How to Find Neutral Ground

I woke up in the middle of the night with fire burning my throat. I tried to swallow and felt the old ache of infection making it unbearable. Hours later when I finally crawled out of bed, I just knew.

So I dragged myself to the doctor and after a negative strep test, he figured out I had a double ear infection, sinus infection, and throat infection. One probably caused the other with my throat being the last casualty to the crud ravaging my body.

But you know what? I wasn’t entirely surprised by this. I was actually surprised I didn’t go down sooner. My body reacts to intense amounts of stress by shutting down and you could say this summer has been full of it. Since the break-up I haven’t wanted to be alone much. The silence magnifies the emptiness and my head plays tricks on me. To keep myself from being alone I’ve found ways to fill every evening and every weekend and lots of tiny spaces in between.

Last week I felt my heart wrapping this whole experience up in a little bubble. It was trying to find this ground between love and hate. A neutral territory if you will. It hasn’t known how to do that or where to look. And I must admit that I’m not good at neutral territory. Love and hate and anger and sadness and raw emotion are things I can put words to. I can identify them and process them. But neutrality? Neutrality feels like a betrayal of the past 7 months. Like saying it didn’t matter.

I’ve had alot of time the past 48 hours to be alone. In fact, that’s all I’ve been. Alone. And it was much less scary than I thought it would be. Memories would surface and I wouldn’t block them out with noise or coffee dates or happy hour or dinner or hiking or runs or anything else that might distract me. I let them breathe. I let them come to the surface and exist and then like bubbles in the air, I let them pop.

But here’s where I’ve still been struggling.

As a Believer, I don’t get to hold a grudge. I don’t get to be angry and upset and wounded forever. I don’t get to become a victim or make someone a villain. I don’t get those things because those things are left at the Cross. And if I hang on to those things I tell the Cross it wasn’t enough.

So I know I must forgive, and forgiveness has come only through Strength not my own, but what about the rest of the pieces? What about the memories and the moments and the jokes and the stolen glances and the hopes and dreams? Where do those fit in this messy story I am part of?

The truth is —  breaking up is hard.

There’s another person out there who is the only other person who shared life with me. He’s the only one who was with me when we got stranded in a parking garage or let me vent on the phone about my terrible day. He’s the one who danced with me in the kitchen after refusing to let me throw myself the pity party of the year. He’s the one who stroked my hair as we watched fireworks light up the sky and the one who made me laugh with his stories of growing up antics.

He’s that person.

But he’s also the person who shattered my heart and left the pieces on my bedroom floor as he walked out of my life. He’s the one who caused unspeakable pain and enormous amounts of tears. He’s this person who came into my life and painted it different colors only to decide he wasn’t a fan of painting anymore.

So I swing back and forth between love and hate. I’ve been desperately trying to find the place in the middle. The place where he is someone who left an impact and made me happy. The place where I can maybe tell a funny story about him or us without the fear of longing creeping back into my spirit. The place where I can untangle myself from the life I wrapped around my heart.

The place where I breathe and laugh and smile and hope.

That’s the place I’m trying to find.

I’m no good at breaking-up. I hope I never become good at it. But what I do hope I become good at is looking back through a filter of grace. I hope I become good at choosing to see the moments I needed and the way Papa changed my life and the woman I am today because of it all.

So a double ear infection, sinus infection, and throat infection made me finally face my fears. They made me learn to be alone with my thoughts and my memories and they forced me to find neutral ground. They forced me to brush off the dirt, stand back up, and start over again.

They forced me to look forward with hope and vulnerability and love.

And maybe that’s why my body needed to shut down, so my heart had the capacity to let go. And letting go feels really really good. Even if my throat aches and my ears throb and my nose is stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. I feel more like myself again. I feel like the better version of who I am and who I was made to be.

 

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The Red Dress That Made Me Believe in Love

It was the very last day in February and it was warm. Unusually warm.

During my lunch I ran up to the outdoor mall to scope out a rumor I’d heard about a shirt on sale at a store I rarely shopped in. Sure enough, the shirt was exactly what I wanted, half off the sale price making it affordable. Hoping to keep my shopping luck alive I scanned some dresses.

And then I saw it. A red dress. About 1/4th of the original price. I picked it up and glanced at the size. A size 6. Way smaller than anything I had put on my body since approximately the 5th grade. But I stared at it and thought, what the heck.

I stood in the dressing room, with the dress zipped and twirled around.

It fit.

To be sure my eyes weren’t deceiving me, I took a picture to text to my friends, giggling the entire time. My jeans wrapped around my ankles, pale winter legs, a large pink bandage from my day before skin surgery, and messy hair thrown into a ponytail all put inside a tiny red dress.

its a 6 i texted  and $20. 

The responses I got were crazy jealous and encouraging. So I bought the dress.

I stepped outside the store and headed back to the car. I remember the feeling of the sunshine on my face so vividly its like I could be there now. I remember the moment because that was the day after I had met him. I remember hoping for future nights of dancing and date nights and conversations and laughter and dreams when I was wearing that little red dress. I remember hoping for love.

I kept that dress in my closet for months waiting for the right occasion to bring it out. I never found the perfect night to wear it. So it stayed on the hanger, tucked in between practical and glamorous. Waiting to be worn but never screaming at me to choose it.

The other day my eyes wandered to that dress. I pulled it out and scrutinized from top to bottom. Wondering what to do. Usually in the morning I’m rushing and grabbing and pulling and hopping on one leg and searching for a missing shoe so I pay little attention to what is in my closet. But because I had never worn it, I didn’t have any real memories to tie it to. It was a dress I put hopes and dreams into but in the end the reality turned out very different. But that dress never entered reality.

The tags still hanging off the side, I pulled it back over my frame, this time without the bandage or jeans around my ankles but still with a messy ponytail. I walked into the hallway to assess if it was worth keeping and in the background I heard a love song come on my iTunes.

Typically this would result in a frantic rush to change the song and blast angry Taylor Swift lyrics but this time I let it play out listening to the words with different ears. Ears that had heard whispers of love and whispers of heartbreak. I heard the ache and the longing. I heard the risk and the fear. I heard that love was worth it.

After a bit, I slowly unzipped the dress, hung it up in my closet, and climbed back into my familiar clothes. The clothes that have carried me through the last 7 months. The clothes that have soaked up tears and echoed with laughter. The clothes that have felt the distance of loneliness and the warmth of being held. The clothes that have made the long journey with me.

But something in me shifted when I put that dress back on.

I started to listen to love songs again.

I started to hope for dancing and laughter and dates and dreams.

I started to believe in love again.

All because I put on a red dress.

Why Getting Dumped Made Me Climb Mountains

Moving forward has felt, at times, unbearable.

There have been days and nights I’ve curled up in bed and cried out for the life I had planned and dreamed of and hoped for. I lay with my head on the pillow as the tears course down my face matting my hair into tangles. I replay the good moments, the bad moments, the in-between moments looking for clues and answers and maybe a chance to re-do. I beg my heart to tell me he loved me, that this wasn’t all for nothing.

But then morning comes. I stare at my reflection in the mirror finding traces of the girl I was and the woman I’ve become. I wipe away the sorrow and take a deep breath. These moments where I’m afraid I can’t breathe become less and less with each passing day. They still exist and they might for awhile, but it doesn’t make me afraid. It doesn’t make me want the life I had. It only makes me know that my heart is mending and healing and it works. It longs to love again. It doesn’t want him, it wants what it was able to do when I was with him, what it was created to do — to love.

At first I couldn’t imagine getting through days and nights without him. It felt impossible, insurmountable, inconceivable. Like climbing a mountain. A mountain I had failed to climb before and no desire to try. But the beauty of time is that it gives you clarity. The days become a little less fuzzy and the pain slightly less all-consuming. You laugh again and make plans again. You turn a face of hope towards the rising sun instead of wishing for the night.

And then one day you wake up and find you’ve climbed the mountain.  The one that seemed so daunting and unattainable. You don’t know it but every time you laughed and dreamed and hoped and planned, you took a step up the mountain. If you had looked down at how far you could fall or how high you had yet to climb it would have deterred you, made you turn around and give up. But by Papa’s goodness, He kept your eyes fixed on the trail, looking for little markers to keep you certain of your path. Reminding you that yes, this is terrible and you can’t breath and sometimes it takes awhile to find the next marker but inevitably you see it and climb towards it.

So when I woke up and realized I had climbed the mountain I knew it was time to take on a few more mountains. This time I was choosing to climb them. And this time I was climbing them for me. Because I needed to be strong. Because that’s what you are when you stand at the top of a mountain with your legs burning and your face chapped by the wind and your lungs gasping for air. You. are. strong.

Right after my first summit.

Right after my first summit.

Last week I decided I needed to climb 10 mountains before the end of the year. I decided to share the mountains with you all because you helped me climb the first one. You might have to help me climb these ones but I’m willing to let you. I’m hoping you’ll let me help you climb mountains too.

Here they are:

10) This one is sort of a secret because you might be the recipient. But let’s just say it involves me learning not to be selfish with things the Lord has given me.

9) Run a 5k or a 10k. (Tentatively planned for Thanksgiving Day. Want to join? Let me know!)

8) Cook at home four times a week.

7) Set up an account for voiceover websites. Many of you know I do voiceover work for churches and nonprofits. I’ve had several people tell me I need to put together a demo reel and put it up online. So I’ve decided to do it. Eek.

6) Blog more consistently. I know I know. I make this promise often. And I’ll keep making it until I don’t have to make it anymore.

5) Date. I don’t know if that means a new relationship or just going on dates, but I can’t let myself be afraid of love. Because Love is Worth It. So, know any nice men that want to go on a date? ;)

4) Finish my book proposal.

3) Get back on the Low Carb train. If you need more info on why I do that, read this.

2) Discipline my finances. I won’t go into much detail on this but my goal in the year is to have a certain amount in savings and a certain amount paid towards debt.

1) Summit a fourteener. You may recall I attempted one last year and tore my knee in the process. This year, with a little help from a knee brace and three friends, I climbed a mountain and let my feet dangle off the edge of the world. If you want to read more about our adventure check out my friend Jackie’s blog. We’ve known each other since FIRST grade! Whoa right?

See that arrow? That is where the car is parked. Where we started and ended.

See that arrow? That is where the car is parked. Where we started and ended.

These are the mountains Papa has set before me. Mountains I need to climb. I thought I would climb some of those mountains with him but on Saturday Papa showed me I needed to climb them on my own. Because I am strong. He has made me strong.

If you’re interested in climbing mountains with me until the end of the year use the hashtag #climbingmountains on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’ll be blogging, picture-ing, and tweeting when I climb mountains and I would love to be part of yours.

 

So what do you say? Want to Climb Mountains with me?

Dear Future Husband: I Got it all Wrong

Hi love,

I’m sorry I’ve been quiet for a few months. To be honest, this is a hard letter to write. It feels vulnerable and scary and reckless. I stopped writing to you because I thought I had found you. I thought I knew your name and face and story. I didn’t want to write to you when I thought I knew all these things. It felt awkward and presumptuous. Because I thought our story had finally begun, I wanted to tell you the things I was thinking instead of writing them.

But my love, I got it all wrong.

I know we will each get it wrong so many times before we get it right. The one time it needs to be right, we’ll get it right. But getting it wrong can hurt so badly.

I made memories with this man. We left our footprints all over the city and pieces of our hearts in secret places. I started to memorize the way his hand felt in mine. I knew his favorite color and the songs that made his face light up. He told me his hopes and fears. I let him break down my walls.

I thought he was you.

I wanted him to be you.

I treated him like he was you.

But you know what I am grateful for? I got it wrong with him and not you.

I was so afraid to lose him, lose the love I desired for so long, that I think I tried to fit an oval shape in a round hole. It wasn’t quite different enough to be frustrating, but it was just different enough to not fit. I didn’t see it at the time. I didn’t know he was an oval when I needed a circle. I thought the disconnect and arguments, slightly parallel but ultimately perpendicular paths, and off-handed comments were all part of choosing to love. I thought they were the hard parts you have to work through to get to the best parts.  And maybe they could have been. Maybe in a different world he was you. But in this world he chose not to be.

So love, I have to confess that I let my priorities get out of order. I let myself begin to chase him more than Papa. I let myself put my hopes and dreams in his hand, only to reveal the fullness of my idolatry when things began to end. I wanted Papa’s best for him to be what Papa’s best for me is. I wanted our dreams and desires to be the same.

I was not always the woman I hope to be.

I won’t own what is his to own but I will own what is mine.

But here’s the hope in all of this. I saw it first hand a few days ago when I watched two beloved friends commit their lives together in front of their family and community. I heard their vows to Papa and each other. I heard them say they will always put Him first and each other second. Tears rolled down my face at the holiness of this moment. Tears rolled down my face in longing for the things I hoped this other relationship had for me. Tears rolled down my face for the hope He gave me that you will one day make a similar promise. To love Papa first and us second.

I wish I didn’t have any wrongs, and I wish you didn’t either but I am not sorry for the process sharpening me into the woman you deserve.

The thing I am certain of in all of this though, is how beautiful Papa’s redemption of our stories will be. Sure, we’ll both have a suitcase or two of the past. You’ll have names and I will too. But I believe Papa will take those names and give us new names. Give us the names of each other. The last names we’ll ever have to know. The old will be gone and the new will come.

My love, I got it all wrong…. with the wrong one. But with you, I will get it right. By His grace, we’ll both get it right.

until then, I’ll be here.