The Climb

nicaragua

 

Why hello, 2017. I’m so glad you’ve come.

Last year . . . last year was hard. Full of despair, depression, stress, loneliness.  Good bye 2016, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

With a new year, many people make resolutions. As for me, I am typically indifferent towards resolutions. My attitude is that if you like them and it works for you  – go for it.  I tend to be a pretty goal-driven person in general, so January 1st doesn’t feel special to me in that regard.  Or at least it never had before.

I have a friend who uses One Word to focus on throughout the year, more of a reminder, or meditation instead of a resolution – words like Breathe, Wholehearted, Enough, Forward, and Badassery.  That plan always sounded great to me, but I  could never think of a word that struck me enough.  Maybe I never needed a word badly enough.

But last year ran me ragged.

I drank champagne at midnight on the 1st with a weary heart. Tired, to the core, of fighting for my life. Tired of hating my job, tired of my own questions, tired of quieting negative voices in my head. But I drank that champagne, and I kissed my wonderful husband, and I had the tiniest flicker of hope in my heart that, maybe, this year just might be different.

And here I am, January 6th,  and I have a word.

My word is Climb.

I’ve never literally fallen in a deep pit, but I imagine that if I did, the first moments would be spent just laying there, reeling from shock, trying to get my bearings, assess what is broken and what still works. That was how I would sum up 2016. I was in the pit. And almost as suddenly as I found myself in the pit, I seem to have found the strength to get up, a long-awaited answer to prayer.

But this Climb will happen with baby steps. First I have to dust myself off . . .  bandage and tend to my wounds so they heal properly. That looks like praying, reading, stilling my heart, studying, talking, and worshiping. It looks like daring to hope. My 2017 miracle is that I woke up today with hope in my heart that I can climb out of this pit.

I will make hard decisions, choices, one at a time, over and over because they are good for me and lead to healing. I will go against my nature. (My nature last year told me to just lay there and die in the pit . . . what does it matter anyway?)  Despite my bruised body and broken bones.  I will choose to make and answer phone calls, and engage in conversations despite my social anxieties. I will choose to forgive and not cling to grudges that are holding me back from experiencing my own freedom. Baby steps. Onward. Upward. Climbing steady.

Was my time in the pit useless? God says no. God says he will make use of it. “For all things work together for those good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. ”

“All of life is grist for the mill . . . Everything belongs; God uses everything. There are no dead ends. There is no wasted energy. Everything is recycled.” – R.Rohr.

I have learned much about myself this year – some good, some not so good. And I embrace these lessons as gifts that will help me grow – yes – but also as reminders that I am loved – I was loved – just a I am, even in the pit. And that Perfect Love is what spurs me to put one foot in front of the other and Climb. Truly it is my imperfections that make His perfect nature shine more bright. Lord, shine through me.

My first baby step is a healthier life. I have gained 15 lbs in the last year and a half since nursing school. I am tired all the time and I know it’s because I eat crap. Food has been my reward for putting up with life.  But I want to enjoy life, not just put up with it, so I am making baby steps for my health. Climbing up to a life of energy.

My second baby step out of this pit is in regards to my job, but I will write more about that later.

Do I expect the climb to be easy/seamless? Of course not. Climbing is full of uncertainty: where do I put my foot this time? Where do I grab? Sometimes you fall backward and have to start all over.  I’m praying for the strength to keep on pressing forward, continuing in hope.

Wherever you are today, I hope that you have hope. That you know you are loved, just as you are. Whether you are lying on the floor of a pit or soaring high above the clouds. I pray you too will find the strength to climb.

Happy New Year, friends.

 

 

 

 

On Leaving

A story about how I am not the person to ask for advice about how to leave a church.

Because when I wake up at 4am suddenly wanting to write, I try to do it.

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We had left a church before – kind of slipped out the back without a plan during a hard time of life.  We wanted to do it better now.

After praying about it for months, we kept coming to the same conclusion. We had dreams, hopes, and beliefs that stretched out in a different direction of where our current church was heading.  It wasn’t in anyone’s best interest for us to remain there.

They left at about the same time as us. But they were “sent” – blessed from the pulpit as the pastor wished them well in their search for where they fit.  It was a sad but beautiful day.  They did *something* right . . .

We prayed and thought, “Pastor should be the first to know our plan.” We didn’t want rumors to spread, and feelings to be hurt. We set up a meeting with Pastor and Pastor, and on that day also shared a carefully written letter from the heart with all the other staff so no one would feel left out.  We had respect and care, and wanted to do it right.

Obviously I do not know how to properly leave a church.

We were not “sent”  – whatever that means – and we were barely blessed as the door closed behind us that day.

Perhaps hurt feelings are partly to blame.  I hoped we could see beyond that to the greater purpose of God’s Kingdom spreading. The church body has many members. You are an arm, maybe, I am a leg – and that is ok, even good.  It’s okay and good that we reach and connect with different people in different ways. Right?

“Could I meet with you please?”  I asked.  Three times.  Desperate to explain, to make sure I was not severing ties when we moved on.

“Sorry, I am too busy right now.” Three times.  Taking the hint, I backed off and thought you would reach out in a few weeks when you were ready.  Of anyone there, I wanted to talk to you first, start with you…  I have since given up waiting for that conversation.

In the silence of miscommunication, we lost a piece of our lives.  Out of respect for the church, we didn’t want to meet with everyone to explain why we were leaving.  We didn’t want it to look like we were trying to spread unrest or gossip among the church-goers.  We thought it was best to keep it mostly to ourselves. Obviously we did that wrong too.  The rumors and glances grew more piercing before they dulled.

To the ones who reached out to us – to hear our story – I thank you. You were a comfort, a friend.  You stood out with your loving presence as you sought to understand and not to judge us.

Today, all I can say is that every step was purposeful, and prayerful, and we did the best we knew how.

Years later, the pain has faded. But the place in my heart where you lived may always feel empty, and unfinished. I know without a doubt that my family was supposed to move on, branch out.  Yes, it could have gone better. I forgive the places where it didn’t go as I had hoped. I pray that others have done the same in their hearts towards us, but in the end, I only control me.

Church is about family.  Sometimes family looks different than we want, sometimes people don’t follow in the footsteps of dad’s family business so to speak – but we are still kin. May we all reach out to someone today who might feel shut out and embrace them as family. May we realize that hard decisions such as leaving a church are usually not taken lightly by those people that we have known and loved. They are the same thoughtful people, trying to listen to the voice of God and follow His leading. May we be the peacemakers.

And to you, dear Pilgrims, I wish you well on your journey as you embark on this change.  It may be a hard road, but I pray it is blessed.  I hope for you that you feel “sent”  – that you feel supported as you go, and not shut out.  I hope you find that your family of friends only grows and grows.  To God be the glory.