I’ve read a lot of words discussing God’s silence in our lives. I’ve sat in the darkness and wondered over why He wouldn’t answer me, why He isn’t present or visible in any number of seasons. I’ll be honest, I’ve felt the accute loss of not hearing His voice. I’ve asked a lot of questions of God over the years and I have cried out my “why God??” moments in the darkness.
A number of years ago I was given a reminder, that in all pieces of music there are moments of rest. I like this because it is an easy visual for me. When I am not hearing God’s voice clearly I likely need a rest, not from Him, but from my worry or my hurt or my frustration. I need some time from focusing on my struggle. When I realize that God is not close now, I no longer wonder where is He? Rather, what it is that I’ve given more importance to than Him.
Have you heard the story about how men go up to the mountaintop to commune with their Heavenly Father, but He comes to women right where they are, at the well, in their daily lives? It’s circulated through my social media a few times and has served as a good reminder to me that God enters into life with me daily (not that he doesn’t do this for men, I just enjoy the relational aspect of this story) I don’t have to go searching for Him because He is right here.
When I think about God being right here it is easier for me to understand His sometimes-silence. It’s loud here! There is so much screaming for my attention. Chores, meals, children, sweet husband, my own wants, and the never ending to-do list. How can I expect God to squeeze in there with kind reminders or gentle redirecting or valuable teaching? And so because my focus is on all of the things and not Him, He is quiet. His silence is what reminds me to refocus and it is the lack of God’s voice that reminds me to rest so that I may hear Him again.
Rest has been a continuous concept over the past couple of weeks. People keep bringing it up to me as if I don’t know that my body is tired, my soul is worn thin, my spirit deflated. I do, okay? I know. I know that carrying what I have been for these past months has taken it’s toll on my body and my mind. That the weight of it has allowed the anxiety to gain a foothold in my heart, a place I’d felt I had successfully banished it from for good. Believe me, I know.
I know and so I sit in the quiet of the early morning and count off thanks in my journal. I read and reread my Bible, searching to hear what God wants for me and from me. I know and so at the end of the day I crawl into my bed and sob. I let the tears come, cleansing the ache of loss and terror of anxiety away…for a time. I know and so I apologize to my children when I am impatient, I beg grace from my sweet husband when I just can not even do one more task, I message a friend telling them of my frustrations or sadness or fear. I know and so I do.
Do you see that? I didn’t get that before this morning. I know I need to rest, to be present in the stillness of God but instead I do all of these things. Even my prayer time is spent calling out to Him, asking Him for something, begging for Him to give… I had forgotten. Forgotten that being still in His presence means actually waiting on Him. Without an agenda. Trusting His will to be good, whatever it is, and in whatever time it should come. Being open to hear His word in my heart requires me to let Him silence the world around me.
I have to be willing to stop doing.
A reset then. We’re nearing the end of the Lenten season, entering into Holy week. The Passover Lamb has been slain and we wait. There are three full days and three full nights of silence while Christ descended into hell for me, for you. This is the ultimate reminder. Sometimes God is silent because He is doing the hard thing, the impossible thing. Though I can not see what that work is yet, though I can not hear His voice right now, though I may not feel His presence in this moment, He is at work, saving me over and over again in that one moment from my sin and my ignorance. I will not doubt that He has me in mind, even when I can’t hear His voice, and this brings something I have been lacking, an unusual peace enters into an overwhelmed heart.
I need not do anything. He has done it all. The battles I fight are meaningless, He has won the day. The doing, the striving, the fear and the worry and the ache can all be laid down. It is finished.
The tears are flowing early this morning. Knowing what was given so that I could be a momma and a wife and a good friend…what was given so that I could simply be loved and held, it overwhelms the stillness of my heart and startles me with its message. It asks one thing only.
Last I mentioned, things were hard out here. I was so sure that this move was the right thing for our family and that God would use it to help ease a few of the struggles we were having as a family. In a way I was right, He has had His hand in this placement, I so easily forget that God bringing about what is good is not always smooth or easy or pleasant for me. Often these changes are hard. That’s where we’re at now; in the clearing of what was less than God had for us. It is a damned hard place to be.
I need to focus on the good for as long as I can this morning. See, the overwhelm of the hard is spiking my anxiety, causing days of tears and nights filled with well, not sleep. The good though, it’s here. I’m going to spend a moment listing it out, in the hope that it will get me through this day. And, maybe, you’ll see your own good even in the hard because you spent a minute with me. Hear me when I say that the good does not outweigh the hard. If you’re in a season of difficulty I will not minimize that for you. Some of life pushes us to the brink of our sanity or tolerance or ability, this is why we need each other, this is why we are better together. If you’re in that season…I hope you feel my presence right along side you, you are not alone.
A little of my good, or what’s getting me through:
There has been much more outside time. Days spent in late winter sunshine have helped a tiny to sleep, which allows me to sleep better. The wider outdoors have allowed me to have genuine joy in simply being. Wandering the woods and setting up a garden have opened my eyes again to the small, the often unseen. The children will, occasionally, disappear into the trees. This is all I’ve ever wanted for them – to be out for hours at a time, no agenda, no plan, no oversight – I think, that if I’m quiet about it, they will do this more and more often as the daylight lengthens. There are things I want for the outside, trees and seeds, tools and equipment. Having this space has allowed me to ask for these things and has allowed others to provide them to me, this is something I have not been great at; always a happy helper, not a great receiver of help. This is growth in me and I recognize it and am grateful. There is more, much more, that I could credit to the sunshine and dirt on my knees, but I’ll hold it close for now.
There has been more togetherness. We cut our inside space by quite a bit with this move. I can’t recall what the square footage loss was from our last home to here, but it is significant and deliberate. We do most our indoor life together, the children are close at hand at all times. While sometimes this can add stress, I remind myself frequently how much I wanted us to grow closer as a family. Without indoor rooms to escape to we deliberately provide actual space for each other when it is needed. We have had to work through some hard things, because we could not escape them by walking away. This has been a good lesson for us all, though a tough one. I yell less, because we are all right here, there is no need for shouting. I see the relationships between my children deepening and my heart cries out with joy and a simple prayer that this would last.
Laughter. This one has been tempered with a lot of tears on my part. For reasons known only to God I have needed to cry a lot over the last few months, but I have also laughed. One of my sweet husband’s best traits is his ability to make me laugh. He truly knows just what to say to start me giggling. My children have latched on to this and they become more silly, more sarcastic, more humorous seemingly by the day. They all bring me so much laughter, so many smiles and add a lightness to our days that I don’t know how to be adequately grateful for. The children also laugh together sharing inside jokes and stories with one another. I love this to no end.
Responsibility. This one I look to my children and see clearly. I have allowed them to step into more mature roles with this new house. They have a different accountability than they did before, and while the differences are small right now, I see them stepping up and can believe that they are ready for more. The Summer months will push them past their comfort levels I believe and I am excited to see how they grow into the responsibilities I have planned for them.
Over the last couple of days I have felt the responsibility to care for myself deepen. I have dealt with anxiety for, well, a long time, and I have my tricks and secrets to manage it. I’ve been working those for several months now and the hard keeps piling on, with little opportunity to work through one thing before another struggle is added to the heap. I have deliberately and consciously laid these hardships at the feet of Jesus. I believe that He has taken this load from me, that He never intended me to carry all of this, that I am meant to walk lightly, to be light. I believe this deeply, it is, in fact, at the core of who I believe God is and how He loves me. I also believe that the devil is actively at work in our lives, he is trying to steal us away from the One who made us. I know the evil one is the source my anxiety springs from. The responsibility tie-in here is that I am being over-powered by this evil. I see it, I know that I am not strong enough, even with all of my tricks and plans, to cast him off this time. I know that I have a responsibility to myself and that I need help. I have asked a few close friends to pray and I feel their prayers at work. I have opened up about how I am struggling to a couple of you and have recently asked you to hold me accountable for different things. I have made commitments to myself, like sitting here scratching these words out. Being responsible to myself in this way is new and requires a constant awareness to not let this plate fall.
This list is not long, but it is good. It is honest, and feels like the right way to begin warding off this negative, this hard, this evil that seeps into my heart. I’ll need reminders, I’m sure. I don’t feel the tears pricking the corners of my eyes right now though and that is a first in more than a handful of days. The space I’m in will need all of this goodness. There is room for it, next to the hard. In laying down so much of the other and choosing not to pick it back up, I can see how God is holding me too, not just all of my stuff. This is the thing I needed, why I was sitting here tapping out sentences. He holds me, and when I can see that, I am truly light.
Let’s be honest please. Most of you didn’t even realize that I was gone. I like to pretend that I told each of you that I was turning it off, shutting down my world to fewer than seven people. Or I did pretend that. It’s got to a point that it doesn’t matter anymore how few people have checked in or touched base. I’m at peace with this small world I’m occupying.
It is hard to be the one who makes sure everyone is okay, when you’re not okay yourself. I live in this world most winters so I had an idea of how this quarantine would go. It is okay, I do understand, you have to take care of your own family, your own mental health, there isn’t much left over at the end of the day for anyone else. Especially if you feel like everyone else is doing at least as good as you are.
Something struck me this morning as I boiled water though, this thought that as I have dropped off the societal map, no one seemed to notice. Is what I have done in my circle unimportant? Does it matter even to one person? I will acknowledge my close friends have stayed close and a couple of good friends have tried. I will further acknowledge that I did tell a small handful of friends that I was shutting off my platforms for digital socializing as they were causing my anxiety to peak in ways that I couldn’t get a handle on.
It makes a person feel insignificant. When you have spent several years bringing people in and caring for them, even in small ways. Helping them to feel they belong, giving them a place to just be, pulling others around them to shelter them and lift them up and give them a home in friendship….and no one calls or sends a text.
Why do we do this as a group? Why can’t we care for our extended circles when we are not in physical contact with them? Why do so many people fall so easily off of our radar and out of our good intentions? I’ll admit it likely seems that I have chosen to ignore most of the people I associate with. I know my why and I know that many of you have something similar that you’re dealing with, or something harder.
This ramble was written in April of this year. At a point where my anxiety was being managed by “duct taped and chicken wire” and I needed to get out the thoughts but not actually share them because they were too harsh for a hurting world, too personal for my closest friends. I am doing better now, managing in healthier ways, finding the balance between isolation and a previous normal. But I know not everyone is doing better, and I can understand why.
Looking back I see how we all really are doing our best. No one can be everything they want to be all of the time. Something has to give and our own immediate circle must come first.
This post was never finished, never edited carefully, never really meant for your eyes, I leave it here for those who need it now, still, again. I’m sharing these thoughts today in case you’re feeling alone where you are. Under the normal crush of winter and fears of global pandemic. Know you are loved. Trust that I am praying over you, yes you.
Last night my teensy asked her daddy for the big box in the garage. She’s been waiting for it for quite awhile, but this was the day of his “yes”. She was ready. She had a plan. She was making a boat.
I was emotional and feeling very weighed down as I tried to turn leftover rice and veggies into something my people would eat without complaint. You know part of it; the govenor in my state just outlawed gathering together with anyone, anywhere for the next four weeks. That is A LOT for me to try to wrap my heart around. There was more that was hard for me personally, but that’s for another day.
As I blinked back hot, stupid tears, I looked past my kitchen and saw my teensy, blankets and books pulled into the box with her. She had made her boat. For just one moment it was perfect. She was quiet and content in her boat on her imagined sea. I smiled and snapped this picture. I didn’t want to disturb her, didn’t ask her to turn and smile for me. I just let her be there, rocking gently on the waves.
As I went back to stirring I was thankful that she was able to escape all of my “no’s” and “not right now’s” in this simple and effective way. While I may wish for an actual boat on an actual ocean to take me away from my highly emotional days, I was reminded that I don’t actually need to run away. Just find the quiet that is here and accept it as it is.
I know that I’m not the only one struggling in these strange days. Please know that you are not alone. If I can help, I will. I am here with and for you. I miss you, and I am praying for the good and the gathering and the grace to return.
When at once we know we are created and that we are creators we can rest at peace. Knowing that all of life will fall perfectly into place as it has been created in perfection.
I didn’t always believe that God would work all together for my good.
At those most questioning, seeking moments I don’t know whether I searched after God with all of my heart or if I just searched blindly but honestly and found that God was in my heart. I remember spending a lot of time looking and a lot of time in prayer and a lot of time in the quiet, waiting. I still ask God a lot of questions and the more of my Bible that I read the more questions I seem to have.
This I know: God is not afraid of my questioning.
Over time I have realized that my questioning mind has brought me closer to Him, even if I don’t always feel the answers are super clear. I can see now that often the point of the questions; the reason they are put in my mind, is only to bring me closer to God. By seeking so hard for what is true and what is good and, well, so much more, I have spent an intense amount of time with my creator.
I’ve decided in my own heart that this is the only point. For me at least. The point of bringing all things to God, the point of asking Him so many “why’s”, the entire reason for my being…is simply to build a closer relationship with the lover of my very soul. This has helped me accept and process an innumerable amount of personal barriers. Knowing that the bad things will come and the hard days will march along, but that whether good or bad, pleasant or trying, full of snow or sunshine…in taking each moment to God and leaving it there at His feet…a deeper peace is found.
It is freeing to know that all of the hardships and all of the mountaintops are only to bring me to Him. I’m not tapping these keys, telling you that I dont worry or wonder or have days where my anxiety creeps itchy and red up my neck. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m trying to say is that regardless of my worry or wonder I know where to take it, and that has made all of the difference. For me at least.
I don’t know how to share this. How to explain my heart to the masses. I suppose it’s good that only a few of y’all read what I write, there are no “masses” to please. I want to put it out there though. If each moment of your life drives you to your knees or brings you closer to Him; well, then that moment has done what it was intended to do. And you’ve done what you should with that moment. No need to fix it or understand it or examine it further.
Be at peace with your Creator. Trust for today that what He wants is a relationship with you. Or believe it for the next hour if that’s all you can do for now. He is good, believe it.
***I know this post is not what you’ve come to expect from me…this is where I’m at today though. Thank you for reading it through, I am grateful.***
This past week is the time when I do some of the most difficult remembering of my year. I tried to tap it out here, thinking that it would help to explain my perceived melancholy. Instead it brought a deeper sadness, a more frequent ache as I thought over the words I had typed. I could not share those words with you; not here, not in this way. I also could not share the words when we were together because after thirteen years it seems that I should have come to more of a sense of finality, acceptance, peace even. I know those of you who will tell me that I could have said something, I should have told you how sad I am, and to you I can only nod and know that I would say the same. Yet there are no words.
There are no words to explain a thing that has settled into my very soul. It is an ache that I no longer feel, it simply is a part of who I am. It is a piece of the person I have become, I don’t mind it. It is a reminder that I can do the hardest of hard and come out of it alive. I tried to write “better” there, but I am only thankful to have made it through with my heart broken and my sanity intact.
I’ve been wondering about this a lot lately. How did I come through the most difficult ( I had to stop just now and wonder at this moment that I’m dancing around as truly the most difficult…there have been so many hard things.) time in my life with my mind in once piece? How and why was I able to put all of my pain and the shattered parts of my soul into tidy boxes and continue down the muddy path in front of me? There are those of you who would make jokes over how sane I actually am, but really, why is it possible for me to know this immense grief on top of the long list of other difficulties that make up my life and yet I carry on in a fairly “normal” way.
I’ve been told by a few different people lately that I should read about ACEs. Have you heard of this before? I hadn’t really known there was a name for it, but it would seem that”Adverse Childhood Experiences” are well studied. I dropped a graphic below so you can get the basics if this is as new to you as it was to me. I’m not going to tell you my number, but I will tell you that it was an alarming thing to put a name to. When I started looking into ACEs, I began to wonder how I came to this point in my life. When I look at the resulting negative factors of having grown up with a few ACEs, I wonder, why did I end up so well adjusted? I know that there are those few of you who knew me before my divorce who could point out that I brought some of those childhood traumas into adulthood. You could ask if I married to escape the dysfunction that was my childhood. You could even say that in having a divorce of my own I have dropped more beautiful children into this cycle.
You wouldn’t be wrong.
But…you wouldn’t be right either.
There is so much more to me than what I could underline and highlight as risk factors. That is ultimately what I am so curious about. Why do some people go through these experiences and seem to break under their weight? Why do others not? Even siblings don’t always handle the same stressors in the same way. This is something that I am curious about. Is there an inborn ability to withstand these triggers in certain people? Can a small percentage of the population go through childhood traumas and retain the ability to avoid the risky behaviors and mental illness that seem so common to those who go through these experiences? I am hoping to do more reading on this topic because as a person who has gone through some of these things I wonder.
The most alarming part of this should probably be that over 60% of the population has at least one. One out of eight people has at least four. Look over that list again, do you know which person/people in your circle are the one in eight? I am not naive enough to think that everyone in my friend group has a history with none of these experiences and yet I am not ignorant enough to think that all of my friends have some. So how does the general population walk around seeming so unaffected?
I suppose we are seeing that they really don’t seem so unaffected. There are so many people who struggle with anxiety, depression, much more. I don’t question that these things are real and I don’t question the way that people are coping either. Instead I find myself asking what have they gone through? Let me be clear, I have basically zero knowledge of this topic. I have researched very minimally at this point, but I want to understand the hope or resilience or fortitude that some people seem to have inside of them to overcome what they were exposed to as children. Where does that come from?
Over the years, before anyone gave me a name for it, I have thought that a person’s faith in God or some higher power may have been what allows them to carry on. I don’t currently trust that thought to be completely true. While I have believed in God since I was a very small girl there have been years of my life where any amount of faith was questionable at best. My behaviors at times would seem to point to the exact opposite of faith. Whatever that would be, denial I suppose. As I look at the times when my faith was strongest it was most certainly not when I needed to have the closest relationship with my Creator. While I do know that God is what has ultimately held me together, I don’t believe that my faith in Him or in His love had much to do with it at all.
I have asked myself if I managed all of the hardships simply because I had to. I was the oldest child, the one my mother expected to help the most or be the most responsible. Over the years I know that I let her down in that respect, but in my defense I would say that I knew when I could let her down. Looking at it now I can say that I knew because my own failings in this area came at times when she had the most outside support. I did not disappear when she was most alone or broken. A better question would be; how did I know this as a teen? It felt the same then as it does today. I know when she most needs me even still, and I know the support system that she has built around her is much stronger than it has ever been. As I read over this I can see what some of you might insinuate; asking why I need care for my own mother in this way. I will add it to the list of questions I currently seek answers for, and tell you that I simply do. Is it the typical first child belief that they are caretaker and controller-of-situations that made me who I am?
Is it something more? Do certain people have the sight in them to see the other side and how things should really be? Can a percent of those kids growing up with ACEs know inherently that childhood does not last and that they will have the ability to make it good on their own at some point. If so, where would that knowledge come from? A mentor? A support person? Peer groups? I so strongly want to understand, though I know it is likely any combination of factors. How can we give that knowledge or experience to other kids who are coming through their own ACEs today?
I also wonder how much worse it is getting. Children are now growing up with parents who may have been subjected to their own trauma and who are unable to handle it as adults. These parents are passing on some of that same trauma to their children, seemingly unaware of what they are doing. Is that why so many young people seem so ill-prepared to function in today’s world? If so, how can we help to break that cycle? Also, how can we give the young people the hope or fortitude or faith to trust that they can do the hard things that their lives will require of them? How can we quiet the gripping fear, the stifling depression, the overwhelming grief that some are dealing with? Is there anything to be done at all?
Like so many of the other things I write down here, I have more questions than answers about this. I can say that for me, very personally, I know that the struggles I managed from my childhood allowed me to make the most difficult decision that I ever had to make. I can tell you that without having gone through the ACEs that I did I would not have been the strength my family needed. Would someone else have stepped in? Probably. That choice though, knowing that she looked at me and asked what we should do…feeling the weight of it. I know how that event has shaped me, and without the previous hardships I would not have been able to make the choice, I would have been crushed by fear. From doing hard things I knew that I could do this impossible thing.
Why do some use the experiences as tools to get them through, while others see the same experiences as broken pieces of themselves? This is where my curiosity has returned to in this week of remembrance. This is where my mind has settled and what has kept me from falling into the very sadness and brokenness that I’m questioning.
I feel it necessary to profess that my childhood was good. I have almost exclusively fond memories of growing up. When I look at that list of ACEs I know that there were things about the earlier years of my life that should have, could have, made me look back quite differently though. And so I question. I will hope to know what it is that is in me that makes me see the years as overall-good. I will also be thankful. While I have struggled I have also been strong enough to overcome those struggles and I have thus far been able to manage…my life? my mentality? my emotions? what exactly I’m not sure.
This has been a bit rambling, even for me. If you’ve read through to the end I’d hope first that you weren’t hoping I’d wrap this up all neat and tidy and second, that whatever factors have made you the person you are today, you can see them as good. That you can see how hardships give us the ability to endure more hardship as well as an ability to more completely enjoy the good. Perhaps we can even see how much braver and bolder and stronger we are with each difficulty we overcome.