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

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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.

Overwhelmed.

Father, I am overwhelmed.

This is not the first time You have heard these words come out of my mouth, or seen them pecked out by anxious fingers. You’ve read them plastered across my unquiet mind before I even realize they’re there.

I am often overwhelmed.

This time, though, it’s a quiet buzz. An undercurrent. A sense of pressure, and yet a simultaneous settling peace. A recognition of much to be done; a feeling of uncertainty as to which direction to turn, which topic to tackle first–and yet a realization that it’s okay to sit still right now. Bills will always need to be paid. There are facebook challenge groups and “How to Make Money Blogging” workshops and interpreting videos all vying for my attention. Which do I pick? What makes the most sense? What is the most necessary? What is the one thing or one formula that is going to help me succeed in whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing?

I check my notifications. Someone has posted in the blogging challenge group I’ve joined on facebook. I am late to the game, and need to get caught up. But it’s 11pm and I have to be at work at 7 in the morning. When am I going to have time to get caught up? Am I going to get caught up? I ask myself. But am I even supposed to be doing this right now? Aren’t I supposed to be focusing my time and energy on preparing to become an interpreter? Where does this fit in to that? Does it? Can I both write and interpret? Must I choose one over the other? How can I fully do justice to both?

I don’t have the time or energy to do all that I want to or think that I should. I become painfully aware once again of my humanity, my fragility, my finiteness. And I remember that I am not the only one strapped for time. My mom friends hardly have time to themselves at all. Others are chasing dreams of their own, or living out their callings and serving in ministries. And we are all only given 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year. The time flies by. How is it almost May already? we ask ourselves. As much as we might accomplish in any given hour, day, or week, aren’t we all still left with laundry unfolded, tasks unfinished, dreams unrealized?

And then there is You, outside of time. Unconfined by a work schedule, and a bedtime, and a body that only lets You be in one place at once. You are not disappointed in my inability to be all things to all people in all places at all times. You have not called me to do All the Things Right Now. It is enough that I am faithful. It is enough that I am a diligent steward of the time and energy and resources and gifts that You have entrusted to me. It is enough that I will never actually be enough, and You will always be more than enough.

I remember this. And I am overwhelmed. But it’s not because of my to-do list. It’s because no matter how long it gets, no matter how many things are left unfinished, I can never exhaust your strength, mercy, love.

I am overwhelmingly at peace.