Sunday, September 29, 2019

Joy?


"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds..." (James 1:2)

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I had almost forgotten about this verse. When things are smooth-sailing and happy-happy, it's easy to forget. Comfort and peace are lovely and desirable, but they don't drive me to God like trials do.

With the crashing down of my career dreams and subsequent financial strain, I find myself in painfully familiar territory. But as things are getting tighter and tighter, I'm experiencing the presence of God in a powerfully personal way. God's gone out of His way this week to show me what a gift this particular brand of trial is, and has been, in my life.

I've been short on joy (pun fully intended 😊) for a long time, and it was only when my situation became desperate that I rediscovered (the) real joy. As long as I believed, even subconsciously, that I could take care of my self and run my own life successfully, there was an underlying hint of dissatisfaction and discontent that shrouded everything in subtle shades of grey. As long as I felt the responsibility to solve my own problems and make my own decisions; while I insisted on holding the reins of my future; when I ceased depending on God for direction and inspiration and provision, my joy ebbed.

What a wonderful thing it is to have no other choice but to depend on Him to bring me through a particular situation! (Correction: I always have a choice; it's just that there are times when He makes the choice a really easy one 😊) The Message puts it like this, "Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colours."

I was dismayed and a little ashamed to witness my own reaction to recent rejection and redirection. My faith really floundered for awhile. All summer, anxiety and unease were my constant companions, along with the heavy burden of self-inflicted self-reliance. I'd been looking at the goodness of God through the lens of my circumstances, not the other way around.

But God loves me too much to let me flounder forever. He collected all my broken pieces and is putting me back together. He never forces me into anything, though - I love that about Him. He's been gently calling me to surrender to Him again - it's a decision I need to make over and over and over. Every time I take it all back on my own shoulders, God's kindness (eventually, because I'm pretty hard-headed) leads me back to repentance and surrender. One of the gracious gifts of this trial has been release from that heaviness. I'm so thankful!

Life is so much better, fuller, deeper, richer, sweeter with Him! That's where (the) real joy is - with Him! That's where I keep uncovering who I really am, where I'm encouraged and empowered to affirm my identity and value and purpose. He's reminded me that I've already been set free to rejoice, to mourn, to connect, to create, to work, to rest, to dream, to delight - to live.

#grateful ❤



Saturday, September 21, 2019

Here We Go Again

When I was prompted to start this blog (almost nine years ago?!), it was because I'd had a major revelation about my life and why I was practicing harmful, destructive, compulsive behaviours. I was unknowingly trying to kill myself with food because I hated myself.

That initial blog post (you can check it out here if you've joined me more recently) was the first brave, terrifying step down a path of self-discovery, self-disclosure, healing and growth. I'm so grateful for the journey.

One reason I'm particularly grateful is that I'm able to identify more readily now when something's not quite right in my life. Blogging has a proven track record of providing me with a bit of clarity - quite often, I don't know how I feel about something until I write it out.

The past few months have been rough - unsettled. Uncertain. Ever since last March, when the possibility arose that my dream job might become available. I quit my (not-dream) job at the end of June so that I'd be available should the opportunity arise to pursue this dream. I did everything I could to be ready - I prayed, I studied, I read, I researched, I connected, I engaged... I wanted it so much; I felt so sure that everything in my life had been preparing me for this; it was exactly the right time and place; it would solve so many problems; it would be satisfying, meaningful work that I was made to do...

On the one hand, I knew I had what was required to do this job well; on the other hand, I knew it was a long shot, that there was a high probability, based on my resume and qualifications, that I wouldn't be considered. But I believed in my heart that this was it.

Long story short, it wasn't. I received a very kind message that they had decided not to pursue my application. I thought I was sufficiently prepared for a "no", but no. I was devastated. Heartbroken. I felt rejected, worthless, invalidated. I felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under me.

For months, I had been dreaming of what this new life would look like. How I would deal with the challenges. How I would help bring improvements and growth. I hadn't seriously considered any other scenario. I was left floundering.

It's been a couple of weeks since I received the news. I went through a real crisis of faith, wondering if I'd ever really heard from God at all or had I just been mistaking my will for His all this time. My relationship with food relapsed into something that looked much more like an addiction again. (I gained back ten pounds by eating for comfort in the uncertain months between March and August; five more in the last few weeks).

The cause of those most recent five pounds was not only emotional/comfort eating, however. I'd begun to self-sabotage again; I was eating to hurt myself. I was sabotaging myself in other ways, too - setting myself up for failure in my home business, isolating myself from my family and friends...

But thanks to this blog (and a highly insightful lesson at CR the other night), I was able to recognize the patterns before they spiraled completely out of control. I was able to look back at my past for clues about my current behaviour, and to recall that I self-sabotaged because of self-hatred and shame...

...which caused me to examine my current situation for shame and its roots. And what I discovered has been immensely useful in unraveling my current mess: now, like in the past, my shame was rooted in my perceived identity. I hadn't realized I'd banked so much of my worth on this job. Digging a little deeper, I uncovered the real roots - my identity is firmly tied to my ability/inability to make money. For so many years, I was unable to keep a job due to my mental illness. My inability to consistently contribute to our family's financial stability constantly ate away at my self-worth.

And then I was healed from bipolar disorder (see this post for all the wonderfulness!) and could finally work! There were many other issues that needed to be dealt with over those past couple of years, but finances were no longer a heavy burden - and it was wonderful!!!

Then I quit my steady-income, not-dream job to work from home, and all of a sudden, financial worries were haunting us again. I guess it's no wonder I reverted to my previous self-harm practices - it triggered the same shameful feelings and misguided beliefs in me.

Phew... I get it now! I still don't know what to do with my life now, and I still hesitate to believe that I'm hearing from God at all, but now I know what I need to do. I thought I had settled my identity issues once and for all, but it looks like I get to go deeper and uproot these false ideas. Oh goody 😊

I really am grateful. I have a choice - I don't have to continue these patterns. I don't have to be a slave to my feelings and fears. I can step into the light that God is shining on my issues and work with him to make changes, both in my thoughts and my actions. I am not alone ❤





Saturday, June 29, 2019

Surprised by Sorrow

Fascinating.

This is the word that best describes how I feel about how I've been feeling these last forty-eight hours or so. Huh.

The day before yesterday was my last day of a job I've been eagerly anticipating putting behind me for many months now. I expected to feel ecstatic, joyful, delighted, free... But I did not.

I've been a full-time, fifty-hours-a-week nanny for two little boys for the past sixteen months. When I started job hunting, I needed full-time employment desperately. Our financial situation was looking more and more grim. I applied to a wide variety of jobs, to no avail. My very last resort was childcare, something I swore I'd never do. (Incidentally, it's never a good idea to say never 😊)

I found a family who were equally desperate - their previous nanny had quit with very little warning. So we entered into partnership.

I would never say it was a bad job. Challenging, yes. Exhausting, definitely. A really charming, kind, thoughtful family to work for. But it was NOT how I wanted to be spending my time.

Time - that was the issue. I no longer had any extra time to spend doing things that mattered to me; I hardly had time to do necessary things, like cook and clean and connect with my own family. (I might argue that those "extras" were also necessities; I could feel my soul shriveling as I continually neglected feeding it.)

So I decided to take a leap. I had asked God for a job, and He gave me one. I was grateful. But it was getting harder and harder to walk in the door every day with a positive attitude. I tried to convince myself that what I was doing had value (and it did), but I came to see it as a stepping stone, a period of refining and growth and learning and testing.

I asked God to release me from it. Repeatedly. And finally, after months of asking and waiting, He did. I was ecstatic, joyful, delighted... right up until the night before my last day.

Looking back, it's baffling to see how I missed realizing it would be so hard to say good-bye. It never occurred to me that there would be a hole left from removing such a significant, time-and-energy-consuming element from my life.

I'm on day two of what I referred to as "freedom". There have been moments in the past two days where I have felt and relished it - watching the sunrise as I did some early-morning gardening, taking a long walk with no stroller to push or questions to answer, making breakfast for my own kids... But there have been poignant moments of emptiness, sorrow even.

I had asked God ad nauseam to give me His love for this family. Why am I so surprised now to discover that He in fact did? ❤

I think there's another element to my uneasiness, too. As painstakingly planned, I am now fully dependent on my own devices to produce enough income to sustain us. And that is freaking me out - another sensation I didn't expect.

I'm now pursuing employment I'm passionate about - educating about the dangers of household chemicals and offering a better way; providing guidance and direction on the path to healing and wholeness. These two entrepreneurial enterprises make me excited to get up in the morning; but the fact that I have to depend on myself for motivation and discipline and consistency and effort is daunting, to say the least.

So instead of the unfettered joy I thought I'd be experiencing today, it's a mixed bag. And instead of continuing to be frustrated with myself for not meeting my (kind of ridiculous) expectations, I will apply grace.

(Grace in sunrise form 😊)