How I lost and found myself

It’s been…. awhile… since I posted.

Sometimes that happens because life is too much to bear. It is confusing and painful and stressful and disappointing. Sometimes that happens because life is busy. But sometimes it happens because life has been too good. And I’m afraid to write the words because I think I might wake up from a dream.

It’s been a year since I moved back to Colorado. Again. This time choosing to come back to my home, my family, my community, my mountains. I knew I was coming to a familiar place, one where I was loved and known and seen. One where I was safe.

This past year has been full of the highest highs and lowest lows.

There were weddings, babies, new jobs, exciting blog moments, love letters, and long unanswered health concerns finally made clear.
But there was also death, loss, sorrow, heartbreak, and disappointment.

I wrestled through promises and hope and anger and confusion. I shook my fist and swore at God out of my utter desperation. I’ve been a mess. I’ve been re-learning who I am in Christ and that my beauty doesn’t define me. I’ve pushed people away, begged for them to stay, and uttered final farewells. It’s been… a roller coaster to say the least.

It all came to a breaking point in the middle of February. I had a day where I literally thought I cannot do this anymore. I can’t celebrate another friend. I can’t pick myself up from being kicked. I can’t love anyone else. I cannot do it. 

It was a dark few days. Filled with anger and tantrums and frustration and tears. I wept in the middle of the night on my floor. I cried out into my pillow as the emotional pain made my bones feel like they were breaking. I tried to fake the smiles and coffee dates and dinners. I tried to force myself to choose joy and be happy. But I found that choosing joy didn’t always mean being happy. One can be found without the other. I tried to understand how to worship Jesus in my anger and confusion. I looked to the Psalms for guidance but I also looked away. I must confess I threw my bible across the room more than once and wrote angry words in my journal. A mixture of tears and raw words littering the pages.

I didn’t want to be around myself much less let anyone else be around me.

I had stuffed sadness and disappointment and hurt for too long and not dealt with the things that happened to me. The wrongs committed. The words said. The promises broken. I dismissed them and moved on and ignored the pain pulsing in my heart. Until one day it exploded.

And thankfully I had booked a trip to get out of town to be near family and sunshine. My wonderful cousins took me in and let me sleep 12+ hours a night. They let me talk or be silent. They let me eat queso and drink wine. They loved my heart and soul. They took the load off my shoulders for a few days so I could catch my breath. They validated my hurt. They told me it sucked and they were sorry and they didn’t understand why it happened the way it did.

So when I got on the plane to come back to reality, my shoulders felt a little less tense, the exhaustion a little less consuming, and the anger not quite as present. I felt the fog lift a little from my shattered heart. I saw flashes of the girl I am in the mirror. The light coming back into my eyes. The dimples starting to come forth to erase the frown lines.

I had accepted that if I was walking forward, claiming promises in the two most precious parts of my heart, I needed to expect the attack. That I shouldn’t have been surprised this was happening but that I wasn’t about to let my heart be stolen or killed by anything that didn’t deserve it. I decided that battle wounds were worth the victory of the war and I could keep fighting. I had to keep fighting.

And in the middle of all of this something unexpected happened.

A man showed up in my life who I never could have expected. Someone who pursued me better than I had ever been pursued. Who thought my quirks were fun and charming. Who thought I was beautiful and funny. Who loved the Lord more than anything else in the world. Who challenged me spiritually and emotionally. Who didn’t run away when I got a little bit crazy and tried to push him away. Who saw my gluten-free, low carb, high protein diet as an adventure and not a burden. Who told me I wasn’t too much. Who didn’t want me to save him or complete him or make him whole but wanted me to make him better, sharper, kinder.

And I instantly became smitten.

We never know what the future holds and I don’t know what my future is with this man but I do know that regardless of how long he’s in my life, he was a respite for this season. He was something given to me to know the love of Jesus in a different way. A drink of water, a crack of sunlight, a deep breath. He has been all of those things to me. A little bit of strength to fight for Papa’s best in my life.

So it’s been a year. A crazy wild emotional year. I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually not the girl I was last March. And for all the hurt and sorrow and loss I wouldn’t change the beauty of the refinement I’m going through.

 

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Jonathan Charles Mueller

Almost twenty-three years ago, my mom brought home a blonde, blueish / greenish eyed baby for me to play with. I’m not sure why but we had nicknamed him “Blue Blue” from the start. I think maybe we thought his favorite color would be blue? Either way, the nickname didn’t last long. Because Mike was born barely a year after I was, I have no memories of him coming home or adjusting to life with a baby brother. But Jon? Jon I absolutely do. Even though I wasn’t quite 5, I remember feeling like a big sister to that tiny little boy. There are numerous pictures of me grinning ear to ear as I carefully cradle my baby brother.

Jon was a feisty little kid. He was loud. He liked to play games and tell stories. He always wanted to do whatever Mike and I were doing, much to our dismay. He loved sports and facts and most family dinners would consist of Jon telling our dad “Dad! Ask me about sports!” He would then know the answer the every obscure question my dad could throw at him.

He had this shock of white blonde hair and these beautiful eyes. Here he is at about two or three. There has never been doubt that we’re related. photo

He was full of so much life and fight and love. I don’t think any of us knew how much he would need those three things when he got older.

Because there are three of us kids, it’s always been a bit weird in division of siblings. Mike and I are really close in age and stage of life but Mike and Jon share similar interests. Jon was about 10 when we moved to Colorado and started in the public school system in elementary school. Different than both Mike and I had experienced. But Jon was likable and made friends wherever he went. He played all sorts of sports and we joked that he had real potential as a football player due to his barrel chest. He excelled at school, taking honors classes and starting his freshman year in a math class higher than the one I took when I graduated.

But things in our family got tough when Jon was a freshman. I was gone off to Nashville, starting my second year in college, Mike began his senior year in high school, one of the most popular and well liked kids, my dad was in the throes of keeping his company going, and my mom was helping care for her ailing father. Our grandpa took a devastating turn for the worse in the spring of 2006. After a successful surgery that made him well, he developed complications that left him in a coma without hope of recovery. It was earth-shattering for us, none more than our mom who was incredibly close to her father. So while these things were going on and my mom was back and forth to Arizona and Mike was getting ready for college and I was away, Jon got lost in the shuffle.

Right after our grandpa passed away, I was diagnosed with Celiac disease. Our dad had gone to Arizona and I was home with Mike and Jon. Jon and I got into a fight one night because I couldn’t drive him somewhere so he ended up just leaving. I found out later that night was a trigger for his attempted suicides. Jon was young, only 14, and we all assumed his mood swings were typical for a teenager. But slowly it became more evident they weren’t.

After a series of circumstances, we found out that Jon had tried to kill himself and he was lost in an epic battle of depression. My broken hurting family shattered that summer and fall. Jon stopped eating, his anxiety got out of control, he couldn’t be alone, he was paranoid. He was spiraling out of control and we had no idea how to help him. That year I saw my parents stand up against the monster that is mental illness and refuse to surrender. They fought long and hard and with every last ounce of strength and then some.

The fall of Jon’s sophomore year there was an incident that resulted in my parents withdrawing him from our public high school. An incident that made me so mad I was about to fly myself home and kick some serious ass. But my parents decided to homeschool Jon and give him a chance to catch his breath and get well. We saw some people in the community pull away from our family and spread ridiculous gossip, and we saw other people in the community rally in front of our wounded family and protect us, protect Jon.

Slowly but surely Jon got better. One year later, he returned to the very school that had shunned him. One year after that the very school created a spirit award and named him the first recipient of it. To this day he’s remembered long after Mike and I ever have been by that community.

But what I’m most proud of? The reason why I’m writing this post? It’s because of the heart transformation Jesus did in him and the influence that has had on hundreds of lives.

Jon started getting involved with Wyldlife — the middle school branch of an organization called Young Life that we’re all part of — and he started mentoring junior high kids. Yes, he actually CHOSE to spend time with middle schoolers. As he got better he started realizing the power his story has. A story of darkness, despair, desperation all being triumphed by light, hope, grace, love. And because he’s the bravest person I know, he started to tell his story. Little by little, one by one, students who felt like they had no other option than to end their life, heard Jon’s story and chose to fight like he has.

When he went off to college he continued to work with Wyldlife. Giving his summers, after-school time, probably some study time, and everything else he had to the community in Boise. He went on student staff while finishing his degree and felt a very strong calling on his life to continue to work with middle school students.

We went to Idaho for his college graduation in December. I met dozens of people who know and love Jon. Over and over I heard them speak of the impact he had on their kids, their lives, their family, their walk with Christ and I was blown away by the force my baby brother is for the Kingdom. When I saw Jon walk across to get his diploma, I started crying. I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and His faithfulness and how close we were to never having that moment. By God’s grace our family of 5 stayed a family of 5.

So, why am I posting all of this? Aside from the fact that I’ve always been insanely proud of BOTH my brothers, I decided to give Jon a little spotlight. When he graduated, he went to full time ministry with Young Life. This means he raises his own salary so he can hang out with and disciple middle school students. Like my little brother chooses to spend the majority of his week loving on the kids we all avoid. His area is doing a competition to get new donors and if they win they’ll get money for camp scholarships. Young Life spends the entire semester building up to camp so kids can have the best week of their life and meet Jesus while doing it. Donating to Jon is 100% tax deductible. If you’d like to donate to him, please shoot me an email Rachel.L.Mueller(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll give you instructions on how to give.

 

And to Jon, this letter is to let you know how much I respect, admire, and love you. You are the bravest person I know. You are giving, gracious, humble, funny, talented, wise beyond your years, intuitive, caring, strong, and capable. I am so lucky to call you friend and family. I am so lucky to be your big sister, even if you outweigh and outheight me. You inspire me to love Jesus more. You challenge me to love sacrificially. You make me laugh. You bring so much joy to those around you. I couldn’t be more proud of you. I love you Little!

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Stop Telling Me What I Deserve.

Last summer I wrote a gentle letter to my community trying to offer words that can describe the pain of being single while the rest of your community moves on without you.  I was honest and vulnerable about the reality of how hard single life can be. I’ve also written about how demeaning it is when married people go on about their spouse not being their soulmate. 

Today I need to address another aspect of singleness. Bloggers, books, conferences, and how-to’s.

I stumbled across a blog and book by a young married couple telling me that real men don’t text. After reading numerous posts and excerpts from the book I started getting really angry. Because you know what? Their conversation only contributed to the shame culture that already exists around being a single Christian past 25.

The most infuriating thing about all of this is that these young married couples (in general) are deciding they are the experts on dating, relationships, and how to find your spouse. Why? Because they somehow “got it right?” Because they ended their singleness early on? Because they did things the way God intends?

So they go on and on about how a real man will pick up the phone and call. That I deserve a man who has his future figured out to some extent. That he isn’t really interested if he isn’t being intentional. That I need to wait to be pursued. That I shouldn’t been too much or too little. That it’s okay or not okay to ask where things are going. On and on and on.

Here’s the honest truth:

I don’t mind being asked out on a date via text message. I feel no less valuable or worthy of pursuit or special if he asks me to go out the next day or two days later. It doesn’t mean I’m always available but it doesn’t bother me if he does that! I actually feel LESS anxious if a man asks me out via text or email or whatever than on the phone or in person. I don’t like to talk on the phone. The chances I’ll answer your call or listen to your voicemail are slim. So by all means, text away.

I understand that these books and bloggers and conferences and every other freaking resource for single people are seeing a trend in culture that trust me, as a single woman, I ABSOLUTELY know exists. I appreciate that you’re speaking up and saying there’s a problem. But you know what you’re actually doing? You’re telling me I deserve something that doesn’t currently exist and telling me to wait for it until it comes.

You’re telling me to wait for your version of a fairy-tale.

But then if I find a guy who does text to ask me out or doesn’t pursue me as well as everyone thinks that somehow I’m settling for less than what I deserve. If I was a man, I wouldn’t come near the type of entitled women you’re telling us to be. I know my worth and value lie in the Lord. If I truly believe those things, I’m NOT going to accept a man who makes me feel less than that by his words or actions.

But YOU don’t get to tell me what the standard should be.

You aren’t lying in an empty bed. You aren’t alone at your grandpa’s funeral. You aren’t sitting next to an empty chair at Christmas. You aren’t constantly ignoring the ache of being alone. You aren’t wondering if you’ll ever even get the chance to be in a place in your life if you can have kids… because kids typically require a spouse. You aren’t navigating tough decisions on your own. You aren’t and you probably haven’t had to… at least for very long.

I still am.
We still are.

So you know you CAN speak to me about singleness? SINGLE PEOPLE. Or married people who lived through those many years of loneliness wondering if and not when a spouse may come. The people who sit or sat through family gatherings year after year watching more cousins and siblings find a life partner. The people who wrestle with desperately crying out to the Lord not to be left alone in this journey but if they are that He would be nearest of all to them in their alone-ness.

Those are the people that can tell me what I do and don’t deserve.

Dear Future Husband: I’m a Runner.

The pounding of my feet on the pavement jarred loose the thoughts that seemed stuck in a hamster wheel. My aching legs screamed in protest while my ever constricting lungs loudly reminded me that I had gone too far. Still I pushed myself harder. My speed increasing with the crescendo of the music blasting through my headphones.

But just a little further. Just a little bit longer. Just until I forget.

The wind sliced through my feeble workout clothes. I felt the chill down to my bones. Tears formed in my eyes as the prickly air made it’s way behind my sunglasses. In spite of my effort, the weather tears were the only ones I could muster up.

Approaching the intersection, I looked right and left and right again as I made myself sprint across the road. I jumped onto the curb and saw the darkness crowd my vision.

Okay. Time to stop.

I bent over gasping for air.

My brother once accused me of being a runner. He told me that when things got hard or difficult or uncomfortable I left.

Its true. Sometimes I do it emotionally, but often I do it physically. I’d never liked running as a kid but at some point I found it sorted my thoughts out a little bit. On days like that day when everything hurt and nothing made sense, I find solace in getting lost in the bitter cold.

Unfortunately I hadn’t realize how far I’d run or how close the sun was to setting until I turned around to go home. I groaned as I turned the corner to start my long journey home. I really need to pay attention when I decide to get lost.

You fool. You silly silly fool. 

My inner monologue has always been the most cruel. It is something I’m working to change. Trying to be better and different. But right then it wasn’t working.

I picked up my pace once again, trying to focus my attention elsewhere.

Knowing that with every step I ran, my bleeding heart put one more brick up in the wall to keep it safe. I let the ugly words repeat in my brain with each pounding of the pavement. Until I heard His words.

beloved, is your heart safe with me? 

aw crap.

Papa, I know the right answer is yes. but right now my heart doesn’t FEEL safe with you. 

but beloved, is your heart safe with me? 

I rolled my eyes.

I started my internal protest. I made a case and presented my closing argument. Smugly I decided that just maybe I had won this time. That my hurt and sorrow and excuses and circumstances and reasons meant that my heart really wasn’t safe after all.

oh beloved, you took your heart away and gave it to circumstances. Of course you’re going to believe your heart isn’t safe. But, I ask you again, is your heart safe with me? 

And as I slowed my pace, allowing my tears to form in my eyes, I let the make-shift walls I’d started to build crumble around my bleeding heart.

yes, Papa, my heart is safe with you. 

You see Love, sometimes I need to run. I need to take the thoughts and frustrations and confusing moments and let them fall away onto the pavement. I don’t need you to chase me when I run this way. But other times I run because I’m afraid and hurt and anxious. I run to see if you’ll chase me. I know it isn’t fair for me to test you in this way but that’s why I’m telling you now.

More often then not, I run to see if I’m worth running after.

And I just wanted you to know.

So until then… i’ll be here.