Struggling Toward Spring

I’ve been struggling.

It’s a difficult confession for me for so many reasons. First, I suppose, because (as I’ve allowed myself to contemplate again this week) I am an introvert. I am such an introvert. I am an outrageous introvert. This has sucked in many regards, because it means that I hurt people unintentionally and they hurt me back unintentionally. I haven’t quite figured out how to maintain a healthy lifestyle (in any regard–physical, spiritual, emotional, workical, friendlical) as an introvert. When I struggle, I withdraw. I close the blinds, I lock the doors, I turn off the cell phone (or refuse to answer it), and my natural stance becomes one of retreat. You’re far more apt to not see me when I’m struggling than to even see me walking away. Hiding helps. For a time, hiding helps. Second, in spite of hiding, I find that I am no nearer a resolution to my struggles than I was previously. In fact, I am, perhaps, farther away. Third, one of my goals right now is to minimize unnecessary drama in my life (which is ironic, if you know how ridiculous the past few weeks of my life have been–isn’t it funny that the moment we resolve to do something, the exact opposite attacks us with vengeance?). Fourth, as so often is the case in my life, I simply don’t know how to talk about my struggles. Even writing them down is difficult for this gal.</p

I’m exhausted.

I’m stressed.

I feel entirely overextended, entirely taken advantage of, entirely disregarded, and entirely disappointed in several areas of my life.

And some of it, quite frankly, is simply the weather. This winter has been of an incomprehensible length and weight. I do take vitamin D to help with the lack of daylight, but let’s be honest–there is something about the warmth of sunlight on your face (even on a chilly day) that is therapeutic and irreplaceable. And you know, I can’t even express how badly I want to dig my fingers into the soil and plant something. The snow drifts in the yard (you know, the ones that are taller than the bird feeder, the back deck, and even, oh, myself) pretty much guarantee that the only planting I’ll be doing is indoor seed-starting. And that’s okay! It’s a sort of therapy in its own rite! Still, I’m eager for the outside stuff…with the bumble bees and the apple blossoms and even the neighbor dogs charging down the hill at me.

I feel a bit overwhelmed, you know? I have much to do, and not much time to get it done. I’m struggling to finish what I need to finish when I’m at work. I’m struggling to keep up with my writing and reading. I’m struggling to get things done with the Family Reunion this year. I’m struggling to even get my laundry done. And friends? Don’t get me started. I haven’t had time for my friends, and they have realized it. Neither Sarah nor her friends are happy about this.

Additionally, I’ve been missing Rodger. It is still very near and very personal. Grief changes over the course of time, but I keep thinking about him. I keep thinking about Burkina Faso, and how he would have been the first person to encourage me. I keep thinking about the “friend” that will never be more than a friend, and how Rodger would have said something outrageously threatening and hilarious to remind me that I don’t have to set my hopes on someone who is unworthy of my affection. I keep thinking about going back to school, and how Rodger always told me he and Kristin would make sure I had help if I needed help. I keep thinking about his beautiful children, who are children no more–how proud he would have been to see his kids grow up to be such incredible young adults, so ready and willing to change the world, each in their own way, each as nobly and as dedicated as the next. I keep thinking about how Joy pointed to his picture and knew who he was, even though she had never met him, and how he would have adored her. I miss him. I miss him so much. Rodger was more than my sister’s husband, or the father of my nieces and nephews. He was, he always will be, my brother. And I miss him. My heart grieves, friends.

Life, it seems, is going faster than me. I can’t keep up. I don’t want to keep up. I want to shrug off every responsibility and write stories of my family, and look at old photos, and laugh. I want to laugh.

I am struggling. 

If you want to pray for me, it would be most appreciated. All will settle, as it always does. Life is nothing, if it is not constant change.
God’s warmest blessings on each of you.
Pax Christi.
semmie

All About the Mustard: Burkina Faso, part II

I was cleaning my desk this morning, and what did I find?

Mustard seeds.

Mustard

When did I buy mustard seeds? I don’t even like mustard. Why on earth would I buy mustard seeds?

Nonetheless, there they were, just waiting to be found.

What seems like a lifetime ago (but was really only, say, 15 or 16 years ago), our youth pastor gave us mustard seeds as part of a lesson. I wrapped mine up in a little plastic-wrap pocket, secured the edge with tape, and kept it in my Bible for years. It is likely still in my old Bible.

The lesson is one that I needed as a teenager; It’s a lesson that I still need today.

It doesn’t take much.

Matthew 17:21, NIV
Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

I don’t know when it happened, friends. I don’t know when my heart shifted from “I want to go to Burkina Faso” to “I’m going to Burkina Faso.” I don’t know when I recognized that seed of faith in my heart that was whispering, “From here to there.” I don’t know when I decided that my finances were going to cooperate with my plans.

It just happened. It just is.

The journey will be a long and difficult one, long before I even leave my little hometown. I humbly ask your prayers and encouragement as I chase this dream God has birthed in me. Maybe if we all plant and water and give light to our mustard seeds, God will grow something of it.

If you’re not already doing so, please consider sponsoring a child living in poverty. You can break the cycle.

Things That Grow: Burkina Faso, part I

Yesterday, I was perusing the conversations over at OurCompassion and learned that Compassion International has posted the expected Sponsor Tours for 2015.

I told you some time ago of my desire to go to Burkina Faso. Though it was not possible for me to make the trip this year, I find myself already quite settled that I need to pursue the possibility of the 2015 trip. I could spend this blog entry trying to explain my desire to go, but I will, perhaps, save that for another blog. It should be sufficient to mention here that I simply long to wrap my arms around the two boys I sponsor, to hug them and play and laugh and love on them. “Simply.” I simply long for this.

Chris Tomlin. There is love. This might be a good time to mention that I’m listening to this song. :)

Anyway, as is my routine, I spent the early part of my Friday evening in prayer. I lit my first candle and prayed for Israel; I lit my second candle and prayed for Syria; and I lit a third candle, and asked God to speak anything to my heart about Burkina Faso. He didn’t. Not in the way I’ve come to expect. So instead of looking for answers, I just allowed myself to be quiet and settled in God’s presence. All alone. It was, I confess, just what I needed. But it didn’t resolve my questions and concerns about the possibility of a Burkina trip next year. It didn’t answer the enormous issue of finances (and if you clicked the link in the first paragraph to look at the upcoming tour information, you know that finances are going to be an enormous issue for this girl). Still, there is something affirming about the silent and stillness of God’s presence.

I awoke this morning with the same questions, the same concerns. How am I ever going to make this happen?

And there is the crux.

It’s funny how God speaks to us, and how He teaches us.

I have a friend who likes to lead the conversation a particular direction to make his point. He will ask me questions and challenge me to think thoroughly about the matter. In the end, I will have come to some revelation about the topic. With human beings, with fallen man, of course there is a danger that I will be misled (even with the best intentions on either side of the equation) or that I will misunderstand. But I’m finding that God does this with me often, and there is such a safety therein because we know (by experience and by faith and by the witness of His Spirit in our lives) that He will not mislead us, that He is not mistaken, that He is patient to continue the dialogue long after we claim we understand, and that He is steadfast and faithful to plant those truths deep in our hearts so that they become convictions.

(Wow. I really do talk a lot, don’t I?)

Anyway, there was the crux: How am I going to make this happen?

I’m not.

I was quite looking for some other passage this morning–the one about us being the temple of God’s Spirit–and I stumbled upon the Growth verse, 1 Corinthians 3:7 (ESV);

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

I am so quick to try and figure things out on my own, but the truth is, I can’t.

I can’t raise the money on my own.

Even if I did raise the money, I can’t ensure that nothing in life will prevent me from making the trip.

I can’t determine that there will be no emergencies at work or in my family.

I can’t make politics and weather cooperate with my travel plans.

I can’t force Compassion to offer the trip if I am the only sponsor to sign up.

I can’t guarantee that Joseph and Moise will be excited to see me.

None of it, folks. None of it is in my power.

What a relief! What a blessed revelation! Thank You, God!

But let’s not pretend there is no responsibility on my part. Or yours. If you are reading this blog, friend, you are somehow invested in my life. God brings the growth; and He requires that we plant and water seeds. The question becomes–what does that translate to as we are discussing this Compassion Sponsor Tour?

So what do I need from you, friend? Only you and God can determine what He is speaking to your heart. But might I offer a few suggestions?

  • Prayer – We will talk about this quite a bit in the coming year, as I’m sure there will be many ways you can stand with me in prayer.
  • Encouragement – I would be lying if I told you there isn’t some fear involved in all of this. I need more encouragement than I want to admit.
  • Accountability – Ask me where things are. Ask me how close I am to the goal. Ask me how I’m doing with the plan.
  • Ideas – Thoughts on how to raise the money; thoughts on what gifts to bring on the trip for the children at the Center; thoughts on how to prepare my heart and my mind and my body for this type of experience; packing tips; etc, etc, etc.
  • And what does God require of me? That is a matter for many blogs to come.

    And by the way–this is a good time to mention that there are many, many children waiting for Sponsors. It is not nearly as expensive as you think it is, and there is nothing as rewarding, nothing as wonderful as changing a child’s life. Compassion-dot-com. Go.

    Pax Christi.
    Sar

    QOTD 01.30.14

    QOTD…that’s Quote of the Day. ;)

    Okay, it’s no secret that I love quotes. Here is the best quote from today.

    During a discussion about the office paper cutter (the kind that we had at school back in, oh, 1988, that could lop off your arm at the elbow)…

    Sarah: You know, they have nicer, safer ones now. These are so dangerous. You could lose a finger. I think M1chael’s sells them.

    Boss Lady: Fingers?

    Yes, Carrie…Fingers.

    LOL. Next time, I’ll arrange my remarks in clearer fashion. :)

    What’s the funniest thing someone said to you today?

    On Gluten, Love, & Having Babies

    It’s been some time since I’ve come here simply to share my heart with you all. And in spite of my neglect, I am always humbled to log in and find that my blog still gets daily hits. I promise, friends…I haven’t forgotten you. I promise, I won’t be silent forever. If you think of me, please encourage me to keep writing. I need that once in awhile (thank you, Kris).

    Gluten.
    I’ll start with Gluten. This has been a mammoth issue on my heart lately. As many of you know, my older brother, Jeremiah, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease some time ago. I have been incredibly proud of how he’s changed his life and welcomed the challenge of being completely gluten-free. It would be naïve and insensitive to say that he hasn’t struggled; I know he has. Gluten is not an easy thing to give up. It’s not an easy thing to avoid. It lurks around many corners that most of us are oblivious to. Like some lip balms and prescription drugs.

    When my doctor tested me for the antibodies that indicate Celiac last month, I was certain she was just being overly-cautious. When one of those tests came back quite impressively positive, I was certain it was a fluke. When she said I needed to see a gastroenterologist and have a biopsy taken of my small intestine, I thought she was jumping to conclusions. To say that I was in denial would be one of the biggest understatements of my life. I was in serious denial.

    Working in a medical office, one of the things I absolutely dislike is when patients try to diagnose themselves by searching for information on the internet. Still, that’s what I did. I go0gled and b1nged (just to make sure one of them wasn’t posing as a French model–we all know you can’t believe everything you read on the net), looking for any other possible explanation of my elevated test results. What did I learn? What did the interwebs tell me? Unfortunately, the more I read, the more I realized that Celiac is an elusive disease which doesn’t always manifest itself as diarrhea and stomach pains. I read about migraines and joint pain and PCOS and a myriad of health issues that may be indicative of Celaic Disease, but I was unconvinced. Couldn’t it just be coincidence, after all?

    It could. But. I’ll tell you honestly, my heart sank when I read an article discussing the relationship between untreated Celiac and gall stones. When I was in high school, I had my gall bladder removed. I remember (as does my mother) the doctor being baffled that someone so young had developed gall stones. There was no explanation, really, and we didn’t push the issue. I wish now that we had. Listen, I don’t know if it’s possible to save a gall bladder once you’ve developed stones, but it sure would’ve been nice to know if it was caused by something like gluten toxicity. I mean, friends, that was more than fifteen years ago. If I needed to cut gluten from my world back then, I wish I had known.

    Nonetheless, I don’t know. I have an appointment coming up in a few weeks with a gastroenterologist. I am eager to have an affirmation or negation of my doctor’s (and now, my) suspicions. I am eager to cut gluten out of my world. I will keep you updated as I’m able, but in these coming weeks, please pray for me. The idea of going gluten-free is overwhelming, to say the least.

    Love.
    As a few of you know, I’ve lately been spending time with a man (who shall remain unnamed; if you know his name, please keep it to yourself) that I’ve known many years. He is a good friend, and I’ve enjoyed his company very much. Recent events and conversations, however, have confirmed what I should have recognized all along: He will never be more than a friend to me. I have no desire to share all of the details with the rest of the world. I only mention it here because it brings me to two very difficult matters.

    First, how did I–seriously, I, the girl who has been so guarded that even her close friends have to pry the truth from her–let my guard down far enough to have this little snafu break my heart? And okay, listen, friends…I’m not devastated. My life is good. My friends and family are good. My job is good. My passions are strong. My purpose in life is unwavering. But I honestly cried more over this than I did over any past relationships. I knew I liked him, but I had no idea I had grown so attached.

    Second, another male friend asked me at one point, “does he speak your language?” The answer is, undoubtedly, yes. He does speak my language, in ways I can’t even express. What were the chances of me finding one man in the entire world who spoke my language? Slim, I’m sure. Now, what do we suppose the chances are of me finding another? I’m banking on non-existent.

    I am 33 years old, folks. Being single at this age is entirely different than being single at 23. The church, society, friends, family…mostly, the world around me doesn’t even know what conversations to have with someone like me. I don’t fault anyone for it; I don’t know what conversations to have with the rest of the world, either. I mean, honestly, do you want to hear about the struggles of a 33 year old, overweight, single Christian woman? Do you want to talk about sex? Do you want to talk about familial roles? Do you want to talk about the incredible difficulty of maintaining friendships when my girlfriends are all coupled off and my guy friends think I am in love with them if I call? Do you want to talk about being an hospitable person and bringing company under the protection of my home without the structure of a spiritual head? Do you want to talk about being an aunt to children you would love and do anything for, knowing that they will (and should) never return your love the way they do their mother’s? Be honest. These are conversations to which most of society doesn’t give a thought. Even the church has no place for a single woman in her thirties.

    That was a rant, to be sure. I apologize. My point here is simply that with every relationship disappointment, I am growing more weary of the expectation. Maybe it is better to expect a life of singleness, to welcome it with full embrace. Maybe it is time to stop acting as if I have endless hope, like I did at 23. Maybe…if you’re in my world…you are going to be exposed to these conversations, whether you want it or not. That includes my blog. By the end of this, friends, you’re going to be very uncomfortable around me.

    Having Babies.
    Someone very close to me made a remark several weeks ago, about me not understanding a certain situation, because I don’t have children.

    I mention it here…not to argue the point, but simply as a reminder to the rest of the world: There are many women who are not mothers, and it is not by their own choice. Please, for the love of all things sacred, choose your words toward them with care. In the same way I cannot comprehend the pain of childbirth, a woman who has been married and had children by age 30 cannot comprehend how it breaks the heart of a childless woman to be reminded of the fact that she can’t or doesn’t have a baby. There are few hurts so deep, so raw, and so unmending.

    And there are few hurts so capable of breaking trust and friendship between two women. Please…choose your words with care.

    And that, folks…is all I have for today.

    God’s blessings upon you. Please drive safe, give yourself extra time, and turn your headlights on.