shift

i’ve been reflecting a lot lately. possibly because i recently returned from being overseas, or perhaps because i am going through a period of transition… another academic year over, another personal year soon drawing to a close.

there’s also the reality of summer, with its cool nights and fading twilights – being in that witching hour, in that magical period between dusk and nightfall, as the first stars emerge from their hiding places and begin to twinkle in the sky – that just draws it out of me. it’s called NOSTALGIA.

i constantly struggle with living in my mind, with looking back wistfully on what was, or wasn’t, while looking ahead in daydreams that have not been realized yet. i am constantly wrestling with these thoughts and feelings and hopes and musings (someone once called it, ‘scope for the imagination’) that pull me into shifting periods of lightness and darkness, until i catch myself and dazedly ask that they stop.

oh heart, wilt thou not quiet down?

it’s been one of the most amazing and yet challenging years in my recent memory. through it all, i have learned, and am still learning…

…to find joy in the process.

…to live each day with purpose.

…to do my work well.

…to love well.

…to wrestle and rest at the same time.

…that i am part of many communities.

…that He may never remove this cup from me…

…and that’s okay.

as a new year creeps up, i hope to receive it with grace. with hands open, palms up. with knowing that, as always, things may never unfold quite as i hope or dream them to, but that doesn’t mean the dreams will fade. that He always knows, better than i do, what i need.

it’s always a little scary. apprehensive. but i’m going to hold on tight to this journey, because, if nothing else, He will be faithful to the end.

 

good

“as 2014 draws to set on the horizon, i wonder what 2015 holds. i believe [i hope] myself to be slightly more comfortable in my skin, ensconced in the beauty of who I am within the beauty of Who is within me, growing into genuine-ness with my relationships and those who surround me, and unafraid of what the future holds.

that last one, i’m not so sure about. i am desperately afraid of the future. i always have been. but i have also been open to living each day one day at a time, and withholding myself from leaping too far ahead. it’s tough, especially when my brain’s natural tendency is to anxiously rush ahead into territory that it has no place in being there. take each day at face value. take each person at face value. bless others. be blessed. there’s a Plan. i’m a small part of it.”

words i had written on the eve of 2015, as i looked back on 2014 and wondered what was ahead. i’m sitting in that very moment again, as the year is passing onto a new one. am i older and wiser? in many ways, i feel like i’ve regressed – like i’m much more of a child, as i realize there is so much more growing and developing still to do. 

it’s been a year of challenges and triumphs, from my dad’s Hep-C-free status to crawling through another year of this Psy.D program. the new year rings in very soon, and another fast begins in less than one week. hopes and dreams have been realized, and others still wait on the horizon, with little resolution. this year, i have re-learned and been reminded of what it means to be “mindful” and “intentional”, but i often forget to integrate these patterns of living into my daily emotions and thoughts. as always, there is so much more on the horizon and i’m scared to even lift my head and look, lest i be disappointed. 

yet, through it all, through my mind, this endless commentary runs: He is good, He is good, He is good, He is good. He is faithful. He is good. He is good. He is good. 

He is good. though nothing else may come to fruition, He is good. He has always been good, and will continue to be good. He does not change like shifting shadows. He is not whimsical, as I am. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And He holds good in store for me, whatever that may look like. 

With 2016 on the horizon, i have one wish – one resolution: to be a better friend. i know i’m not perfect. and i know my friends are far from perfect, as well. but somehow, He has placed upon my heart this desire, to live and look just a little bit more outside of myself. to reach out when necessary, and even when unnecessary. to be open and bright, not because i have to, but because i want to. and to take the risk [shudder] of sitting in those somewhat awkward and uncomfortable spaces, because that means i need more of Him. and when i’m especially lonely, to remember that He is by my side. 

2015 is very much a blur and already a distant memory. the past.

i want to look ahead, even when i fear the future. not to conquer the fear, or the future, but to remember that in all things, He will be good. love has come to cast out fear. i want to be a better friend, whatever that means. i want to grab a hold of joy and hang on for dear life. this is always the time of year when it seems like anything can happen. possibilities are endless and limitless. exciting. i want to be in the middle of that. and be consumed by His goodness. 

center

lately, I’ve lost sight of it. i’ve been riding on a bumpy road, mostly smooth pavement, but every so often a huge pothole that knocks the wind out of me for a brief moment of time, until i’m able to digest the pain and get back on my feet. the potholes have been in context of interpersonal relationships, and i’ve been questioning the priority of certain relationships in my own life. do they see me as i see them? it’s difficult because i am definitely a people person, but i’m also pretty sensitive. i feel a lot. i analyze, but i relate via feelings and emotions. i enjoy connection and intimacy. i’m introverted, but i love spending time with people, laughing with them, talking to them, getting to know them, connecting with them. doesn’t that sound lovely?

there’s a difficult part in there, though. in growing deeper with another, pain must be an element. conflict happens. and if the conflict can be processed safely and correctly, then the deepening happens. and that’s so hard. during these moments, i’m reminded that i don’t want to grow complacent. i want to be challenged. i want to grow and learn. step out and take risks. but the very risks that challenge me are the ones that cause pain. and often, nobody on the outside sees it, not even my closest friends or my family.

this weekend was a rough one. rough because it’s the first 4th in two years that i have spent locally. rough because i felt so alone. rough because of posts on social media that reminded me i was alone. there was one bright and beautiful spot in the midst of it: my dad watched fireworks outside for the first time in almost 20 years. but over that bright and beautiful spot loomed a shadow of darkness and doubt that spread through my mind and heart like a virus.

a particular community of people i’d once thought some of my closest friends no longer seem safe to me. at least, will not feel safe for awhile. and it hurts. putting up walls is hard. taking a step back feels counter-intuitive to what growing closer is all about. we hunger for relationship because we were created by a God who loves being in relationship to us. so much so that he sacrificed His only son for that very purpose. i just think, this is not the way it’s supposed to be.

but i am convinced that i’m going through a period of restoration, redemption, and renewal. and God is telling me that i need to experience this pain for a little while, in order to make the redemption that much sweeter. so that he’ll get the glory and the honor. He must become greater, I must become less.

and another thing? this evening, during a worship service, He spoke to me distinctly. He said, “You are strong enough to carry this burden.” I almost cried. He has faith in me. I will carry it then. Carry it and keep a quiet heart. He Knows and He Understands.

redemption. it’s coming.

young

life passes by at an alarming speed. and often i don’t understand clearly where i am going or what the purpose of all of this is, until it’s in hindsight. i look in my rearview mirror, and there it all is – the way it has been planned out by a sovereign God who is fifteen chess movements ahead. the timing is always perfect when He is involved. the encounters, divine. 

i’m at that place again, now, where much change is on the horizon, and although i anticipate it, i am not fully looking forward to it as of yet. though some of it promises good things to come, much of it is uncertainty, haziness, fogginess, a teeny-tiny white light at the center of a very long, very narrow, very dark tunnel. i know the light is slowly and gradually approaching at the opposite end, but there is quite some distance to travel first before i get there. 

i just imagine that when i graduate from a doctoral program in five years (hopefully), i’ll be another decade older. i can’t even wrap my head around that. and i wonder, at that age, at that decade, what will my life be worth? what will i have to show for all this time that i have spent working, going to school, building relationships, serving at church… living life? I hope He is glorified at the end of it all. but then, for me, will i be fully satisfied? will i be fully satisfied in Him as He is fully glorified in me? 

i know He holds the future. I know He’s already won. i know He’s set me on this earth for a specific purpose. i know what that purpose is. my head knows all these things – logically, rationally – but my heart wonders about Me. i know i can’t compare myself to others. i know we are all broken. we all have our drama, our baggage, our emotional pitfalls, our selfishness and moodiness, and we are continually, daily, being crucified with Christ. i know there’s this process of sanctification where i fall, over and over again, but i look forward with the hope i have, that i am being renewed little by little, day by day. 

but in the daily grind, i lose perspective of all of this, and i feel just… sad. and confused. and i wonder, if i feel this way daily, how am i supposed to feel 5 years from now?

 

my only comfort is in the realization that i am not alone. as clichè as that may sound, it’s in the walking-together on this journey where the strength and comfort prevail, even as much of my sin lies in my insecurities of those relationships i have with my wonderful community and friends. perhaps i will be alone at 40. perhaps not. i dearly hope not. 

i hope the fogginess is a little bit clearer by then, the light of the tunnel a little nearer. for now, i choose to live day by day, season by season, one step at a time. 

“Because i know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives.” – hymn.