Hey, At Least My Coffee Maker Still Works

Hey, At Least My Coffee Maker Still Works

Let me set up a headache-inducing scenario for you:

I was 8 minutes late to work today, which I would like to blame on the completely out-of-line construction that turned my usual commute into a parking lot. Nothing says “HEY THURSDAY” like realizing you haven’t moved an inch in minutes (minutes, I tell you). The audacity.

Okay fine, it wasn’t the construction. That only knocked off like 3 minutes. I get that.

So then it was the truck’s fault – you know, the one that drove in front of me and went the speed limit the entire time. (Like dude, “35” doesn’t actually mean 35.) So while I made a mental note to change my commute to a route that has more than one lane,

I ran out of new songs to listen to on Spotify. Even BTS’s new album feels overplayed, and my brother made fun of me for listening to the Sound of Music soundtrack on full blast, so I’m clearly running out of options.

“Just turn the music off Mads.”

But then when I do, my head starts to pound.

“No, I don’t have time to be upset today. What has today done to me? You’re fine, head. Stop pounding, head.”

And yet, I feel like my head had been pounding for months now.

I glance at the clock on my headboard – 9:35. I’m past the construction but now I’m waiting at a red light. Why can’t I just show up on time?

And so I spend the last 3 minutes of my drive subconsciously scolding myself for not being more disciplined in life. I definitely could have woken up earlier. I don’t actually need to wear makeup. I could have done without washing my hair this morning. That would have shaved off a few minutes. I should have taken the highway even though it’s my least favorite route. 

*right turn arrow* *pulls into parking lot*

I should have slept more last night. I didn’t have to start that new K-drama. 

*puts the car in park*

Oh shoot I forgot to tell them I have to go to my counseling appointment today at noon! I hope that’s okay. Dang it. Why didn’t I remember to tell them earlier?

 

And by the time I make it to my desk at 9:38 a.m., I’m exhausted. My fuse feels shorter than the hair on my legs (which, admittedly, actually aren’t that short, but the simile still stands.) When did I become so frenzied? When did I become so hard on myself? When did everything begin to feel like a cup half empty?

 

And yet, as the day has gone on, I’ve realized the real reason I was late to work today. It’s not because of all these annoying events.

Actually, It’s because my coffee maker still works.

In a season where everything feels fragmented and broken, my coffee maker still works. It really does! And it works well! I don’t even have to hit it or fiddle with any of the buttons! I just put the beans in, and I press the big red button, and then five minutes later it’s just THERE. Sitting there in all it’s pre-ground Aldi-brand glory! It’s amazing! Magical, really!

And every morning as I sip that coffee and rock back and forth on my patio rocking chair, it almost feels like a pandemic doesn’t exist. In that moment, I can almost pretend that I didn’t just start a new job and that I’m not nervous about it and that I don’t miss my family and friends.

While I sip my coffee, I can almost believe that all of the things that are sad but true in my life simply aren’t true.

I know that I can’t live there forever, nor should I, but some mornings it’s just so hard for me to tear myself away from it all and show up to work on time.

It’s strange to be angry at something that you can’t see or hear or touch. Being angry at a pandemic is kind of like being angry at God, except when I’m angry at God I know somewhere in my heart that God is inherently good and that we’ll get over it. But being angry at a pandemic… how can that anger ever be resolved? I see that anger come out of me and onto the people I love, or sometimes it just stays bottled up into I fall into a puddle of tears. (Which can become very awkward for any who get to be a spectator of those particular moments.)

Because I do grieve it all. I just began a job in student ministry and I want to meet my students. How do I work through my frustrations with the invisible force that’s standing in the way of that? I want to punch the disease-riddled air but it feels as pointless as it ever has, and yet somehow the air is still winning.

But hey, at least my coffee maker still works.

I’m thankful for those quiet moments every morning, just like I’m thankful for my roommate that makes me laugh. I’m thankful for coffee shops here in the south that make me feel like I’m back in Ohio again, years ago when I used to write more freely. I’m thankful for the color blue that is painted on my apartment walls. I’m thankful for flamboyant dancers that make cardio dance workout videos on YouTube because, let’s be honest, they’re amazing.

Maybe I’m supposed to think about these things far more often than I do.

As Tolkien put it:

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.

Yes, love does seem mingled with grief. Relationships seem mingled with tension that didn’t use to exist. The happiest of days are cast into shadow when you realize you forgot your mask or you’re not allowed to do things the way you used to do them. But perhaps there is still much that is fair. Perhaps even now, in a world saturated in sneaky grief, love can grow even greater.

I believe it’s true. I believe that God made our beautiful world to move on even after it comes to a stop. I believe He put a little bit of strength and beauty in you and in me that the world needs most right now. Like land after a forest fire, can’t we regrow? I believe we can.

Perhaps, no matter what happens, as long as coffee makers continue to work, love can continue to work as well.

 

 

A Shameless Plug For Counseling

A Shameless Plug For Counseling

I’ll be honest – this post is mainly just a shameless plug for counseling. But I don’t care.

It took me 16 months to decide to find a counselor post-college. I wish it had taken me 2 months, but alas here we are. It’s funny how stubborn I get whenever I need help in life, especially mentally or emotionally. Or spiritually. I will truly convince myself that I’m fine for, well, 16 months before doing anything about it.

But a month ago I finally broke down and googled enough and found a name of a counselor that I prayed would listen to my story and see through my craziness and love me. And yesterday was our second time meeting together.

I hate driving to a counseling appointment because I spent all week closing up and trying to convince people I was fine about certain things, but I know that it would be a waste of my time and money to do that in front of Sarah (not my real counselor’s name, but that’s what I’ll call her). I remember that I have to let down walls, and I’m always pretty sure I’m gonna cry and I’m usually not in the mood to be emotional about the sad stuff I’ve been trying to shut out.

Counseling is hard work but it’s worth it.

This was actually a huge week for me. A really exciting opportunity came my way and it has been a week of celebrating that and being with those that I love. But this great opportunity will also mean a lot of change in my life, and deep down that has gnawed at me.

So when I sat down yesterday at 3 p.m. on the grey plushy couch in her office and Sarah asked me what my week was like, I truly couldn’t think of a single thing to say. Instead, I hugged a throw pillow to my chest and stared at the blinds on the windows behind her and mumbled some stuff about it being fine. And then it hit me and I was like, “Oh my gosh, wait how did I forget this happened?” And I began to tell her about this new opportunity in my life and how it was so exciting.

But I didn’t look excited or sound excited. In fact, I felt like I had become a piece of cardboard – flat and brown and dry. Emotionless, even in the face of huge exciting news in my life.

The great thing about counselors is that they don’t let you get away with that kind of stuff. So Sarah dug in and started asking me what was up. This was a great thing in my life – why am I talking about it like someone died? What’s really going on?

It took me about 45 minutes to answer that question because I didn’t really know. Or, at least, the answer was so complicated that it took that long to reach any sort of explanation. I started to realize that, although this new opportunity was something I had been dreaming of for years, now that it’s here the change it will bring into my life scares me. And, I began to realize through tears, it scares me because the last huge change I went through in my life was harder than I ever let on to anyone else.

I want to share with you my journal entry from this morning because I thought maybe it was just honest enough and maybe you need that in your life today. It talks a lot about the post-college fellowship program I did last year and the internship I had at a ministry at the time.

I cried at counseling yesterday, and then sobbed in the Chipotle parking lot afterwards.

Sarah asked me about my week. At first, I forget about what even happened this week which was crazy because I actually got some super exciting news. But counseling, in all it’s glory, brought emotion out of me where there was only numbness. In my heart and mind, I know I have always downplayed just how hard my fellows year was for me. I was so depressed for some of it. I was in really bad shape. But while it was happening and even now, I just block it out and downplay it. Out of survival, I think. While I was in the fellows program, I just wanted to survive it. Failing the fellows meant moving back home and admitting that I couldn’t make it.

I know that I struggled with honesty all those 9 months. From the first day, I struggled being honest. Through meeting all the new people to starting my internship to going to classes, I was smiling (sometimes) on the outside, but truly dying on the inside.

I’ll never forget one day at my internship, about a month into the program and my life-after-college. I had spent the last month smiling and being brave and learning street names and deciding to be strong through it all, and that morning at my desk at work I finally quieted down and realized I had never been so numb in my life. I wrote my name on an email and it scared me to realize I hardly even recognized my own name. I had spent so much time putting on a face for everyone in this town that when it finally settled down a bit I realized I had absolutely no idea how to talk to myself. I hadn’t been honest with myself in months. I didn’t even recognize the sound of my own voice or my own name or my own face in the mirror.

That’s a core memory, me sitting in that office feeling that way. And it began the rocky relationship I’ve had with myself and God ever since. I knew I had a choice that day. Do I break down and show honesty about how I really felt living in a new city and doing this fellowship program? Which probably would have included calling a sick day and going to my car and dialing my mom and breaking down in sobs because of how deeply overwhelmed I was. Or, the other option, which I took, do I just suck it up and move forward?

I wish I had called in sick and scheduled a counselor and not numbed myself out during that first year in South Carolina. But I know why I didn’t. It’s because that is so hard to do. It is so much “easier” to numb out and move forward. You feel stronger and braver and more capable to do the overwhelming task in front of you.

And so that’s why that day at work I wasn’t honest. Honesty was the scariest option I had. But because I wasn’t honest, I created a core memory that is ambiguous and lonely and numb. And now, 15 months later, I’m trying to breathe life into it.

Maybe you’re not like me and you read that and think I’m the most dramatic person on the planet. That’s fine, because I know that everyone has different levels of emotions hardwired into them.

But maybe you are like me, and maybe you also have the kind of emotions that demand to be felt. I have learned that I was simply made that way, and it means I need to tend to those emotions because I become sick when I don’t. I would encourage you to practice raw honesty and lean into the pain when it’s real and happening right in front of you, like I’m trying to do now.

That’s exactly what counseling is for. I’m sure I’ll write more about my time in Sarah’s office because right now it’s the tool that God is using to bring health back into my mental, emotional and spiritual life.

When You Can’t Read Your Bible

When You Can’t Read Your Bible

I hardly read my Bible lately.

And it wasn’t a conscious choice. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to put it on the shelf next to all the other books I don’t read. I just kinda stopped. Day by day, I would let myself sleep in that extra hour instead of getting up and reading Philippians next to my cup of coffee.

For years, that hour at the beginning of the day was sacred to me. In high school, sometimes it would only lat 15 minutes because I had a 6:15 a.m. cheer practice to get to, but many semesters of college I didn’t have classes until 10 a.m. And so my mornings became slow and easy and full of time to fill with scripture. My ESV journaling bible became wrecked with notes, pages crumpled, and the cover stained with coffee, highlighters, and balsamic vinegar. (Yes, that actually happened.)

But when I graduated college my life became disrupted. Being in the “real world” is nothing like going to a small private bible college. Moving to South Carolina felt a million miles away from Ohio. And for an entire year or more, I just couldn’t find a rhythm.

For about 6 months, my Bible felt toxic. I just couldn’t seem to touch it. It felt scary and unnecessary and completely irrelevant to my life of internships and anti-depressants. How could the thought of a big God comfort me in any way if that God allowed my life to be so hard?

But as time went on, I just slowly drifted away from the intimate moments I used to have with God. Almost like slowly losing a friend, you convince yourself that it’s going to be okay, and it happens so gradually that you hardly notice the difference. Until one day you realize that a part of your heart has grown cold and you desperately want to zap it in the microwave to give it life again.

I know it’s why I haven’t written. I mean, my blog is called “This Life I Learn“. But when I don’t talk to God, how can I learn? That special part of my heart reserved for intimacy with Him becomes numb and stale.

I finally, finally feel like post-graduate life is starting to settle in. I’m finding my stroke. Normal, quiet Saturday mornings actually exist. And in these moments, with my bath-robe so warm around my neck and the noon daylight shining onto my kitchen table, I miss my old friend desperately. I want to talk to Him. I want to tell Him about my day and how much it hurts to think about boys and how confused I am about what my future career path should be.

And so I did what I used to do in moments like these: I started to read the New Testament. The epistles, mainly, because I love the thought of Paul writing letters to his friends and, in a way, to me.

Ephesians 1:16 begins by saying:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places..

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened…

If my heart has eyes, then they have been sealed shut lately. My head has been bent low, my eyes shut, as I’ve tried to get through the day in front of me. Forget the posture of wonder I used to have when I was younger. Lately, life has felt like something to survive, not live.

But that’s the gift of God. He wants me to live. His Holy Spirit has power and He desires that I take on the world with it! And that’s the difference between life without God and life with Him. Life without God means breathing and doing, but life with God means living. It means having the eyes of my heart opened and vulnerable and brave. I’ve missed that kind of life.

This fall I’ve been leading a small group at church of 9th grade girls, and this passage makes me think of them. Isn’t that my prayer? That the eyes of their hearts would be opened up? I pray that all of us would start to understand that God has so much more for us than we can even imagine.

And that life begins in silence, with the Bible and a pen. It has to start there.

 

Never Too Far Gone

Never Too Far Gone

“For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will.”

John 5:21

I moved to South Carolina 5 months ago.

My move wasn’t calculated or planned. In fact, it was probably the most impromptu thing I have ever done (which is saying something). I needed somewhere to move after college, I was handed an opportunity, and I just went with it.

There are so many perks to doing something like that. I once told someone my story and they responded with, “Well, if you pick up a cat by it’s tail, you’re gonna learn things you just can’t learn any other way.” And it’s true. I have learned so many things, and experienced so many things, that I just couldn’t experience any other way. My life is a constant surprise, with twists and turns and a story I cannot wait to tell people.

And yet, it’s also a lot like drinking out a fire hose and running a marathon and throwing yourself onto a never-ending merry-go-round all at once. To move states, graduate college, start a new job, join a new church, meet 245 new faces, and do it all at the same time is no joke. Especially when you decided so last minute to undertake it in the first place!

So most mornings I wake up a bit paralyzed. And blind. And lame. And I think – is there redemption? I hardly even remember digging myself into a hole, and yet here I am, and I can’t seem to get on my feet. 

 

John chapter 5 tells us of a man who Jesus met who had been an invalid for 38 years.

That means that for 38 years this man couldn’t walk. And he was an outcast. Every day he lay near a pool with no one to help him in or out. Lonely, lost, no future.

Until he met Jesus.

John recounts Jesus seeing this man, and he says that Jesus knew he had been laying there for a long time. He wasn’t just a social outcast to Jesus – Jesus knew him. He knew his needs, knew his story, knew his name. And so he walked right up to him and asked him one question:

“Do you want to be healed?”

Chances are no one ever talked to this man. In fact, we know that no one ever talked to him because his response to Jesus was, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am under another steps down before me.”

In other words, he had no one. And no way to help himself. And he couldn’t walk or get work – in society’s terms, he was worthless.

And yet Jesus just looks at him, and says the simplest words that changed his life forever:

“Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”

And he did.

 

Sometimes I believe that I am beyond the healing powers of Jesus, that I’m too far gone. Lately, I feel that a lot. I am a vision driven person, and I love to know what I’m doing and where I’m going. I love to walk with confidence and purpose.

But since coming to South Carolina, I feel like I don’t know how to walk. At best, I crawl around all day and back into bed at night. And I begin to worry, thinking: how am I supposed to find my feet again? And even if I do, where am I supposed to go?

But this story doesn’t tell us that we need to find a way to heal ourselves. It doesn’t tell us to try harder or slave-drive ourselves into a “better version” of the person we are. This story tells us that Jesus sees us as we lay on the street, and He knows how long we’ve been laying there, and He walks straight up to us and asks,

“Do you want to be healed?”

Every day, it is my job to give Jesus my paralysis and blindness and lameness. Because I’m no different from those invalids Jesus walked up to that day, and I need Jesus’ healing words just as much as they did.

But out of His love for me, I believe that He walks right up to me every day and offers me new life.

(scripture taken from John chapter 5)