The Painful In-Between

The Painful In-Between

It’s funny being a writer, because I so often find myself thinking in terms of blog posts. Something happens or I have a bad day or a really good day and suddenly my mind is filled with a title and a thesis and a hook. And I think “man I should write about that.”

But then I don’t. Most of the time. Because I begin to think, and overthink, and overthink some more and by the time I turned it around in my head enough times what once looked like a well-organized and thought provoking 900 words suddenly looks more like an overly emotional pile of greenish-brown mush and I figure that no one would want to read that anyway.

But the thing about being a writer is that if you don’t write, you feel it. Something’s off. There is simply too much in your head to not put anywhere, and so you walk around kind of lopsided, turning in circles like a dog settling in for a nap.

So today, I’m just going to write.

There are a million aspects to moving to South Carolina that I did not expect. I didn’t even know how to expect them nor do I think I would have. You know when people try to tell you about things you might struggle with or hardships that come with certain life choices but you brush them off because surely that would never happen to you?

I’ve recently been reading Steven Curtis Chapman’s autobiography, and he starts it off by comparing life to riding roller coasters. When he was little, he rode the “Wild Mouse”, one of those baby roller coasters with two “hills” and cars that aren’t even attached to one another. But to him, it was a real life roller coaster, and when he stepped off of it for the first time, he felt like he had conquered something tremendous.

And when he was a little older, his brother convinced him to try the “Screamin’ Eagle”, a much bigger ride with many more twists and turns and hills. And since he had already ridden the Wild Mouse, and he was a “roller coaster kind of guy”, he jumped on. He had enough guts to try scary rides before, why not now?

He reflects on his experiences by saying:

Before my Screamin’ Eagle experience, I thought I had been on a roller coaster, but this was a whole different journey. Yeah, I’d been on a roller coaster – I’d been on the Wild Mouse. Life is like that… I know mine certainly has been. You live through “wild ride” experiences with some tremendous highs, some horrible lows, some hand-raising moments of exultation, and some gut-wrenching twists and turns… the cheers and the tears, like the experiences, are very real and valid. But then things or something happens that takes you far higher and much deeper than you could’ve ever imagined. And you realize that your Wild Mouse journey has suddenly jumped the tracks onto the Screamin’ Eagle.

And you realize your Wild Mouse journey has suddenly jumped the tracks onto the Screamin’ Eagle.

Moving to South Carolina was a lot like jumping the tracks onto the Screamin’ Eagle.

The only reason I did it is because I had ridden the Wild Mouse before. When I went to college, four years ago, I didn’t just go to the community college down the road or the in-state university. I moved 36 hours away from home! I completely started over- new people, new state, new way of life. And I have never, not once, regretted that decision. I was nervous to try, but once I was riding the Wild Mouse I was so thankful that I went for it.

And so when I graduated, and I was staring down the opportunity to ride the Screamin’ Eagle, I thought heck yes. Now that I’ve ridden the Wild Mouse, I couldn’t possibly go back to the antique cars or the merry-go-round! And so what was surely an act of furious curiosity, pent-up energy, and a flaming desire to prove myself, I moved.

And MAN. Let me tell you.

I never could have expected the highs and lows. Never. Technically, this transition shares some similarities to going to college: I moved several states away, I surrounded myself with a brand new batch of people… but in reality, it’s nothing like it.

Starting my freshman year at a Christian college was kind of like going to summer camp that lasted for 9 months. Starting adulthood in a brand new city all by myself is more like having your house picked up by a tornado, and while everything’s spinning and being pinned to the walls and the family dog is being sucked out of the window, you look up and realize that your house if full of guests and they’re there because you threw your sister a surprise birthday party and they’re staring at you because it’s time to serve the cake.

And so you serve the cake, and you go on with life like everything’s fine, and you just can’t quite figure out how everyone seems to be acting so normal when there’s a flippin tornado and the house is spinning through the air.

 

There are a lot of things you learn through a season like this. Lessons about trust, faith, value, identity. Hard work. Sorrow. Joy. How it is completely and entirely possible to be overflowing with gratitude and overwhelmingly sad at the same time.

I sat outside during my lunch break yesterday and I felt brittle, like I could snap in half if a breeze blew hard enough at the just the right angle. And I wondered why, since on the outside my life is robust and adventurous and full of life and people. But I realized that it is because I’m still in that painful in-between, and more than anything I miss my people. That even for all of the incredible things around me, I would trade them all for one hug or conversation or day spent walking around my favorite streets in Ohio.

And I think that’s okay.

One day, the Screamin’ Eagle won’t be quite so menacing or new, and I will wake up and realize that South Carolina is my home and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But today is not that day. It doesn’t have to be that day.

It can be the painful in-between. I give it permission. I’ll just let it be.

30 Days of Celebration: Riding the Waves

30 Days of Celebration: Riding the Waves

It’s not easy to change basically everything about your life, but it’s also not all bad.

It’s interesting, I’ve seen in myself, what happens when outer change gives permission for inner change. Sometimes, when you’re always in the same place with the same people, your heart and mind desire changes but you stay the same because everything around you stays the same. Maybe you don’t feel like you have permission to change, that the people who have known you forever won’t understand. And so, you fight the change inside of you because you don’t know how to become a new person walking the same old streets.

But when your circumstances change, and the faces you see every day change, suddenly you change. You don’t even mean to, it just happens naturally, probably because your heart has been begging for reforms for so long but you just didn’t let it.

But last night, I sat around a small table in a Mexican restaurant downtown in my new city with three new friends, beautiful ladies with hearts of gold. And I thought about how crazy it was that these girls didn’t know me from Adam three months ago, and I didn’t know them. We all have vastly different stories, and only by God’s perfect plan are we even in each other’s lives, did we end up eating tacos together on a Wednesday night in November.

And I found myself saying things that I never thought I would be allowed to say, like a prisoner finally set free. Saying things about my doubts and my fears and my vast imperfections that have always been there but been afraid to show their faces. But I said these things because I knew that I was allowed to, and I marveled because I was loved in the eyes of those around me.

I was accepted, not for who I’ve always pretended to be, but for who I actually am. This move did something to me, and I no longer could put on a face. I literally have not had the energy. The first month I was here, I just cried. All. The. Time. And I desperately wanted these new people in my life to understand me, to know the “real” me, to see who I was in college.

But now I see that they know the most real version of me, and what I usually give people is a fake. I don’t actually have my life together, I can’t actually find humor in everything. Some things just break my heart, and make me doubt a good God, and send me reeling, lost. Sometimes I forget my own name and lack confidence in every single way. I doubt my worth, and my value, and believe lies.

But I have a good Shepherd, and this sheep leans into that and follows His voice among the darkness and confusion. And some days, that’s all I have.

 

So today I celebrate the change, and the person it is making me. It’s terrifying. Overwhelming. But I know it’s good.

I read once that change is kind of like waves in the ocean, that if you try to stand up to them, you’ll be knocked down in an instant. But if you ride them, if you go with the flow, you’ll be OK. In fact, it’s kind of fun. But it takes trust. I have to trust that there really is a good God who really does have the best in store for me. I have to trust that the faith I had when I moved to South Carolina three months ago still applies today, that this really is where I’m supposed to be.

That these changes really are for my good. That these waves really will bring me to the right place.

30 Days of Celebration: Where I Never Thought I’d Be

30 Days of Celebration: Where I Never Thought I’d Be

3:45 on Wednesdays is an interesting time for me.

Every week at that time I find myself driving down the backroads of town, off the beaten path, parking alongside an old church. I get out of my car and gather my things and make my way to the front door, overwhelmed every week. I push my way inside and am ushered into a back, back, back room of this church in the back woods of my new town.

I grab my Bible, and I gather my thoughts, and soon 15 children join me, settling themselves into old red pews that line the room.

It’s my job, these 9 months, to teach these kids about the love of Jesus.

The church is musty, and it takes me 7 tries to pronounce the kids’ names correctly. They’re rambunctious, disobedient, loud, and no matter how many times I ask them to stay seated and listen to the Bible lesson, they don’t.

And I love them. So much.

We wrestle through an hour together. Nothing goes as planned. They talk through my teaching half the time, and can’t sit still. They’re overly occupied with my treasure box of goodies. Sometimes I think I lost one of them, only to find out they’re laying under a pew in the back of the room. It’s chaos.

Most of the time.

But then there are moments that I’m teaching and I see one little pair of eyes staring intently back, listening. And one of the little girls loves the hand motions we do with the songs. And one little boy alwaybrings his worksheet back, handing it to me with pride. And one little girl snuggles up to me, big brown eyes, asking if she can sit next to me even though I’m the one up front teaching.

And yesterday, as I left, as I wheeled my cart of supplies back to my little car, they came running out of the church: the boys. The older, “macho” little ones, and they hugged me around the waist. And I felt like those hugs ran warmth all the way through my nose, them not realizing I needed it as much as they.

I never thought I would meet these kids. There is no equation that puts me into their lives. It is only God who could lead me to such a place. But these kids, like I, are like sheep, and I get to share my shepherd with them for one hour every Wednesday.

And I greatly anticipate what God is up to in all of this.

30 Days of Celebration: The Peace of Christ

30 Days of Celebration: The Peace of Christ

I don’t know about you, but I need peace spoon-fed to me about every 7 seconds these days.

All too often, it becomes all too much. The new job, the exuberant amounts of alone time I’m not used to, the new town, new streets, new house, new people.

I read on a plaque somewhere that the will of God will not take you where the grace of God will not protect you. I agree, but I would rewrite it: the will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not hold you. The will of God brought me to South Carolina, and the peace of God has held me through it all, if I’ve let it.

Sometimes I disregard His peace, deciding that I have to do His job. This morning I read Colossians, in which it reads:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace…”

We must let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, for it is our calling. I don’t know about you, but I get very caught up in my sense of calling. Where am I supposed to go, what am I supposed to do? I imagine calling from the Lord to be adventurous and gutsy, something that results in muddy hands and calloused feet.

But Paul says that we were called to peace. That is our calling, as Christians. To be people of peace. Peace, surely, with others, but also with ourselves. The peace that can withhold life’s biggest transitions, the peace that results in rest.

It is peace that holds me together these days. Peace and trust. If I really believe and trust in a God who began my life, hemming me in, molding me, then I believe that that same God will hold my life and keep my life all my days. And that results in peace.

I need peace in sanctification. It is an unsettling feeling, to be changed from the inside out, to have desires and motives and passions transformed to conform more to the will of God. It’s unnerving at times, and scary when I let it be. But it is good, and the peace of Christ covers it all.

Today I celebrate my right to peace. I don’t push myself too hard, don’t speak harsh words in my own mind. I meet myself right where I am, because I can’t be anywhere else, and because that’s exactly what Christ does. He meets me with peace and love, no matter what battered up version of Maddie I happen to be at the moment.

That’s the peace of Christ. And that is cause for celebration.

30 Days of Celebration: What Is

30 Days of Celebration: What Is

I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly complaining about what I don’t have. Or, the way my life doesn’t look.

If I’m spending exuberant amounts of time with people, I complain that I don’t have enough alone time. If all I have is alone time, I complain I don’t have more time with people. When I lived in a dorm, I wished I had more room. Now that I have more room, I wish desperately to be back in a dorm. When I don’t have a job, all I want under this blue sky is a job. Then when I have a job, I dread it. I don’t want to go and I find everything wrong with it to complain to my friends.

So, today, I’m just going to celebrate what is.

Like I mentioned earlier, I’m a part of a really great faith and leadership development program through a church in South Carolina. Through the program I’m given a host home, a job, classes I get to take, friends that are doing the program with me.

And it has struck me lately that I have been finding every opportunity to complain about just how “hard” it is. And it is that, certainly. Moving across the country on a week’s notice and changing everything about your surroundings is no joke, nor is a major life stage transition. Never let anyone “should” you about how that makes you feel.

But I make the problem so often of equating hard with bad. Hard’s not bad. It’s just hard. In fact, difficult things are often the greatest things that can ever happen to you and me. So today I celebrate the difficulties. I celebrate learning how to cope with a major transition, learning how to stand on my own two feet and know who I am without all the familiarity. I celebrate the growth in my faith as I put trusting in God to an actual test.

Instead of all the newness being bad, I choose to see it as good. I already have a million memories from this time, and I will surely have more. Dinners around long tables, boat trips, movie nights, laughter with my host sisters, runs around the block.

Part of my job is going out to an after school program every Wednesday and holding a bible club for the kids there. I can already tell it will be the most difficult thing I do every week, and easily the most rewarding. The kids are vibrant and energetic, and I can tell we’re going to have an incredible amount of fun. It will be unpolished and hectic most of the time, I’m sure, and I think the best time spent always is.

I accept the craziness of my life right now. I accept the grief-filled moments of college being in the past. I accept my usual inability to grasp what is on my plate for today. I just meet myself here, exactly as I am. I let today be what it is for me, not what I hope it would be.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:16

Today is one of those days, ordained for me. I’m not gonna skip the page, skim the letters, flip to the back. I’m gonna read it, soak it in, celebrate the characters, anticipate the plot twists, underline the good parts. I know that’s what God does.

So why don’t I?

30 Days of Celebration: Change

30 Days of Celebration: Change

I’ve had a lot of change in my life these past few months.

New town, new house, new job, new friends, new church. From Ohio to South Carolina, dorm room to host home, student to employee. My roles have changed, my social circles, the rhythm of my days.

You know those magic tricks where people grab the table cloth from under a table set with dishes and cups, and they pull the cloth out from underneath it all in one fell swoop? That’s what my life has felt like these past few months, and although I would have liked to hope that I would be that one table that successfully kept all the plates and bowls upright, I feel way more like the one where the dishes go flying everywhere.

Turns out, I’m simply an amateur in transitioning through a major life change. I try to pull the rug out without any damage, but it quickly becomes evident that it’s impossible. Change is just that way. You and I can’t expect to change everything about our surroundings and what we do and who we know and not expect to feel a bit of a loss of ourselves in the process.

It’s a painful detachment.  For the first couple of months here, I felt a loss of identity and I began grasping desperately at everything that used to remind me who I was. But it was all gone. My role at college, the people I knew, the roads I walked. I didn’t realize at the time how much I built myself around it all, but I had. And when it was ripped from me, I felt like I was ripped from me, too.

It’s an odd feeling, like you’re a stranger to yourself. But it’s an opportunity to get reacquainted, not with the version of yourself that desperately needs reassurance and familiarity, but with your very essence. I have had to ask myself: who am I really? When you strip it all away, what is left?

 

I celebrate today because of what I’ve found.

I’m a child of God. A weak, unworthy, self-righteous, entitled child of God. One who does not deserve that title in the slightest, yet holds it.

I have found that I don’t have to depend on what I do as long as I know who I am. I celebrate because this change has been a refining fire in me, burning out what can’t last anyways. Teaching me what’s of eternal value. Showing me how to meet myself where I am today, to be a friend to myself, and not expect more than what I can offer at the moment.

I celebrate because God has met me here. Sometimes it’s hard to see in the moment, but at the end of the day I am in awe of a perfectly timed conversation, a peaceful heart, a new ability to be still. I am living a season I know will be dazzling in the rearview mirror, even if the present can feel pretty cloudy.

But that’s ok. I celebrate the clouds.

So here’s to change, the scalpel to the soul. Here’s to letting it do it’s work in me. Not fighting it. Just letting go.

It’s Time To See The Good

It’s Time To See The Good

I have a confession. This isn’t what I was going to post. I already had something else written, spell checked, tagged and ready to go, but I woke up this morning and realized I couldn’t post it.

Because it was 1,000 words about what was wrong with my life, what was wrong with the church, what is wrong about what is happening around me right now. And I’m tired of focusing on everything that doesn’t fit where I want it to.

You see, I’m the problem. I have blamed a million things for my negative attitude, but nothing is to blame but the brain between my ears and the crooked heart in my chest. And it’s oddly liberating to know this, because for so long I couldn’t understand how the world we live in could be so paradoxical. It had my head spinning, for it would seem so dark to me, as I awoke on an aimless Saturday morning, or wrote another paper, or gazed at the unknown days ahead. The world seemed menacing and dark to me, and yet I would go for an evening run to Walmart, and as I drove past an open lot the ground would glitter with lightening bugs and the sky would be seven shades of red and I couldn’t understand how a world so beautiful could seem so dark to me.

And now I know: the lightning bugs have it right. They are beautiful because they can’t help it – they were programmed and designed to spread glitter across green landscape. They were simply created beautifully and so was I, and any day I refuse to believe that is a sad waste of precious time.

I’m only 22, but I have lost entire seasons of my life worrying myself to panic or, worse, sleep. I couldn’t figure out how I could be so tired by 11 am until I realized that I had created an exhausting world in my own head. I was torturing myself with my negative thoughts, and it wore me out. I was literally making myself sick with worry. And it was all my fault, in the best of ways.

I’m glad it was my fault, because I don’t want to blame the world or God or anyone else.

Sometimes, when I am sick and in my mind, I just step outside and allow this world to be all that it is to me. And the sun’s heat, the mismatched clouds, the sounds of lawns being mowed, they heal me. I recently spent two weeks beneath Italian mountains, and the way they rose from the forest blanket, staring at the sky and daring to be grander than anything else around them… I was small in the best way. I really am allowed to let go and give my worries to the mountains and the God who fashioned them perfectly.

I can lean into friendships. The people who make me laugh without trying. The eyes I can stare straight into without fearing what they see. The people who validate my fears, cry through memories of boys I shouldn’t have liked, and still view me as a whole, capable woman through it all. The people who instill confidence in me, who build me up, who let me dare to be more than who I am today. Who told me I could be more in the first place.

And Jesus. Jesus. My shepherd who died to give me life I don’t appreciate, days I worry out of existence. Why do I think so small when I have a Father who made everything?

So today I choose. As one who chooses to lose weight from their body, I choose to lose weight from my mind and soul. It doesn’t happen all at once, but change begins with a choice. For me, it’s a pledge to gratitude. It’s a decision to fight the stress headaches and negative perception by Truth and new foundations. It’s a promise to have fun. To think of nothing sometimes. To dream again. A new way of living that I used to be good at, until I thought I had to play God in my life.

And that’s why I couldn’t publish that other post. It can’t be me anymore. I don’t need to tell you what’s wrong in this world, and I surely don’t have to tell myself.

But I do need a reminder of what is beautiful and worth my musings. I need to remember who God is in this world and who God is in mine.

And maybe you need that reminder, too.