countryside

day 25: the flu, pt. 2: my golden hour

Wednesday, 3/30/16

Pressure cookers are interesting right? Cook something faster by putting more pressure on it. If you forget about it, the cooker more or less explodes. Turn the cooker down at the exact right moment, and the food is cooked as desired, in less time, with (potentially) less hassle. 

Ignore your feelings, and you, much like the forgotten pressure cooker, will explode. It’s just a matter of time. The intention is to put those feelings that hurt, away; out of sight, out of mind. Focus on something else. Do something else. Time heals all wounds - isn’t that what they say? But what we don’t realize is that the drawer those feelings have been shoved into is actually said pressure cooker - equipped with all the means necessary to speed up the explosion we are doing our best to avoid. Put enough of those hurt, ignored, waiting for time to fix them, feelings in there, and it’s a given that the mess they create will be worse than the one that would have been created, had we tried to cook the meal the slow, normal, time-consuming way. It’s the absolute irony of the whole scenario - the thing we want to ignore by pretending those feelings aren’t real, is the very thing we invite over a high speed connection. 

I wish somebody had told me that a long time ago. Actually, somebody did- I chose not to listen. 

For the majority of my life, I put my feelings into a pressure cooker, but I never failed to turn the cooker down at the exact right moment. I may have cut it close at times, but I always regained control. That ability to regain control quickly disappeared after I was attacked. I questioned every instinct I had. I couldn’t have any good instincts - I mean, I went with them willingly. I understood that I had been drugged, but I couldn’t recognize it as playing a part in my instincts being compromised. Before I could really identify that it was happening, I felt myself spinning out of control. The faster I ran to try and catch up, the faster I spun out. 

"How wild it was, to let it be." - Cheryl Strayed : saw this beauty on a hike in Ireland the day before I stopped running. One of these days, I'll tell you all about our magical encounter...

"How wild it was, to let it be." - Cheryl Strayed : saw this beauty on a hike in Ireland the day before I stopped running. One of these days, I'll tell you all about our magical encounter...

5am is my golden hour. Some of you are like, uhhhh 5am is a crap hour, also known as shitty o’clock. I hear ya. I don’t love when the alarm goes off that early - but it’s in that hour that God has historically spoken to me the most clearly. The 5am silence is beautiful and peaceful, but one morning a little while ago - it was deafening. 

After over a year of shoving every feeling I had into it, the pressure cooker finally exploded. I sat staring out my window at the Irish countryside, embarrassed, exhausted, and nauseous. There was no one to call, everyone back in America was asleep. Nowhere to go and nothing to do but sit. As I sat, and the minutes ticked by, I felt the tiniest sense of relief creep in. I knew that I was done - done numbing the pain, done pretending that it didn’t exist, and done running from my reality into lie after lie after lie. I knew in that moment that God loves me in a way I might never comprehend. In the deafening silence of my golden hour, God sat down next to me, waited, and offered me His hand to begin the climb out of that pit.   

The mess created by the explosion may have been astronomical, but it was free and in the light. 

3 B -3.jpg
In the light... 

In the light... 

day 16: who gon’ check me boo: found in the rain

Monday, 3/21/2016

Today is Monday and I began my day by spending over an hour looking for lost keys. I feel like this is the definition of Mon-daze. I mean I LOOKED. I emptied every bag I own, I pulled up all the couch cushions, I looked under the couch, I emptied out our storage closet, I stripped my bed, I retraced my steps 87 bajillion times and the only logical explanation I can come up with is that they either fell out of my purse on the street and I didn’t notice or a ninja spy person bungeed into my apartment while I was sleeping and stole them.

I noticed on Friday that they were missing, but the last time I used them was Wednesday - so technically they’ve been lost for six days. Or have they been lost for five days? At what point does something qualify as lost? At what point does someone qualify as lost? When the losing is happening is it already lost? Because usually when you’re in the process of losing something, you don’t know you’re in the process of losing it - if you did, you would stop yourself and not lose it. Right? 

Well I don’t know. Because if I think about my life and times I got lost, I can pinpoint moments where I knew I was getting lost - heading down a bad path - and I still walked that path anyway. I’m not talking about getting geographically lost - though I guess the point still holds. Sometimes I get purposefully lost in New York, just so I can see new parts of the city in a different light. Some of the best and most memorable experiences I’ve had while traveling have been when I got lost on purpose. I’m pretty much of the opinion that it’s impossible for that to not yield great results. The difference is that when I visit a new city and I get lost, I do it in the daylight, with plenty of time to find my way back to a place of safety before it gets dark. When I’ve chosen to 'get lost' in life, I may have started in the light, but when darkness began to descend, I didn’t look for a road back to safety. I just kept walking until there wasn’t anymore light to see. 

I gave myself about two months after my attack to be sad - after that, if I felt sad, I went out. I didn’t want to feel sad. I didn’t want to just sit at home. If I did that, I inevitably ended up thinking about everything and rehashing it, searching for answers I would never find. The problem is that the more I went out, the more I went out. It’s a vicious cycle that way.

On Halloween, while dressed in an elephant onesie, three of my closest friends sat me down over dinner to tell me they were concerned about: 

  1. how much I was going out
  2. that I was using it as an escape.

I assured them that this wasn’t the case and backed off of going out so consistently. But my newfound inconsistency didn’t change the end result of my nights out - a wicked hangover and lots of regret.

I knew I was getting more and more lost, and still I kept walking farther into the dark. It was all about defiance. I was angry. More than I was angry at what happened, I was angry at God. I was more angry at God than I was with the police. I was even more angry with God than I was with my attackers themselves. I almost felt sorry for them - what had happened in their lives that they were able to treat another human being this way? But God? He had no excuse.

My anger towards God was a deep-seeded, confusing, multi-faceted experience. How dare I be angry at the most high God, the creator of the universe, and the savior of the world? And yet, if Jesus is about relationship, not religion, how could I not be? The only way I knew to express my anger (as if He needed me to express it in order to know what I felt…) was to defy Him. I wanted to hurt Jesus the same way I felt He had hurt me. I wanted to desert Him. 

Time and time again, I’ve heard parents say that seeing their child hurt, hurts them more than if they were hurt themselves. I wanted that. After all, He’s my Father in heaven, right? So the parent/child dynamic of hurt holds. Even if nobody else knew the decisions made in the dark, Jesus saw them in the light. This meant that seeing me purposefully make decisions that would hurt me, would hurt Him, right? Right. So I intentionally lost myself until I didn’t recognize the girl staring back at me in the mirror. I didn't want to look like her anymore anyway. Maybe He wouldn't recognize me either - then we could both forget the shame I was wearing every day like an old familiar coat. I wanted someone, anyone, to hurt the way I was hurting. To understand my gut-wrenching pain. And that’s supposed to be Him - 

                                        The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. - Ps 34:17-18

You know that poem Footprints? And that part where the man is like - but Jesus, in some of these places I see only one set of footprints instead of two and those were some of my toughest times - where were you then? And Jesus is like - that’s when I was carrying you? Ok, well, I was pretty convinced that Jesus slipped and broke His back while running to try and rescue me and obviously immediately healed himself because He can, but was like - nah, I’ve tried a lot with that girl and it’s time for her to be on her own for a bit now that she caused me to break my back. She wants to keep rejecting every opportunity I give her for help? Cool. Let’s see how that pans out. So in my 'one set of footprints,' Jesus and His broken back were sitting on the sidelines with a brewski. 

I thought He deserted me - something He promises He will never do. 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. - Deut 31:6

And I thought He broke His promise. Something He also, supposedly, does not do.

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? - Numbers 23:19

And I. was. pissed. So I defied Him. I even ‘prayed’ him through my reasoning mid poor decision making one night. (Oh yeah, that’s me. You can't say I wasn't committed...) I don’t know if you could call it prayed, so much as challenged Him to prove His goodness. To prove that some people were safe. It was one of these: 

I walked farther away and I tried my damnedest to fill the deep, dark hole with anything except the truth.

But the harder I tried to block out His voice, the louder it fiercely roared for me.

For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west. - Hosea 11:10

The more I tried to ignore the light just barely creeping in, the brighter it shone.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:5 

The further down the hole I went, the clearer the way out He was pointing me towards became.

 And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Cor 10:13

The more lies I believed, the more Truth fought back. 

Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. - John 14:6a

The truth was that Jesus never left my side that night. The truth was that in so many defiant decisions I subsequently made, Jesus protected me. The truth was that Jesus didn’t need me to hurt Him in order for Him to hurt - His heart broke for me enough already because His love for me is so unfathomably great. 

And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…” (Eph 3:17b-19a)
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. - Romans 8:38-39

The truth was that no matter how much I tried to force Jesus to give up on me, He didn’t and He wouldn’t (and still won't.) 

It’s both the most amazing, and potentially the most annoying, part about being in relationship with Jesus - He doesn’t operate the way we do. I mean, I woulda kicked me to the curb a lllooonnnggg time ago. But not Jesus. The more I hated Him, the more He loved me. The more I ran, the faster He met me there. The more I used Him as a punching bag, the more firmly He held His ground. And finally one morning at 6am, after a questionable night, when I had no more punches left to throw, He scooped me up off the ground, stretched out His hand, and lovingly asked if I was ready to climb out of the pit.

         The Lord will fight for you; You need only be still.   -  Exodus 14:14

         The Lord will fight for you; You need only be still.  - Exodus 14:14

Later that morning, as hundreds of miles of Irish countryside passed me by out a bus window, I realized that I didn’t have it in me to keep running towards destruction. I didn’t have it in me to run towards anything. I was exhausted. I left the anger and rebellion and defiance in that Irish countryside - I didn’t need to carry it around anymore. When I got off the bus in Dublin, I just stood still in the terminal watching the world go by for a few minutes. Could I really do it? Could I let all of this go?

I stepped outside, and the second I did, the heavens opened up and let out a torrential downpour. I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and now I was destined to be soaking and cold for at least 30 minutes. As soon as the water hit my face, laughter sprang out of me, like an overflowing well. Maybe it was sleep deprivation, but in that moment, I knew that I wouldn’t walk the path alone again. I knew that I hadn't really been walking alone at all. I knew that God never stopped fighting for me, and the moment I stood still, He poured (literally!) out a love on me in a way that He knew I could not mistake as coincidence.

I’ve always had a love affair with the water. Growing up in Texas, the skies often opened up without warning, and when they did, you could find me running out to my backyard to just stand in the rain. In the 6th grade, my childhood best friend was hanging out at my house on one of those unexpected days, and we ran outside, fully clothed in our school uniforms to dance and play in the rain for hours. From that day on, for years to follow, we referred to one of our most fun days together as “Rain Day.”

In the same Psalm I quoted before, David says: 

“those who look to Him are radiant, their faces are never covered with shame.” - Ps 34:5

And as I made my way down the cobblestone streets of Dublin, drenched by the rain, with a smile radiating from the inside, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was walking right next to me, and that old coat of shame was nowhere to be found. 

day 5: pick six

Thursday, 3/10/2016  

When I was nine years old, I went to visit my new school that I was dead against being forced to attend. It had been a long application and interview process and this was the day where I would tour the place that was to be my new stomping grounds. The fact that they accepted me was, in and of itself, shocking. In my interview, when the headmaster asked me why I wanted to attend the school, I broke down crying and said that I didn’t and that it’d be good if they denied me admittance. Then I proceeded to wipe my snotty nose on my yellow pearl snap button down shirt with a denim collar and little navy blue baby’s breath flowers all over it. He then very gently offered me a kleenex. 

I remember moments in life by what I was wearing. That was my favorite shirt at the time. Heck, if it still existed today in an adult size, I’d wear it. My fondest memory wearing it was at my Granny and Grandpa's house in the English countryside. We have a photo somewhere that I can't seem to find...

Granny and Grandpa Paul’s house was the keeper of my secret spot (which I now know was not secret at all.) In the very back of their garden was a big bush, and nestled up against the back of that bush, was a wooden bench. I would sit on my bench for hours, telling myself stories, dreaming about what my life would be, and laying down on it, just looking up at the sky. If I stood on the bench and got up on my tiptoes (thankfully, the trusty bush was tall enough to hide this occurrence from my Granny’s manner minding eyes,) I could see over the back fence and into a field that stretched for what seemed like a hundred miles - you couldn’t see beyond it. This last Christmas, we took a detour past the cottage and the new owners have changed everything. I hate change. I so desperately wanted to knock on the door and ask if I could go sit on my bench for just a moment, but the fear that I might discover that in all their changes, my secret place no longer exists, stopped me. I want to remember it in all its perfection - a place untainted by the realities of life. My greatest desire when I was a little girl peering over the fence, was to jump it and just run through those fields until I couldn’t anymore, collapsing in a fit of giggles, gasping for air. I’d still love to do that.  

My new school scared me. I knew that I was being sent there because it was a more academically focused school with the structure needed to tame my wild and rambunctious spirit. I wanted to be left wild.  Leaving my old school made me realize that I would have to make new friends. I’d never even realized that making friends was something you do and I wasn’t scared that I wouldn’t.

Sitting on the big leather chair inside the school office waiting for the tour to begin, a little blonde girl that I recognized from a basketball camp I’d attended earlier that summer, walked in with her parents and plopped down right next to me. 

“I like your Nike watch. I’ve got a turqouise Baby-G, see? But I like yours too. I’m Kitty.” 

“Thanks. It was my Christmas gift this year. I like it because it’s sporty, but I like yours too. I’m Becky.” 

Kitty and I didn’t know as we sat in our soon to be art room later that day, bonding over the Mary-Kate and Ashley movie, “Passport to Paris,” that our friendship would stand the test of time. We should have known - because any friendship that begins because of Mary-Kate and Ashley is obviously a good one. 

We had no idea that we’d become a part of the same friend group and watch each other go through our most formative years. We didn’t know that I’d be there when she got her heart broken for the first time or that she’d be there to see me and cheer me on as I fulfilled one of my biggest dreams. We were definitely clueless when it came to all the questionable decisions we would have a ton of fun (sorry, Mum and Dad) making together in high school. We couldn’t have predicted that during out senior year of high school, I would be rushed to the hospital, and that when I was discharged a week later, it would be with the knowledge that I was sick with life-threatening conditions. We might not have even believed how fun our 'senior summer’ would be - when our group of friends saw each other every single day, until that gut-wrenching day when the first of us went off to college, and the weeks involving lots of teary goodbyes began. None of us were going to the same schools. It was the first time that classes would finish at the end of the day, and the option of just driving to Kitty’s house to lay out in the pool or hang out on the third floor didn’t exist. 

The group text started almost immediately after the first of us left. Well, this was 2009, so it started as a group Facebook message. We had to be completely up to date on every nitty gritty aspect of each other’s lives. Our first Thanksgiving home was the reunion of all reunions and our best tradition began. Every Thanksgiving night at about 9:45pm, we all go to Kitty’s house, light a bonfire, make smores, eat her leftovers, have a few drinks, and talk into the night. (#holeyjeans) Personally, I like to think that in our subconscious we do it because it's Thanksgiving and this group of girls is one of the things we are most thankful for in our lives - but writing that down, I can see the girls rolling their eyes and going “ohhhh gawwd” at my puttering on. Thanksgiving is truly “our” holiday though. In college, that five day weekend was like the holy grail…always the scene of our most memorable, or not so memorable, nights. It still is. Though in our old age, we’ve become much more responsible. I think.

                                                           Thanksgiving

                                                           Thanksgiving

We know each other so well that sometimes it’s just weird. And other times it's perfect. The first time I had my heart shattered into a million pieces and told them via group text, not one of them called me for a few days, because they knew I wouldn’t be able to, or want to talk. But you better believe that my phone never stopped buzzing with messages for three days. We have seen each other at our best and at our worst, been there for each other’s highest highs and lowest lows…and those lows have been pretty dang low. We’ve fought hard and made up hard. We once went over a year without one of us, and it sucked every single day. But it took us all of about five minutes to get over it and welcome her back with open arms the first time she showed up to our standard “last night we will all be together before one of us leaves” dinner - and it’s never been different since.

Our lives are changing and so are we. We’re adults now who live in different parts of the country, with jobs and responsibilities. Our dreams, beliefs, and priorities have shifted and changed, but I have to believe that at the core of it all, our deep rooted friendship won’t. A few months ago, the last time all six of us were together, I threw out the idea of giving up on everything I came here to do - and every single one of them just yelled at me a version of “absolutely not” (Melanie’s version may have had a few choice words thrown in there...) because they know me and they believe in me - even when I don't believe in myself. (I’m vomiting at how corny I sound.) 

I can’t imagine my life without Mary Ellen’s long lasting bear hugs, Mel’s high pitched scream when I walk through the door or when a particularly funny part of a story is told, Eleanor’s bringing Curly Sue (her dog) everywhere we go - she’s basically the 7th honorary member of Pick Six, Kitty’s chuckle laugh, or Sarah’s “heyyyy” when she walks into a room. I have learned everything I need to know about friendship from these girls. They are my chosen family. They are a massive part of why I miss TX, but an even bigger part of what keeps me here. Whenever I come home, one of my mum’s first questions is - “Well, what are your plans with the girls?” because she knows. 

The group text that began seven years ago lives on strong today, and as I write this post, with tears in my eyes on and off at the gratitude I feel, my phone just buzzed to say I have a new message on our thread, and all seems right with the world. 

*~hugz n kisses~*