go after?

I have been trying to picture my dream as if it is sand in the palm of my hand. Can I release it?  Can I trust that God will give me a new dream? the best dream?