The Struggle is Real

I laugh a lot. Jokes, my own misfortune, my husband’s consistent silliness, my roommates’ jokes, my co-workers’ laments. I am blessed with laughter. But within that laughter lies a new type of anxiety. The world around me is filled with concrete, homeless people, and the mentally ill who roam the streets without help. Trash litters the streets and entitled people behind the wheel of every car swerve around me. Here in the Oakland, gentrification takes over, block by block. And many of the people around me are just as concerned about how their pants fit as they are angry about the political climate.

And I. Can’t. Breathe.

I can’t find the freedom I once so easily enjoyed. Are times changing? Is it my current city and surroundings? Is it the constant protesters outside the windows of my office? Or am I struggling to look for and find my God who has been so easily spotted in the past?

I have been spoiled. Spoiled by community, safe places to live, a family who loves and adores me. I have been spoiled by good friends always ready to listen, to pray or just to be with me.

Where is my God?

Am I too weak to find Him here? Do I not have the strength and the faith to be a leader amongst the heaviness that keeps me up at night? Do I just need my mommy, literally and figuratively?

I thought I was strong enough. I thought my faith was deep enough. But faith was never meant to be practiced alone.

Where is my God?

I was taught to see You in the homeless man. In the road-rage-filled hipster trying to get to his organic leaves. I was taught to see you in the beauty of the sky, in the sound of the waves and in the depth of my heart.

Where is my God?

And why can’t I find you in those things? The heaviness of the world around me crashes in and I am not strong enough. I do not have enough faith. My God is by my side, I know this, for without this deep understanding I would have given up, gone home, crawled in a safe place. But I can’t see my God. I can feel Him close, but one gust of the wind and I live in fear.

Where is my God?

Fear my car will get broken into, again. Fear my husband won’t make it home from work because of an accident or crime. Fear that the big earthquake will finally take us all. Fear that I will be hurt or my family will suffer.

Where is my God?

How can I find You again? How do I experience you in THIS place? Where I am now, where I live and breathe and with who I am surrounded.

I can’t breathe.

But I can. Everyday I get up and face the day. I walk in and out of responsibilities with the strength I have left. I contemplate going home to the ones I miss so wholeheartedly that it hurts constantly. I ask my God for help – for reassurance, for whatever it takes to make it through the day.

I am surviving.

But I want to live freely. Here, where I live, while I am here.

I want to breathe.

And I do. One step at a time. One prayer at a time. One exhale at a time. I breathe, with my God offering me each next breathe.

But the heaviness looms and my energy is sucked up by staying above water. How do I go on?

I stop. I wait. I ask. I seek.

I breathe, and hope, and take my next breath.

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There is a Season….

Can you feel that? Can you see that? Taste and smell it? The winter has turned to spring. I saw it with my own eyes this morning. The buds on the trees are bright green. The warmth of the sun has already tinted my skin and the fresh air is littered with scents of new growth. And, people are smiling. For no reason except they are outside and it doesn’t hurt anymore!!!! The season has changed.

I think about life in terms of seasons so often. Because it’s every changing. Sometimes with the climate seasons, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Some may call it a cop-out, an escape or maybe even an excuse.

I call it freedom.

Freedom from perfection. Freedom from measuring my life according to yours or his or hers or what society tells me to.

And I find it so helpful. Because it helps me stay present to the life I’m living. It helps me not live in the past or be filled with anxiety and anxiousness to get to the future. It gives me freedom to live freely within each set of circumstances I’m offered.

And yet I am so affected by my surroundings. I am so easily influenced by the attitude and passions of those around me. Easily encouraged or discouraged by connection with others. Energized or depressed by the weather.

But even though my circumstances can dictate my mood. They can’t take me out of the game of life. I am content. I am content with who I am. I am content with what I have. I am content with my God.

Some days a miserable and hard and uncomfortable. But there’s an acceptance I can have when I have the right perspective and think of my life in seasons. And ask God, what *this* season has to offer. Can I find growth in the suffering? Acceptance of those around me who are different than me in the discomfort? Time for continued education, meeting a friends needs or re-focus on the direction I’m heading?

But right now I can say I’m happily unemployed. And I expect that soon I will be happily employed. Does it help that the weather is beautiful? Yes. Does it help that I have friends to spend time with? Yes. Does it help that I have some much need time to run, rest and write? Yes. Does it help that I’ve been here before and I have experienced the journey being so much better than the destination? Yes.

I won’t hurry through the days and hours worrying and being anxious about my future. Because just like winter turned to spring and just a few months ago my unemployed life turned into a working life and just like my single life turned into a life with someone. This too will turn into something. And I’m so excited to see what that something is.

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Connecting to Holy Week

It hit me like a ton of bricks this year. Some times, some ways, some things just connect differently at different times. It’s what I love about faith. It’s alive and exciting. It touches my soul, connects to who I am and meets me right where I’m at.

Lately I’ve been thinking about making a pretty big life decision. A career move if you will and it’s met with all sorts of advice and thoughtful comments from people who I know love and care about me and have been close to me in certain seasons of my life. I value every word they say, and also know that I have to make my own decision.  And no matter which way I go, I will be met with good and sometimes challenging circumstances.

Last Sunday was Palm Sunday, the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, as predicted by prophets of old. And in that moment he was celebrated. He was held in high-esteem, he was praised and made known. He was celebrated for who he was, the son of God.

I wonder if this could have been on of those moments for Jesus when he could see heaven on earth. Those moments of peace when every thing collides to connect with your true self. That moment when you feel known, understood and have purpose. But at the same time, Jesus knew that some of the people with him, closest to him, would betray him. And the same people celebrating him would put him to death. The downturn of this comes quickly, forcefully and with out any compassion. 4-days later Jesus in betrayed, and then beaten and killed.

And still he lived in that moment. He experienced Palm Sunday (or travel tuesday, whatever they called it 2000 years ago). He let them celebrate God. He received it.

I think about my life. The changes that are to come. I think about my life transitions. The beginning often filled with celebration and excitement, but then the downturn comes. Life gets hard, the honeymoon period of relationships end, expectations are left unmet and dreams fade into reality.

But Jesus shows me how. How to live regardless of what’s to come.  Regardless of the unknown that lies ahead. How to celebrate again and again. How to love regardless of what the future holds. And no matter which path I take, it will have a beginning filled with celebration, and a middle filled with ups and downs and a Jesus to show me how to love and be loved through it all.

Over the next several days we will remember, reflect on and celebrate Jesus’ final journey here on earth as a man. It starts with a meal with friends, and then quickly turns to betrayal, torture and death. But it doesn’t end there – there is the resurrection. Because no matter how bad it gets, the end is just the beginning with Jesus. He offers more. He offers redemption. And a future that one day won’t be tarnished by pain and suffering.

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Spring, I Need You

I can appreciate winter. I think. I can appreciate the downtime and slowness that winter offers, for a time. But, now, I’m done. I am ready for sunshine and warm days. I need to come outside when the air does not hurt my face.

And I know it takes time. From about December until April, that is a luxury the part of the country I am in is not afforded. I can accept that. Because I expect it. And I know that if I wait, long enough, it will get better. But what I think it completely unfair, is this warm up and cool down thing. It plays with my emotions. Messes with my flow. Not on the days that it’s 70’s and sunny. But now you rip that away and toss things back into the 30’s. Not fair.

I know I sound like a whinny 5-year old but this teasing really needs to stop. I would rather wait one more week, or even two for things to just warm up and stay warm – then to live through this back and forth. Jacket, no jacket – do I get a pedicure – or wait – I want my flip flops damn it, and I want to put away my winter boots for at least 8-months (or forever).

First world problems I know. I have a winter jacket – good ’til -5 degrees. And I have flip flops – good as soon as it hits 70 degrees. I am blessed, taken care of, my needs are met. But the cold hurts. It hurts deep. It hurts my face and my work out routine. It hurts my fingers and seeing friends. It hurts my toes and my mood. It makes me sad.

So I will pout a little bit longer, stomp a feet a few more times and suck it up for a little bit longer.

Rescue me Spring.  Please  I am waiting for you.  I need you.

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A Quick Reflection on Fixing, as Yet Another Year Passes

Every year I tend to blog on this day. To share what I’m feeling and to make a pitch to love on my parents, sister-in-law and nephew a little bit extra on this day.

It’s been 8-years since my little brother, Devin, passed away suddenly in his sleep.  And this year is no different, and I don’t feel like I have anything to add.

I still miss Devin. I miss his face and his smile and his voice. I miss knowing he was always there for me. I miss his young wisdom and his big love.

And I still want my parents, sister-in-law, and nephew to feel an overwhelming amount of love and grace and peace today. I still want to take away their pain, to help somehow to carry their burden, to lessen the hurt.

But I can’t fix it. Really in life I can’t fix much. I know this. We all do I think. We all know we can’t fix the other person or their pain but so often we want to and in that want sometimes we hurt them more. So this year, I want to say sorry for the hurt I’ve caused wanting to fix it.

Pain is uncomfortable and hard to watch others experience. My head has known this for a long time, but my heart actions can’t always stay in that head space. You could say I’m a bit of a feeler. And by a bit I mean I pretty much feel everything. And I can deal with my own feelings, but I don’t want my love ones to have to sort through theirs. I’m not sure why either, because I really like feeling and so maybe they are ok feeling theirs. But it’s taking me a while to get there.

And so this journey of figuring out how to love my family in their pain and not try to fix it has been challenging.

My friend the other day said that he felt like the pain he was facing in his life was a gift. And while that sounds so crazy, I totally get it. Because in that pain I have found Jesus in such a deep and tangible way. I have received His love and grace in ways I wouldn’t have known I needed with out pain. And I can see how pain, done well, is a gift.

So now I want to let go and pray that my loved ones receive their pain today as a gift. A gift that their Maker is so close and loves them so much that He won’t leave them alone for a moment in that pain. That in that pain He is drawing them in. Holding them tight. And creating something beautiful out of that pain. Because pain done well, can help others carry their burdens. I don’t want to take away from the hurt and sadness. It is real, it is unfair and I don’t think it is what God wants for us. But He does want good for us, and I think knowing that feeling and working through the pain leads to more good than we can even allow ourselves to comprehend.

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Finding New Wisdom, After Another Year Goes By

Each year it’s different. But each year it’s the same.

This year felt different when I had to tell my roommate what today is. And I cried. Last year I remember being at work and having to tell people. And I cried. Telling people is hard. On a normal day, telling people my brother died isn’t so hard. This day,  the anniversary of his passing, it’s hard.

Maybe it’s the trauma of the day it happened. Maybe it’s knowing my parents are hurting especially hard this day. Maybe it’s thinking about my sister in law and knowing it hurts her and I can’t fix that. Maybe it’s thinking about my nephew never getting to meet his Dad. And maybe it’s just because I miss him.

I miss his smile. I miss his hugs. I miss his words of wisdom. Yup, I said it, my little brother had some good words of wisdom. Mostly along the lines of protecting me from boys who broke my heart or not being afraid to live life to the fullest. Because that’s what he did. He lived.

Devin was a daredevil, a bit of a risk-taker. I’d like to think I get some of my risk-taking guts from his example. I often think of him when I’m making life decisions and think, WWDD? (What would Devin do?) Dev just went for things all out. He lived life “out-loud” with his whole heart.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been waking up with this idea to live my life “out-loud.” And for the most part I think I do. But I want more. I’m not quite sure what all of it means just yet, but I think Devin was a good example of living life “out-loud” and I want to keep learning from that.

He might be gone, but his passion for life lives on. I’m so thankful he was my little brother.

This is the first year in a while that I don’t live at home. It’s hard to not hug my Mom and Dad today and not be there to spend time with them. I know it’s hard for them.

And so as I ask every year, please pray for them. I know they hurt, I know their lives will never be the same, and I know they will always miss my brother in ways I can’t understand.

DevTizBabies

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Life Lessons on My Bike

I live in Madison, WISCONSIN

I don’t say it right. That’s what most people say when I say, “Wisconsin.” Apparently I have a bit of a Boston accent. Not much, but enough for folks to know I’m not local.

Which is true. Just about a month ago, I packed all my stuff and moved half way across the country. And I’m settling in quite nice. And I think I owe a lot of that to my bike.

When I’m on my bike, it’s like I’m a kid again. There’s a freedom and innocence to riding a bike, I think. Ok, let me get a little cheesy (I am in Wisconsin) for a moment. I’m riding down one of the many awesome bike paths, with the wind blowing my hair and cooling my face. The orange and yellow leaves creep in on either side of the path and rain down when the wind blows. The sun shines bright through the branches and each opening leads to bright blue skies that have no end. The warmth comes from within. It comes from that feeling of being alive and being free to be me. In that moment, everything is right. Nothing is holding me back.

And I think there is some cool life lesson type stuff in here. Like living life in the moment. Letting go of what I can’t control or make happen on my own. So much of this transition time, from the time I decided to move and even now, I just keep asking God to keep me present. Help me live in the moment. Help me see, feel and live right now. I don’t want to worry about the future, or try to figure it out.

And despite circumstances that aren’t “just right” or going “my way,” I’m really happy. It’s been such a gift. Just like my bike. I’m so thankful for it and even more thankful for the friends who gave it to me.

And my bike is so cool. It’s perfect. It’s old and a little rusty, it’s yellow, it has mustache duck-tape on the handle-bars and mini-flashlights as lights. Often when I lock it up, I forget to wrap the lock around the actually bike and just lock my lock to the railing…and NO ONE has taken it. It’s perfect.

Kind of like life. It’s messy, and doesn’t always look “put together” but it fits me just right.

Image

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