Wrecked.

Hello again, blogosphere. It’s been a while. I tend to get silent when things get hard–when, honestly, I’m depressed. And there was a lot of that since the last time I wrote. And shame. Shame that hung around me like a cloak. Shame over weakness, shame over never being “good enough.” And how could I write from that place–that place of grappling and struggling and not-put-togetherness? I fought the lie once again that I had to have it all together, that I had to wait out the storm until I could write from a place of conquer and wisdom on the other side, not from the hurt and the questions in the midst.

I’m in a better place now, mentally, spiritually. But it’s not because I’m on the other side of a storm. In fact, I’d say I’m in the midst of one. And it took going deeper into the storm, or perhaps rather the onset of a new one, to bring me to that better place–going lower to get higher.

I found this draft (below) saved from a few months ago. I’m not sure why I never hit “publish.” But I find it fitting and timely for the season I’m currently in: a flare-up of a neurological condition and possible autoimmune disorder that’s sidelined me from work, and most of life, for a few weeks. A sort of “wreckage,” a breaking down to be built back up again. It’s a season that’s afforded me a lot of clarity, peace, and assurance of God’s love for me and sovereign control and care over every facet of my life. And I can honestly say that I’m thankful. Not just for the good that’s come out of this whole situation: my amazing friends and family supporting, caring for, and praying for me; a great team of medical professionals; an understanding employer. But for the trial itself. For the wreckage. For the being humbled. For finally learning what it means to rejoice in my weakness because that’s where Christ’s strength is made perfect and found to be totally sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9-10), rather than thinking I have to be strong on my own and resenting my weakness.

I think that’s what I was getting at when I wrote this–that it’s good to be reminded of our need of God. That the things He allows to get our attention are meant for good–not just for our own good, but for the good of others as well. So they can hear His strength, His love, His glory, through the megaphones of our storms, if only we’ll let Him speak through them.

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It’s just like God to completely wreck me in the best way possible–and to use Facebook of all things to do it.

Things have been good lately. But God has a funny way of interrupting your life and reminding you that there can be great. And that “good” really isn’t good at all if you’re leaving Him out of it for the most part–if you’re content to cross your Bible reading off a list at the end of a day.

He did just that for me the other day–and I’m thankful.

I was gearing up for a quiet night of treating myself after a long day. Some chocolate while I Netflix and chill. (read: legit watch Netflix and chill in my bed. By myself.) But before I got to that, I sat in the kitchen and scrolled through Facebook as I ate said chocolate, mindlessly wasting time, with no clue that God was about to get my attention.

I came upon an article that a friend shared, a poignant reminder of a specific suffering that I endured earlier this year. It’s still a little too fresh to share with you all specifically what that suffering was, but suffice it to say that the article spoke directly to what I experienced, and brought up the pain afresh. That wound is healing, but still a little tender to the touch–and one of such a nature that it probably always will be, no matter how much time has passed. But that’s not a bad thing. That’s not the result of not properly grieving. That’s a result of living in a fallen world where we mourn the pain of loss–where mamas don’t quite get over the grief of burying a baby. Where little girls lose daddies to the battlefields of wars on terror. Where sickness strikes and turns a household on its head. Where people live with all kinds of pain that you just don’t completely move past–it may just not sting as much all the time.

This is where we live. It’s messy and painful.

But I know this: it is also beautiful.

It’s strange to say that, but I believe it to be true.

I believe pain is where God meets us.

In the garden where the pain of shame cuts deep and causes us to hide: He comes for us.
In the streets where we drown in the crowds–but dare to hope for healing by the hem of a garment: He turns to seek us out in the sea of faces.
In the darkness of loss of health and home and family: He comes down and questions if we were there when He made the world. He reminds us who we are, puts us in our place, and comforts us as the children of the Creator of the Universe, all at once.

If we let it, pain pushes us toward Him–and pulls Him toward us.

I cry to Him my hurt. But I do so within the comfort of His hand holding me. I tell Him how I know He hears–and how I’m thankful for that. How I’m thankful for the unexpected interruption that shook me out of my complacency–not that there’s anything wrong with eating chocolate and watching Netflix. But I was completely content to continue my evening without even a hint of communion with Him. And He wanted more. He came for me. He reminded me of my pain, but He did it to heal me deeper–fuller–as I entered into the grief of my loss once again.

I tell Him how I know others have suffered far worse than I have–and yet He hears me still and heals. He doesn’t invalidate my pain. He instead uses it to awaken me. Awaken me once again to His healing hand. To the pain of those around me, of those all over the world. To those who’ve suffered at the hands of injustice–or perhaps their own choices. Regardless, they hurt. And they need hope. And I am awakened once again to a greater reality than chocolate and Netflix. And how I don’t want to waste my days away with ears shut and eyes closed to the cries and suffering of countless souls. How I don’t want to have only lived for my own comfort, with only ever a fleeting thought here and there to the plight of the world and what I might do to help. I sit on the edge of my bed and cry, and pray. And I keep my laptop open, but now it’s to write, not Netflix. I must get it out. Writing is part of the process of not staying the same, not staying complacent–of getting out on paper, or computer screen, this dissatisfaction with living comfortably.

But then eventually the fire fades. It can take as little as a few days. I’m back to mindlessly scrolling through Facebook when He does it again: lets my eyes come upon an article that makes me say, “Whoa,” and I know it’s another wake-up call. While the first one dredged up some old hurt, which reminded me of how others hurt and thus spurred me, albeit temporarily, out of complacency, this one was more a specific call to action: speaking up. It reminded me that actually living a life that is not comfortable and complacent starts with taking some action. It means standing up and speaking up when everyone else is sitting and silent. It means being willing to take a few hits. It means caring less about your reputation, and more about God’s glory, and the eternal fate of the souls surrounding you. It means being bold enough to expose evil, even when it doesn’t feel “nice.” I am called to be kind, and to love–not to be nice. And I’m not being very kind or loving if I’m being nice at the expense of the truth.

Ouch. For a people-pleaser like me, that’s not easy. I want to be nice. I want to make everyone around me comfortable and happy. But I have been wrecked once again by a God who loved me enough to not just be nice to me, and let me be comfortable in my sin that separated me from Him. And I have not been wrecked to now sit comfortably in my Christianity. I have been wrecked to be built up again, to bring the message of hope to those who need it, too. To the hurting, yes. But also to those who think they have no need of God. Who stand for what is wrong in the face of their Creator, and call themselves brave in the process. What’s really brave is telling them they’re wrong when they are, and pointing them to the Remedy, Truth Himself.

In the wreckage, I am awakened once again to all that’s really real. Hurt and evil and mess, and even beauty–yes, beauty. Because a God so big that He created the Universe, can bring beauty out of broken places. And there’s beauty in being brave. In running to the rescue of refugees. In fighting for the rights of the unborn. In exposing evil, abusive individuals.

This is how I’m choosing this brave, beautiful life, how I’m not letting getting wrecked be a waste:

I’m writing. I’m sharing my story. I’m not letting fear or shame hold me back any longer. I’m telling the tale of depression and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (in the weeks to come) to shed light on these very real issues, and help point those who may be walking those dark paths to the light of Hope.

And I’m praying. Because I believe the bravest and biggest battles can be won on our knees, not because of the words we recite, but because of the One who hears them and acts on our behalf. I’m pleading with Him to open my eyes to the needs of those around me, and to guide me to the opportunities He lays out before me.

And then there’s all of you. The compassionate, the hungry for more than the American Dream, for more than self-sufficiency, for more than your own comfort. For a life that’s wrecked to be built up again for a greater purpose. And this is how you live it: when you hurt, cry to Him. Trust He hears. And then let your heart identify with every other hurting heart in this world. Remember the Hope that brings you healing, and let it usher you into the places that that Hope needs to go, where Truth needs to prevail, where evil needs to die.

Where is your battlefront?

Is it the front lines of the pro-life movement? Or is it meeting the women who’ve already chosen abortions where they’re at, helping them walk through grief and regret, and introducing them to the One who offers the forgiveness and healing they need?

Is it helping hungry children half-way across the world, by feeding their bellies–and their souls? Maybe you go. Maybe you send money. Maybe you get on your knees and plead for them. Maybe you do all three.

Is it standing up to sex trafficking? Fostering children? Combating homelessness? Helping addicts find recovery and redemption?

Maybe it’s not just one of these. And maybe it’s something entirely different. Whatever that something is, do it. Don’t fight the weight of the wreckage. Let it wreck you. Let the walls of complacency and self-protection fall. And then let yourself be rebuilt by the One who wrecks you–because He loves you. And then stand up. Be bold. Run to those who need Hope, who need Truth–because He loves them, too. And He has let the wreckage hit, and the pieces fall, for such a time as this–for such people as them.

 

Confession Time.

Let’s get real.

So last week I posted about being overwhelmed, right? But then at the end I was all like, “But You got this, God, so it’s all good.” And I genuinely meant that as I wrote it.
Here’s the ironic thing, though.

When I published that post, I was so. Stressed. Out. Over silly stuff. I had previously written and saved the post, but decided to publish it that day because it had been a week since my last post. And I’m trying this new thing where I get stuff done. Publishing a post wasn’t originally on my to-do list, but I already had written it–I just needed to publish it. Just a couple of clicks of a button, right? Simple. No time. On to the next thing to cross off the list. Another pat on the back for being productive.

Except not.

I also decided that because I’m trying to learn more about being a successful blogger, and one of the tips I’ve heard along the way is to always put pictures in your posts (because no pictures=boring, and no one will read your posts), to find out about putting a picture in my post. But I also know that it’s not as simple as just finding a picture from Google, slapping it in your post, and calling it good. So I googled how to use pictures in blog posts. I found a blog post, of all things, that tells you how to find free images and use them. Sweet. “I’ll just find a picture of a girl looking stressed out and call it good,” I thought.

Except not.

My computer is SO SLOW, people. I’ve had it looked at three or four times, and still. S-L-O-W. (Computer people, help??) Not to mention that I have horrible wifi connection in my room. I tried bringing my laptop down to the kitchen where I usually get a stronger connection, to no avail. So, I finally settled for sitting at the top of the stairs outside of the bathroom, because I know the bathroom to be the best spot in the building for wifi connection (you all know you take your phone into the bathroom with you, too). Boom. Full wifi connection. Smooth sailing from here on out.

Except not.

It took FOREVER for my computer to load anything. Because apparently wifi wasn’t the problem. My computer’s just–yep–slow. Sigh. At this point, 1:00 was approaching. I was supposed to have already run and showered by then, and I had a webinar on confidence to attend, because, productivity and personal development and all that fun stuff. And I didn’t want to be doing anything else during that time, like running and showering, because I didn’t want to be distracted. “Great. Guess that’s not happening now.” I could feel my blood pressure rising. I wanted to fume on facebook about how frustrating it was that my computer was not cooperating! But complaining’s not the Christian thing to do, and it doesn’t make you look good. So I just did it in my head instead of facebook. So much better, right?

It wasn’t supposed to take this long. I wasn’t even supposed to be doing this, because it wasn’t on my to-do list. And other things were, that this now was interfering with. But I was already this far in, and why couldn’t the pictures just LOAD so I could publish the dang post?

By 1:13, the post is finally published. I get on facebook to share it on my personal page from my blog page, which of course also takes forever. But then my laptop dies. It’s now 1:16. Mind you, I have to be at work at 2:00. I am SO frustrated at this point because it wasn’t supposed to take this long! And now I don’t really have time for a run and a shower, which I’m even more frustrated about because not only are they on my to-do list, but I am finding myself craving the opportunity to run out this frustration. So what do I do? I I throw a tantrum. It’s embarrassing, but it’s true. I jumped up and down stomping my feet, yelling under my breath about how it wasn’t supposed to take this long and I could have/should have been doing other things and I don’t even have time to run! (Please tell me I’m not the only one who loses their cool and acts like a child every once in a good while.) I was trying so hard to be productive, and I was annoyed that I allowed myself to be sucked into this task for so long when I knew it was cutting into the time I had allotted for other things, particularly running.

I decided to run anyway. I quickly changed my clothes. I laced up my running shoes. I took to the track right outside my building. I pounded out 2.4 miles while listening to the confidence webinar I didn’t want to listen to while running. And I thought. I thought about how I’m doing all this stuff lately to be a better person (what does that even mean? Better at what? Life? How? By being nicer? Making more money? Being more disciplined? Eating better? All the things?), but if I’m not careful, I can miss out on who I’m truly meant to be in the process.

You see, here’s the thing. On my own, I am a lazy human being. I sleep in. I like junk food, and facebook, and TV. Too much. My natural inclination is to float through life, doing the things I enjoy, hoping that somehow my aspirations will come to fruition. I know intellectually that it takes action to make things happen, but I guess I didn’t really want things to happen badly enough. And I finally came to a point where I realized that wasn’t where I wanted to stay. I’m a couple of months out of an unhealthy relationship and subsequent bout of depression. And after coming to terms with the fact that life wasn’t turning out the way that I had thought it would, I realized I should probably do something about that. That I could do something about it. And I feel ready to.

I’ve always wanted to make something of writing. I just never really had the confidence that I could, and always came back to, “Writing won’t pay the bills.” So I set it aside as something to do when I felt like it, not something to invest my time, energy, and money into. But since I’ve been on this “Stop being lazy and make something of yourself” kick, I’ve tried to invest a little more time and energy (no money at this point-I’m not there yet) into writing, and improving as a writer/blogger. I’ve been writing more consistently, and committed to posting more frequently. I’ve been listening to webinars, reading blog posts, and joining facebook challenge groups. I’ve been going through Chalene Johnson’s 30-Day Push to help me identify my priorities, set my goals, and break them down into doable tasks in order to reach those goals. It’s been helpful. I’ve been more organized, productive, and mindful of how I use my time. I feel like I’m making measurable progress toward my goals. And it feels good.

Except for when I can’t get everything done in a day. Or don’t manage my time well, despite good intentions. And then I get flustered because I feel like I’m some machine who must, must, must. Must run. Must clean. Must look up money-saving tips. Must write. And then when I don’t do all the musts, I feel like I’ve malfunctioned–even if I’ve still spent my time doing worthy things, or if the reasons I couldn’t accomplish everything on my to-do list were outside of my control. And I don’t make a pretty sound when I’m malfunctioning, like faulty brakes that screech. I vent to my Heavenly Father about how it’s not fair, and I’m trying, and I don’t feel like I have enough to show for it. Wah, wah, wah.

And then He reminds me. He reminds me why I’m doing it all. That it’s not a bad thing to be more productive, to set goals and to go for them. It’s not bad to make a to-do list and feel a sense of accomplishment when you can cross things off of it. What is bad is being married to that to-do list. Making it an idol. Getting so caught up in “personal development” that you forget that at the center of your personhood is your spiritual life, and you focus so much on developing other areas that your spirit starts to starve. Because inevitably, Bible reading makes its way to the bottom of the list. It doesn’t feel as tangible an accomplishment as paying a bill, or publishing a post. And that’s just it. It’s not an accomplishment. It’s not a task to be crossed off a list. It’s an investment in a relationship, one that is living and breathing and eternal, with a God who is living, and breathing, and eternal, and holy—and thus worthy of my reverence and affection. That’s not something that gets checked off a list. That’s something that transcends the list, that should be the very essence of my being–and at the center of everything I do on that list.

He reminds me who I am, and who I’m meant to be. I’m His, and I’m meant to shine His light. That’s what it’s all about. Not a certain number of followers, or an amount in a bank account. Not a certain number on a scale, or titles attached to my name. At the end of my life, I don’t want to be remembered for having made so much money, or having so many followers on my blog, or being out of debt, or disciplined, or any of those things just for those things’ sake. At the end of the day, amidst competing desires that do want it to be all about me, I want to honor my God. I want to live for His kingdom. If I’ve gotten out of debt, let it be so that I can give more to furthering His kingdom. If I’ve reached a certain number of followers, let each one of them be pointed to Him. If I’ve attained a certain level of discipline, let it be so that I’m a wise steward of the resources God’s entrusted to me, to use and take care of for His kingdom’s sake. It’s not about me being “better,” because I must decrease, and He must increase. It’s about becoming more like Him. And Jesus got stuff done, but He didn’t bow to a to-do list. He was a Man of purpose, but He welcomed interruptions.

I’m learning. I’m not always getting everything done on my to-do list. Sometimes because I’m too tired. Sometimes because unexpected things come up. But I’m okay when I don’t. I’m learning to roll with the punches, and operate on God’s timetable, not my own. He doesn’t love me any less when I don’t put a line through all the tasks for today, because life is not about lists. It’s about living.

So I guess I’m back at the same place. I’ve come to the conclusion, once again, that I am accepted and loved apart from my ability to do All the Things. And that my aim is to honor my God–not to complete as much as I can in any given day. And in the event that I get caught up in thinking my worth is wrapped up in how much I can cross off a list, I am still loved and accepted–and gently reminded, by the One who loves and accepts me, of what I’m really supposed to be living for–Him.

An Open Letter to Myself

I wrote this to myself last year when I was in the throes of physical and mental illness. That’s a story for another time–one that’s currently in the works. But in the midst of it, I became painfully–and thankfully–aware of my brokenness. I was forced to face the reality that I had lived so much of my life out of fear–and it wasn’t pretty to see.

In fact, I wrote this because I was in a relationship at the time, and I was so afraid that what was going on would scare him away–that I would scare him away. The letter originally included more that spoke to that specifically. But I realized that it was a necessary and beautiful thing to see that I was fueled by fear, because only then was there hope for change. And I had to believe that somebody could choose to stay if they wanted to. I simply had to let them. But above all that, even if he left, HE, the One who made me and chose me, would always stay.

That boy eventually did leave. He simply stated that his feelings had changed. And I respect him for being honest with me about that, when it would have been easy to feel sorry or obligated to stay because of how sick I was. And you know what? I learned that I was okay. The worst thing in the world was not being found out for who I was, and then left. That didn’t have to keep me from being me, messy parts and all.

It’s a work in progress. I’m still tempted at times to hide who I am. To say what I think people will want to hear, instead of what’s really on my mind. To sound funny, or smart, or cool, or just not weird. To not let my crazy show too much or talk about anxiety and depression, because what will they think??  I’m learning, though. I’m learning people are just people, and they all have their own struggles, too. Most of them aren’t as scared by talking about mental illness as one might think. They may have faced or are facing it themselves, or know someone close to them who is. And oftentimes, there’s a comfort in knowing they aren’t in the struggle alone, a sense of solidarity and camaraderie. I’m finally realizing that I’ve been given a unique voice to speak about God’s grace and light in the midst of the darkness of mental and physical illness. And I’m excited to use it and share how God walked with me through that hard time–and how He still does.

Dear Tamara,

You have feared so much. You have held so much fear in your bones, in your petite frame, over all your years. Maybe it started when you were born and almost died, and were too young to understand what that meant, because you hadn’t known life outside the womb yet. You have feared, and you have felt much. So much. So much, that you’ve feared the feelings will break you. You’ve feared they already have. You’ve feared never being put back together. And you’ve seen yourself as a bag of bones, a covering of flesh merely masking as put-together, when really you feel the insides are just shards and fragments of matter contained in skin. You have tried, tried so hard. To be a real girl. To be beautiful and worthy and wanted. That’s all you’ve really wanted, is to be wanted. So you’ve marched around believing that you have to carry around this sack of broken insides that looks whole on the outside in order to be loved, to be wanted. But really, what you really want is for someone to see what you really are–and love you still. But the funny thing about the fear you’ve carried around and felt for so long, it makes letting someone in to see you for who you are, and let them love you for just that–broken pieces and all–scary. You’ve tried so hard to look like a real girl that you fear that once someone gets close enough, they’ll find you out. They’ll know the truth. They’ll see through the facade and get close enough to see how quickly that bag of bones crumbles.

But what you don’t know is this: you are a real girl. Your heart beats just like everyone else’s, and everyone is a little bit broken, too. But you are not as broken as you think you are. You are healing. You are more than a sack of bones. You are not a fake. You have been forced to face your demons and skeletons in your closet and your fears and sins and doubts. You didn’t choose this. But Tamara, it is good.

You have feared so long to be seen, and to be really seen, and then left. But He who formed your frame will never forsake you. You’ve been afraid for a long time. And you’ve survived. Can you not make it through this, too? Just keep pushing through. Don’t let it rule your life. Don’t let it let you hide. Shine. Trust. Be.

Don’t be afraid, dear girl. Don’t be afraid.

Love,
You

The truth about lemonade and fitted jeans. —

Darling, small isn’t real. If your mind is already tumbling wildly over bigness than thinking you’ll be just fine playing a small life is a heartbreaking myth, as well. You’re denying yourself of the goodness you want. You’re mixing lemonade, pouring the sugar in, adding the ice and then saying to that heart of yours, “No, no, watch it from the counter but don’t you sip. That lemonade is for other people. Not you. Not you.” T, you made the lemonade. You made it. And you have one more step. So say it with me, “And now, I’ll take a sip.”

via The truth about lemonade and fitted jeans. —

The Centrality of the Gospel

Apparently blog posts about Cambridge and hot beverages are becoming a theme.

Today I drove to Cambridge. Again. For a hot drink. Again. But this time it was hot chocolate, and I went with a friend from church. We got our drinks, and chatted as we strolled down Brattle Street. (Aside: L.A. Burdick Chocolate has really good hot chocolate–AND they have almond milk. Double score!)

Well, this one isn’t so much about the drink. It’s more about the conversation that took place as I consumed it.

This friend and I have met for coffee once before. I’ve been to get-togethers at her house. I’ve seen her at church. We don’t really know each other all that well, but one thing that I’ve appreciated about our conversations is that they always seem to circle back to the Gospel. That’s pretty refreshing. In fact, I recall being invited to her house, along with some other people, the very first night I met her–my first time visiting the church I now attend. Here was a group of twenty-somethings, and the conversation naturally centered on the Gospel, the Bible, and how it shapes our views and our lives. I felt a sense of wanting to belong to this group of people, not just because they welcomed me and accepted me, although it certainly did feel nice. I wanted to belong to a group of people whose lives were rooted in the Gospel, whose conversation was colored with it, whose actions and interactions displayed that they were people who had been changed by the grace of God. Because I want to be that kind of person. And I know how easily I emulate those around me, sometimes without even realizing it. So, what better type of community to surround myself with?

Anyway, today, as we walked, we talked about the Gospel. How central it is. To everything. I tell her how I started listening to The Village Church’s sermon series on the Apostle’s Creed.   I tell her how in the first sermon, Matt Chandler talks about the difference between knowing versus believing–how believing begets action. We talk about how there is a place for practical preaching (i.e., “Three Steps to Improving Your Marriage”), but sometimes it can be like putting the cart before the horse. Because when you focus on the Gospel, when you have a right view of God and who you are in Him, it transforms how you view and approach everything else in life. I tell her how for so long I lived out of functional unbelief. I said I believed God loved me, and that I was forgiven, but didn’t believe it at a core level. I hid my sin from Him and others. I was weighed down by shame and fear. That I would be found out. And that I wouldn’t be accepted when I was.

And then we talk about Gospel community. How when you live as though you believe the Gospel, you’re free to confess your sin to God and receive His forgiveness. You’re free to confess your faults to others and receive healing. We talk about the healing we’ve both received in opening up to others in our Gospel community about our sins and struggles. How that Gospel community, when it faithfully delivers both grace and truth, loves you where you are without condoning your sin. How either end of the spectrum–all grace, or all truth, are actually neither truly grace nor truth, nor accurate reflections of the Gospel. And how the most hopeful news one can be given is not that it’s okay for me to stay stuck in my sin, but that there is a God who loves me enough to get me unstuck, and a community who wants to help me stay that way.

I am thankful for such a community. For Gospel conversations with friends. For being reminded of its centrality, and challenged to live my life in a way that reflects it.

And for hot chocolate. With almond milk.

26 Steps to Simplicity: More (Plus a Giveaway!)

Do you feel overwhelmed by clutter? Are you finding yourself needing to simplify your life? I know I am! Join me in entering Whisper of Worth’s giveaway for Josh Becker’s new book! And check out her tips on simplifying!

Click the link below to access the full post:

“Simplicity means less . . . and more.  In fact, as the title of Joshua Becker’s newest book implies, simplicity is the discovery of The More of Less. For those of you who have been trekking along with me to today’s halfway point in this Blogging from A to Z Challenge, your commitment is about […]
http://whispersofworth.com/26-steps-to-simplicity-more-plus-a-giveaway/

The Latte.

I recently learned something from a 12-oz. decaf almond milk latte.

It was a Tuesday. I drove to Cambridge—Cambridge, aka “If-you-find-a-parking-spot-it’s-a-miracle Town”—for a cup of coffee. I had dreamt about this gourmet cup of coffee since the previous Saturday. I had plans to meet a friend in the city, which fell through because, A. Time management is not my forte, and I did not leave myself enough time to get into the city, and B. PARKING. Who decides to drive to the North End at 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon and expect to find a parking spot? This chick. So by the time I would have found a spot, my dear friend had to depart. I gave up and drove home.

Sunday was a new day. A new chance for yummy coffee. “I know, I’ll stop at Starbucks on my way to church.” Sunday was a sunny day, prime for iced coffee. And I dig Starbucks iced coffee with coconut milk. But getting places on time is hard enough, never mind trying to squeeze in a trip to Starbucks beforehand. So, no coffee before church. It was all good, though. Friends invited me out for lunch after church! And we were planning to go to Uncommon Grounds, which I know to have yummy lattes. But when we got there, there was a 45-minute to an hour wait. Uncommon Grounds is that good, people. (If you’re looking for a good breakfast place in Watertown, this is it.) So, not surprising there was such a wait. But it was a wait I couldn’t wait for, as I had to be at work an hour-and-a-half later. My friends and I puttered around the area looking for an alternative. A diner on the corner was the consensus, as it had half the wait time. And a good diner it was, just not for gourmet coffee, or lattes, or dairy alternatives. “Hmm, maybe I’ll have time to stop at Starbucks real quick before I go into work,” I thought. I didn’t. My friends and I were having such a great time that we chatted ourselves all the way up to the time when I would have to leave, with just enough time to get to work—without a trip to Starbucks. Sigh. No such luck again.

Monday was a new day, too, though. Surely then I would have time to stop at Starbucks before work. After all, I didn’t have anything planned for the morning. Except apparently sleeping. I slept until noon, people. I never do that. So inevitably, by the time I woke up, I had just enough time to get up, eat, run and shower before I had to be at work.

But Tuesday, Tuesday was a different story. I had a chiropractor appointment at 10:45, with no plans after that until work at 1:30. Finally! I had time to go buy myself a most delicious coffee. But of course, as it was rainy and chilly, I was feeling more of a hot drink than an iced one. And while I dig Starbucks iced coffee with coconut milk, for some reason I’m not crazy about it in their hot drinks. That, and I just had my mind set on an almond milk decaf latte. So I drove to Cambridge. For a latte. After driving around a couple blocks, I managed to find a parking spot close to the coffee shop I had settled on. Score. I had imagined how delicious this latte was going to taste. I couldn’t wait to partake of its creamy, nutty, decaffeinated goodness. I walk in and place my order. The barista hands me my coffee. I take a sip. “Mmm, this is just what I wanted,” I think. I am pleasantly satisfied.

That is, until a few more sips in. It’s then that I realize that this latte is not the best I’ve had, and really isn’t that great at all. But of course, I can’t admit that, because after all, I had been dreaming of this latte since Saturday! It had to be good. Then I realized something. I didn’t want to admit it was underwhelming, because I had expected it to be fantastic. It was supposed to be great. But it wasn’t. And the only thing holding me back from acknowledging that, was that I had such high expectations for its deliciousness. I didn’t want to admit that I was disappointed. So instead I tried to convince myself it was actually better than it was. But what good was that going to do? It was a less-than-great latte. It wasn’t what I wanted, or what I was hoping for. And that was okay.

That was my mid-stride epiphany, as I held said subpar latte. And I realized I had a choice: I could throw the rest of it away, or I could continue to drink it knowing that it wasn’t as yummy as I hoped it would be. I chose the latter. But it was a choice based in reality, not denial. If I chose to keep drinking it under the guise that it was in fact this delectable drink, I would have been living a lie.

I have lived quite a lie from time to time. And I’ve realized that many of those times have arisen from the choice to deny the truth—the truth that my hopes were let down, my expectations unmet.

Take relationships.

We all hope for the best going into relationships, right? If we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t get into them. Even if things look shaky from the beginning, I think most of us are inclined to have an inkling of hope that things will turn out alright. How many of us really start out thinking, “Well, this is going nowhere fast.” (Although, outsiders looking in might think that for us sometimes.) No, I think most of us hope for the best. I do. And then I attach this expectation that things are supposed to turn out right. So when they don’t, I have a hard time accepting that, and I continue to live as though things are fine. Just fine. I mean, really, really fine. As fine as you can get. FINE.

But who really wants “fine”? I want good. And I don’t mean “We never, ever fight or even disagree on anything, and we both love Amos Lee!” I mean hard-but-worth-it good. And I’ve found that in settling for “fine,” often times things were really not fine. I just never wanted to own that. So, instead of acknowledging things for what they are, I have often continued to sip the proverbial coffee, trying to convince myself it’s tastier than it truly is.

I know life isn’t as simple as a cup of coffee. You can’t pour a person down the drain like you can a mediocre latte. Relationships can be fragile and messy. But they can be handled wisely when you face their reality. You can choose to end them–kindly, quickly, and cleanly, if at all possible. Or you can choose to stay, accepting things as they are, and then making steps to change what you can. But if you stay believing that everything is fine, you won’t take those steps toward change, and things will remain as they are. And if you’re like me, you’ll keep asking yourself why things aren’t how you want them to be. But things don’t just change on their own because you wish they will.

I could have kept sipping that latte, hoping it would magically taste better with each subsequent sip. But that would have been foolish. And yet I’ve done that very thing when it comes to relationships. Things aren’t great, but I keep going, hoping they’ll improve on their own in time. But they don’t. And that wishful thinking has kept me holding on far longer than I should have, simply because I was unwilling to face reality. Because facing reality meant making a choice: should I stay or should I go? And that was a choice I didn’t want to make. It felt easier to stay and hope my feelings would change and the doubts would go away. Facing reality meant realizing I was staying for the wrong reasons: I felt bad, I didn’t want to be alone, it made sense, we’re too far in it to turn back now. I could have saved myself and others a lot of time and heartache had I simply accepted the truth much sooner.

It was my most recent relationship that ended that came to mind when I realized that latte I was drinking wasn’t so great after all. It had dawned on me that I had stayed in that relationship as long as I did because I had such high expectations for it that I wasn’t willing to accept that it didn’t live up to them. And not only did it not live up to them, but things were really not good at all. It was just hard to accept that when it was supposed to work out, we were supposed to get married, and all the other supposed to’s. Just like that latte was supposed to be delicious. But it wasn’t. And the relationship didn’t work out. We didn’t get married. And that was actually for the best, because it had gotten to a point where it really wasn’t healthy. So, I finally chose to leave. It was messy and painful, but it was a choice based in a reality, and the one that I believed to be the best for both of us.

Your best choice might be different. It might be staying. Maybe you’re married. Or wanting to stay present in your son or daughter’s life, despite how strained things might be at the moment. That just might look like creating new boundaries to protect yourself and the relationship from continuing on a downward spiral. Just don’t be like me. Don’t live in denial. Don’t sip the latte pretending it’s better than it is. Accept things for what they are. And then stay. Or leave. But whatever you choose, choose truth.