The Lies We Believe

Sometimes, I feel like I am on the sidelines of my own life. I *want* to demonstrate radical love and kindness, but I don’t know the right words or if what I will say would be hurtful or clumsy or wrong. So I don’t say anything.

Or I read about Jesus and how he got there in the dirt with the woman at the well, and I want that. I want to meet her dirty face, her downward glances, her shame, and let her know “Me too.” I have trudged through enough of my own mud to know what it feels like to be dirty, to feel not worthy or not enough. But, I work out a reason to keep quiet or stay away, and I miss out. I miss a chance to show Jesus’ love. I miss a connection. And she misses out too, because of me, and my fear – of rejection, of not fitting in.

How do I get out of my own way?

A Heart’s Length Away

Remember when I said in my intro post I am guilty of hiding and of pushing people away? In times of struggle and heartache, I recede into myself. I make up reasons why I can’t spend time with people, hide behind being busy or pledge myself to commitments that keep me from connecting. I focus on the goal immediately in front of me, casting aside the relationships around me.

I have been especially blessed to have found myself in a community of people who are unflinchingly open. They share their deeply personal, painful struggles freely. Pain is acknowledged, laid bare. It is not covered in platitudes or bathed in cliches. They cast out their pain into a void, that is unfailingly caught, held and nurtured.

I have not yet had the courage to do so myself. I’ve cast out small needs – prayers for others, nuisances on my heart – but never the thorns that really tear at me. Those I carry myself, glorifying them, recasting my story in them. I pack and unpack the wounds, wondering why they never heal, never giving them the air and the light required to truly mend.

It is from this place I want to lay my broken heart bare. A few months back, when I got home from three months in North Carolina, my husband and I decided to start trying for a family. A few weeks after I got back, I was late. Having always had irregular cycles, I didn’t think much of it. I joked with him that we might have already been successful and took a pregnancy test for good measure. I put it on the counter and forgot about it and went about my morning. A few minutes later I picked it up, expecting it to say negative. It wasn’t! We were so excited. Too excited. We started dreaming of names, nursery colors, and how we would tell our families. A month later, I started bleeding at work. In a new job, a new office, I stole away outside for some privacy. I called my husband and the doctor’s office. They made an appointment that day, and I went to get tested to see what was happening. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me. The minute I got into the office I started crying and couldn’t stop. I let the tears just fall as I gave my insurance information, filled out my symptoms and waited for the doctor. He gave me some elementary information about pregnancy, as if I hadn’t been spending every free minute reading about it myself. Two days later, the office called with my blood results. I barely made it out the door of my office before breaking down.

Since then, we’ve grieved together and apart. I’ve told a few friends and family members. It was so raw the first few days. I had arranged a date with some old friends in anticipation of telling them the good news. Instead, I cried inside a Newk’s and a Charm City Run while my friend returned running shoes and the clerks looked at me confusedly. Now, I carry it with me. It comes up in ‘what could have beens’ at baby showers, or in the pain of a friend waiting for their baby, or in the quiet of the night when I wonder if that was my only chance.

I don’t know what’s going to happen – if we’ll be blessed with a baby anytime soon, or ever. Honestly, that’s the hardest part for me. I like to know, to be in control, and I am not here. I am gradually and sometimes begrudgingly learning to trust in His plan and His timing.

Natalie

Pacing Myself

While I hoped to maintain some margin after returning from my work trip in April, in practice I haven’t done a great job in doing so. Immediately upon returning, I started a new rotation and got accepted into a leadership program. As usual, I am putting tremendous pressure on myself to do well and that isn’t leaving a lot of time for other things.

Most of my spare time is then dedicated to a grad class. I am in my 9th course of a ten course MS program in Systems Engineering and ready. to. be. done. Overall, I enjoy the material and I know now’s the best time to knock it out. But I want some time to myself to pursue other interests. School is getting old. At least this current flavor is. I still find myself considering next steps once this degree is completed. While I enjoy my job, I’m not set on whether it’s what I want to do forever. That, coupled with a lifelong love of learning, will probably put me in another program in the future. For now, I’m ready to check the last box on this one and walk across the stage.

I still haven’t pulled the trigger on dropping some things from my life. I know what I need to do, but leaving behind a part of you can be so hard. I think a big part of it is how it’s shaped my identity, even though I don’t identify with it as much as I used to. It was a good experience for that season in my life, but that season has passed and I just don’t have the love for it I once did. Eventually I will find the courage to make it happen.

Natalie

On Rest

I’m still here. This unfulfilled promise to myself to write more has been weighing on me since I began this blog. There were things I still needed (and need) to sort through and I hadn’t yet found my voice. I’m getting there.

I wanted to share a conversation I had with my husband today that’s been weighing on me for a while. I have a near constant problem of taking on too much. In times of optimism and great energy, I load up my wagon with commitments that I find a few months later have become to heavy to bear. It’s a problem I’ve struggled with for years, my whole adult life and as a teenager as well. As a result, I’ve let down a lot of people along the way. And I’ve let myself down. When I try to carry more then I really can handle, I start to resent the things I once loved and was excited and happy to do. I let go of basic self-care, wonder why everyone else isn’t martyring themselves for the causes believe in and neglect the relationships I’ve come to cherish.

In more practical terms, I was removed from my ordinary life over the past three months while on a rotation for work. I went from Maryland to North Carolina to work in a new environment, get some hands on experience and learn some new skills. Ever the goal oriented planner, I loaded myself up with two graduate courses and hopes for the freedom to take on some new hobbies. In practice, the courses weren’t enough to keep me busy and the time I spent down there was in between offerings I may have enjoyed – like yoga or knitting. Without a lot of contacts or obligations to keep me busy, I had a lot of time to read, think and just be. It was just what I needed.

Coming back, I want to keep that space. There will be seasons, surely, where more is needed or expected. (One of which is just around the bend with the conclusion of my master’s degree program.) But as a rule, it’s not selfish or indulgent to allow oneself the freedom to enjoy personal pursuits – to not fill each hour with a commitment or duty. More than that, if I want to be a good friend, wife, daughter, etc, I need to be available to an extent to give when giving is needed.

So many times, I feel rushed, stressed and anxious running from one commitment to the next. I often left work as soon as possible to make it to mentoring or a fire department class or a grad class or what have you. Each evening was filled and there was no space to give to anyone else. I likened it to the idea of financial space that we learned as a part of Dave Ramsey’s FPU. If every dollar is obligated before we are paid, we have no space to give to what we feel our hearts called to give. Our time is no different. When we over obligate ourselves to every little thing, we end up only giving part of ourselves to it, disappointing ourselves and those around us, feeling drained and uninspired.

I hope to carry this space forward and that this entry will serve as a reminder that I don’t have to be doing to be of value. My husband and I are considering letting some things go that truthfully should have been released a while back. It’s been hard to come to that conclusion and pull the trigger. We will come to a decision in due time.

Natalie

 

Knock, Knock

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Hello Friends,

I was inspired to begin a blog after coming across a quote by C.S. Lewis in It’s Not What You Think by Jefferson Bethke. After hearing it (hearing because I “read” this book on Audible), I kept thinking and meditating on this quote. It came back to me while driving, at work, everywhere I seemed to be. At first my reaction (as in so many things) was that it applied to so many other people. It continued to follow me around, unshakeable and persistent, until I realized that the reason it stuck with me so closely was because it had become me.

These past few years I’ve experienced a lot – joys and accomplishments, failures and mistakes. In the name of focus, getting things done and feeling never quite “enough,” I’ve pushed away loved ones, relinquished growing friendships and built walls only the most persistent and connected could get through.

This quote and Bethke’s ensuing thoughts about it have pushed me to realize that simply doing isn’t enough. It’s not enough to do, to give, to serve and leave your heart out of it. And moving from one thing to another, never letting anyone get to know you, and all the ugliness, inconsistencies, faults, gifts, hurts, wrongs and rights that make you -you- is unsatisfying and not what life was meant to be.

In an effort to be present, for better or for worse – to open up and love – real, uninhibited, ugly-cry, heart-wrenching, rubber-meets-the-road open hearted love – here I am. I’m wrong, a lot. I’m inconsistent, flighty and non-commital. I make mistakes left and right and I’m afraid my thoughts here won’t be accepted. I judge. I hide. I like to leave early. And I know there’s something better.

I leave you with this thought provoking TED talk that my friend recently posted.

Here goes nothing,

Natalie