The Other Side

I sat down for a 4 hour dinner with a beautiful precious friend last night. We have similar gifts, hearts, and now similar stories of heartache. It was a gift to have uninterrupted time to catch up with this dearheart who I haven’t seen in over 4 years. Maybe we needed an hour for every year we spent apart, who knows. All I know is that God was present with us in the tears and the encouragement and the sharing.

A few friends from grad school have walked through romantic heartbreak just since our Christmas vacation commenced. I’ve sat on the phone and texted with these beloveds, through prayers and tears, who have been given the run around (to put it mildly) from men they invested in and trusted. My heart has mustered everything I know to encourage them they are not just “enough,” they are more than sufficient and are precious people worth fighting for. And all the while, I have been asking to be fortified with those same words myself.

I have enjoyed my several weeks away from my Master’s program, and am not totally psyched about starting up, but I feel like I’ve also learned a lot about myself as things I was processing this last trimester of school have begun to really sink into my soul.

I am a bottomless pit of longing. From my earliest days, I remember feeling like a bit of an outsider, a stranger, and always wondering if I’m missing something . . . something that surely everyone else possesses. It only eludes me, because I am the problem. I am learning more where some of those messages came from. And honestly, I believe my longings have been used against me, without me even realizing it. I’m not saying all of my longings were good, but deep down, I have so much longing for good, at the core of who I am. I want better for people, and better for myself; it’s much easier to believe that there is better for others than for me.

So, all of this longing keeps bubbling up, and along with it, pain and confusion. What have I been doing with my life? Who am I anymore? How do I function when my roles have shifted or disappeared completely? Where is my identity centered? Do I have hope for my future anymore? Can God be trusted? Can life be trusted?

One of the things the friend I mentioned earlier and I have both been wisely counseled about by trusted others is this: keep wrestling with God. We have been lovingly urged, “bring your hurt, your anger, your anguish, your confusion, your agony, your rage, your depths of sorrow, your fury and your paralyzing fears, and battle it all out as your true self with the God Who loves you. Jesus will meet you there.”

I still don’t have answers. I still feel doubt and fear creeping in, and by some miracle, I’m quicker now to use healthier self-talk and prayer to normalize my feelings, reassure myself that they are not permanent, and to rest that I don’t have to solve or heal instantly, that God is caring for me and with me.

I wrote this song over break, thinking about how much I LONG TO SEE and how little I actually do see . . . and how I can somehow trust that it will be good. P.S. I am not a producer or engineer or very skilled with even the limited equipment I have, so this is raw, like my heart, but it is my hope, that we keep holding on to the other side.

What are you hoping to be on the other side of? You’re not alone. None of us have it all figured out. You are loved exactly where you are, even if it’s in the midst of the mess, like me.

2017: My Year to be Unfettered

So, a few years ago, I came across writer Alece Ronzino, who also loves Jesus, has been involved in ministry and has gone through a difficult divorce, and who started OneWord365. This is a concept where one may meditate, pray and have intention for a specific word to stand out to represent, color and be part of the lens for your coming year. Last year mine was Foundation, and I think, somehow, by God’s grace, there’s actually more foundation around me and under my feet than before, but the process was (like any foundation-laying) slow and painful and unglamorous. And this year, my word is Unfettered.

Unfettered, to me, is a word that has already been influencing my thoughts, intentions, decisions. Will this choice demonstrate that I believe I’m unfettered? Is this increasing my burden or filling my tank?

I was browsing for Scripture that spoke of being unfettered, I immediately came across the perfect one in The Message paraphrase: Matthew 6:26, which says, “Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to Him than birds.” I love this so much because I have always been the Songbird (my sister used to complain when I was a bitty baby and we shared a room: “Mom, Jana’s humming herself to sleep again!”), and have loved birds (um, thanks Portlandia), and maybe more than either of those things right now, the idea of being “not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God”—that absolutely fits where I am. I have multiple roles right now, not enough income, a billion passions, low energy and high ideals. It’s a weird combination, to be sure. I have felt overwhelmed for quite a while, and I know that doesn’t always change overnight, but my mindset is being shaped and transformed with this new theme: unfettered.

(photo by my sweet Daddy, Don Detrick)

I used to believe that it was my job to ignore my own feelings and needs in order to serve others. I still have every desire and intention to serve and be a blessing to others, but now, I want to be giving out of a different place. Nobody can drink from an empty well. Or as the brilliant Frederick Buechner put it in his powerful book Telling Secrets (an excerpt of which I was assigned to read for my Master’s Program, then I bought the whole book over break and am almost finished): “”Mind your own business” means butt out of other people’s lives because in the long run they must live their lives for themselves, but it also means pay mind to your own life, your own health and wholeness, both for your own sake and ultimately for the sake of those you love too. Take care of yourself so you can take care of them. A bleeding heart is of no help to anybody if it bleeds to death.”

As a pastor’s daughter, turned pastor, turned pastor’s wife, (now ex-pastor’s ex-wife, but don’t worry, that won’t go on my business card) it was understood that it was my duty to always be tending to others, to be in the spotlight, to be “on” and sensitive to the needs of others. I’ve been through a lot of loss, and in that, I have learned how I used to be so interested in what was happening with everyone, and wanted to gossip and know everything, but not so much anymore. When one goes through a major personal crisis, hopefully, we become tempered and want to learn to tend to our own lives and understand our own stories more, as this is the thing we are most responsible for and can control.

I’ve been tied down to job descriptions that were handed to me, or that I bridled myself with, and I’m here to tell you: no more! I’m not as interested in meeting the expectations of others as I am in being authentic to what I believe God has designed me for and is doing in me. Part of that work is what Buechner touched upon: my own health and wholeness. This will be an interesting journey, because as I mentioned it’s unfamiliar territory, but the longing and pull towards liberty and wholeheartedness is stronger. It’s a new season, and I’m ready to live into the word “unfettered” and allow it to bring healing and maturity, kindness, and ultimately, more hope, peace, joy and FREEDOM.

What about you? Do you have a word for 2017? Let’s do this, y’all—the world needs us to be our truest selves; there’s no replacement for you! P.S. My friend, it is NEVER too late to become free.