My Heart of Glass

It was the pink lined tables in the middle of the aisle, drawing my attention to the terrifying looking stuffed animals holding hearts with sappy sayings. I indulged my imagination in an alternative universe where it would be appropriate to walk over to the rows, swipe my arm down them and stomp all over the animals.

How come it makes me so angry to see Valentine’s Day things at the grocery story? I mused internally. Because it’s the GROCERY STORE. My more passionate side yelled back.

I already get overwhelmed at the grocery — the people, the sensory overload, the decisions. So now, my senses are assaulted with the pink and the red and the hearts and the things. I’d liken it to probably what a woman who longs to be a mother but for one reason or another is unable to feels on Mother’s Day. Or maybe when you’ve lost your father and everything “Dad” starts popping up in June. My anxiety levels are at an all time high this time of year. Even when there has been someone special in my life, I’ve hated it.

Because love is the great war of my life.

The battle between my head and my heart. The tension between rational and wild. The never ending go round between what I know and what I feel.

I’m in the war of my life
At the door of my life
Out of time and there’s nowhere to run

One of the things I learned in one of my classes this semester is one developmental theorist would say we are hardwired to create intimate relationships between ages 20 – 40. It literally can cause us physical pain not to meet this developmental milestone. So we create an app for this and a website for that. Desperately searching for the chance of connection in some way. To be known and seen and loved in spite of and because of. Love is the great war of our lives.

Yet to risk for love comes with the risk for rejection. And the risk of rejection might actually reveal we are the frauds we’re all afraid we are that we’re frantically covering with Instagram posts and Snapchat filters and Twitter hashtags. But I’ve been reminding myself when another is chosen it says nothing about my value.

Do I sound like a broken record yet?

Because I can’t seem to grasp this truth.

When someone else is chosen, for love or a job or a friendship or a spot, it says nothing about the inherent value of who I am.

But I, I take the collection of moments. The time he didn’t call for a second date, the girl who could be my twin if I lost 100lbs and was photoshopped just a bit, the candidate who cultivated a specific skill set I never got the hang of, the girls who go on get-aways together, or the woman he married after we dated. The collection of these add up to an answer of my worth. Like taking apples + french fries + puppies + the ocean = purple. Now I’ve never been good at math but even I know there is faulty thinking in that equation.

My head can rationalize. My head will tell me green apples must be added to red apples to get an actual amount of apples. My head will walk through the logic that these circumstances say nothing about who I am. It will say the truth and it will rationalize the story and it will compare and contrast and analyze until there is nothing left to examine. It will keep me from losing my mind and doing something crazy.

My heart will run wild. It will run down the road to when I’m 80 years old. It will say “never” and “always” and “forever.” My heart will stay dramatic and unpredictable and free. My heart will compare and contrast and find all the ways I lack. My heart will plead and beg and try to manipulate my head into the crazy.

I’ve got a hammer
And a heart of glass
I got to know right now
Which walls to smash

The war of my life becomes negotiating the thoughts and the feelings. I must decide every day my worth does not change if someone, anyone, chooses me that day. Because, the choice of someone else over me is rejection. Just like an atom is rejected by a space already being occupied by another atom. But rejection does not equal who we are. Rejection is not the sum of our equation. Rejection is not the last chapter in our novel.

I’m in the war of my life
I’m at the core of my life
Got no choice but to fight ’til it’s done 

And every damn day we must choose the narrative rejection does not tell us who we are.

Choose on, dear friend, choose on tender heart, choose on warrior.

Got no choice but to fight ’til it’s done
So fight on  (I won’t give up)
Fight on

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Cheers to the Words Not Said

Oh hey, it’s me.

From the other side of semester one.

I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet the past few months. So so quiet. I’ve used all my words between talking on the phone for work and writing for school.

I wrote roughly 18,000 words (not including forums, self-evals, taking notes) over the course of the last 3 months. My posts on this site are normally 750 – 1000 words. So… it was alot of words.

I read even more.

But I’m done. Now I wait. To see if I passed the semester. Like I said, I often feel like the dumbest kid in my classes.

I learned alot this semester. About academics, about theories, about development, about time management, about stress, about remaining silent when I do not know the answers.

But I learned about myself too.

I learned I am far more capable than I give myself credit for. I learned I am intelligent. I learned I am curious. I learned I will always try to show up. I learned I do not know how to study well. I learned I am still a procrastinator. I learned I know much more than I thought. I learned I know far less than I imagined.

Mostly though, I learned to love in a new way. I learned to observe the world around me and see what it needs. I learned to find the places my heart can meet those needs and love recklessly. I learned there is freedom in not trying to do it all. I learned I will not meet every need and there is no shame in that.

I learned to look through facades and tight smiles to see beauty and truth. I learned not to second guess myself. I learned the “me too!” moments come from unexpected places. I learned Jesus answers prayers in unexpected ways. I learned I can say no. I learned I can say yes. I learned I can say I don’t know.

I learned love comes and goes in the blink of an eye. I learned situations are complicated. I learned hearts are broken. I learned grace must be extended over and over.

I learned battles I thought long-won still rear their ugly head. I learned I am not as far along on this journey as I once thought, nor am I as far behind as I feared. I learned how to fail. I learned how to win. I learned kindness and compassion from the people in my life. I learned people who want to be in your life will be in your life. That actions will always speak louder than words.

I learned to be gentle. I learned to be soft. I learned to cry with and for. I learned how to take the pieces of the past and set them down. I learned to breathe in the summer air knowing winter would come. I learned to delight in snow lighting up the grass like diamonds. I learned to be still. I learned to be content. I learned to be joyful. I learned to be happy. I learned it’s okay to believe the best about someone and watch them follow through.

I learned I am far more of an introvert than I’ve ever let myself believe. I learned new names. I learned new faces. I learned the outlines of crinkles when people smile. I learned laughters and looks. I learned stories and songs. I learned “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.” I learned patience and pause.

I learned alot this semester. Not just in my head but in my heart. It was all the beautiful and all the ugly. It was glorious and painful and everything in between. I rejoice for the new things in my life, the new people, the new loves, the new experiences, yet I grieve for the people who did not move with me, for the life I had a year ago, for the girl I was, for the community around me. It’s always this tension — looking ahead and loving back.

But it’s exactly where I am supposed to be.

So for that, I could not be any more in love with this life. And for as many words as I said and wrote, there are thousands more still tucked away, waiting for their time and place and moment.

Cheers to the words we have yet to say.

Trading Darkness for the Dawn

The past 13 days have been been some of the heaviest I’ve carried.

Six weeks ago I started having ear pain. Long story short my primary care was concerned enough she wanted to refer me to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Two weeks ago Wednesday I was gently cleaning my ear and found blood. I immediately called the doctor and they asked me to come in that day.

When my doctor was conducting his exam he found a lump in my lymph node. There’s a fairly extensive history of lymphoma in my family so there was quite a bit concern. He ordered a CT as soon as I could get in. I walked out of his office and started weeping. This new life, my new adventures, my hope of a fresh start felt stolen. It took about 10 days for the CT to get scheduled. And every day I carried the weight of the what if’s. 

Last Friday I went to the imaging center. I have terrible veins so the thought of getting an IV was already causing me anxiety. After the third attempt at an IV I really started to panic. On the 5th? attempt they hit a ligament and I cried out in pain. Once the tears started I couldn’t stop them.

It took three hours and literally 10 attempts but the nurse finally found a vein that would hold. At one point she told me she may have to send me out to the hospital to have them find the IV. The thought of not having the test done that day and having to wait even longer was excruciating. By this point I was resolved to the fact that I probably had lymphoma. I processed through what it would look like to support myself through it. If I’d be able to keep up with school work. What it would be like to lose my hair. I truly had prepared myself for the worst.

I vacillated all weekend between peace and despair. Knowing at some point in the next week I would probably have a conversation that could change the entire course of my life. The tech told me I’d probably have some sort of answer early this week. All day I anxiously awaited a phone call. Knots in my stomach. Remembering that I would be okay regardless.

I finally caved and called the doctor’s office. The receptionist told me she was unable to give me any information and I’d need the doctor to call me back. My heart sank. Usually a conversation with the doctor is not good. I sat on pins and needles for an hour and a half before I saw my phone light up.

I answered breathless with sweaty palms.

“Hi Rachel. I heard you were wanting to the know the results of your CT. It looks like everything is normal. It’s great news. The doctor looked at everything and it is normal, normal, normal.” I nearly wept with relief. There was no infection in my blood but even better there was NO CANCER.

I hung up the phone and released the breath I had been holding for 12 days.

I don’t think we feel the weight of the things we carry until we set them down. 

I knew I was hanging together by a thread and a prayer. I was unsettled and on edge. I walked on eggshells in my own life, waiting on this news before I let myself hope or dream. I just needed to know this outcome before I could process anything else.

I took a deep deep breath and let my shoulders relax. I called my family, I texted those closest to me, I hugged my co-workers who have been in the moment by moment trenches with me. I rejoiced at the goodness of the Lord through His mercy of being cancer-free. All the while knowing His goodness would not have been any less good if there had been a different outcome. And I truly had become settled in that.

So what is going on? It’s still the million dollar question. I’ve still got swelling in my lymph node and pain. But I see the doctor in a week and we’ll talk through more ideas. But for now I know there is nothing concerning looming.

I’ve had alot of time to process and reflect the past 12 days. I’ve thought about who I am and what I bring to this world. I’ve thought about the people in my life, both good and bad. I’ve thought about my hesitancy to try things or my insecurities at being seen. I’ve thought about it all. And I’ve truly realized how our lives can change in an instant. One moment we think we have an ear infection and the next we’re waiting to find out if we have cancer.

So life is precious. And fleeting. And wonderful. And messy. And it isn’t worth holding the heavy things that don’t need to be held. Because there will be enough heavy things we carry for ourselves and each other. If you see me around and I’ve dyed my hair or gotten a tattoo, it’s only because we’ve got one shot to do all the things and love all the people.

Hug your people tight today, dear ones. Make that phone call, send that text, write that email. All we’ve got is today. And it’s time to start living fearless and without regrets.

The Time I Broke Down in Front of My Professor

YOU GUYS!

My birthday… was unreal. Seriously.

I had all these fears about turning 30 in a new city and it was probably my favorite birthday to date. Thank you for the way you love. For someone who loves words, I’m at a loss.

Now that is out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

Can I tell you that I am loving school? It is the hardest thing I have ever tackled academically and I am in love with it. I left my first week of classes, called my mom and told her this is exactly what I was created to do. I have never felt that before, such a profound connection to a calling. Denver Seminary has been amazing. Challenging, but amazing. I feel like if I’m not in class I’m doing homework for class. I’ve been able to keep up okay but I’m definitely applying myself in ways I never have before. I’m currently taking two classes. With fascinating classmates and even more fascinating professors.

Y’all, trying to start learning again after almost 10 years away is tough. Also, APA, what the…? I’m issuing a formal complaint against my first 16 years of education for telling me “nah girl, you good” when it came to MLA vs APA. Suck it, Cheyenne Mountain High School and Belmont.  

I’ve cried twice in my Thursday night class. Twice out of the 4? times I’ve had class. This past week I had to excuse myself. Like stand up, walk out the door, walk to the bathroom, and ugly cry. Because my professor gave us a simple prompt:

Who do you want to be when you’re 80?

The question was simple, the only directive not to include the “things” we wanted to accomplish, not an obituary, but a question.

Who do you want to be when you’re 80?

The tears came instantly.

Because for as long as I can remember, this answer has always been a wife and mother. Yet as my story unfolds, I find those things may not be the answer Jesus has for me. And I’ve learned to grieve through it while also holding on to hope and searching for who I want to be.

Through a haze of tears, here’s what I came up with:

I want to be a woman of love, of deep character. Someone who makes others feel safe and known. I want to be someone who has laughed at herself and enjoyed the nuances of life. I want to be a woman who found meaning in the way her story unfolded – that she is able to say “Look what the Lord has done! I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” I want to be a woman who creates family around her table — whether that is biological or not. Who always has open arms and an open heart. I want to be a woman who has never been afraid to try, who said yes more often than no. I want to be a woman with more laugh lines than frown lines, who appreciates the value of all humans. I want to be a woman who loves others more than herself. I want to be a woman who was known for her kindness to everyone she encountered. I want to be a woman who is humble and ever learning, who makes other feels at home. I want to be a woman who leaves a legacy with her words and her actions. I want to be a woman who has kept heaven as the lens of her gaze.

These words poured out of me. With all the hope and grief and desire I’ve encountered.

On my very best day I see glimpses of this woman. But most of the time she’s far from sight. I’ve not loved others well or more than myself. I’ve not been known for kindness or valued all humans. And Lord willing, I’ve got another 50 years to work on these things.

So as I finish writing this the emotion is pouring out and I cannot sort it out guys. At all. Like the snot, and the tears, and the mascara, and the choked down sobs. My professor catches my gaze and I make the ugly cry face. I excuse myself, walk to the bathroom, sob all the things, splash my face, and return to class to power through the last 20 minutes.

My professor sees me come back and gently approaches me while my classmates are discussing their non emotional breakdown answers.

“How ya doing? What’s going on?” she smiled at me, knowingly.

“I’m okay. I’m so sorry, I have no idea where that came from…” I offered apologetically while trying not to breakdown AGAIN. Sometime in the midst of her wise questions, my 30th birthday, and singleness, and shame, and ALL OF IT comes pouring out. I just dumped everything on my poor professor. So you know what her response was? To offer me time to come sit down in her office and process. She told me to email her about her friend’s blog and a sermon she did on singleness.

I watched that sermon tonight and never have I heard the language of the struggle of singleness spoken as eloquently as she did. I am floored I have the privilege of learning under her. Single friends, this. Married friends, this. Because you all have watched the wrestle of learning to hope IN Jesus and not IN marriage. Of grieving and hoping. Of longing for a companion. You’ve had a front row seat. But this woman gets it. And can share it without my tears and my fuzzy thoughts.

I don’t have much else to say, because I really want you to watch this sermon. Really. It’s so good.

But here’s what I will say — crying in class is not always a bad thing.