Though the Winter is Long

I have eight half written blogs begging to be finished along with at least a dozen more floating around in my head. Lately, it feels as if I have a lot of things to express but no way to articulate it. Over the past few months, I’ve felt the gamut of emotions – as one does when walking through grief.

Frustration. Confusion. Sadness. Hopelessness. Loneliness. Happiness. Joy. Trust. Anger. Exhaustion. Gratitude. Contentment. Unsettledness. Pressure. Freedom.

I’ve felt all of it. Usually, every day by 11 am.

Screen Shot 2017-10-28 at 9.39.04 PMOn Repeat. All Day. Every Day.

It’s hard to feel and think about so many things at one time. It’s not easy to live in the middle of so much tension; it’s overwhelming. But, it’s most of life. Most of life is not lived high atop the mountain or at the very bottom of a valley. It’s lived in the middle. The thing is, I hate the middle. I always have. For as long as I can remember I have struggled to be in the here and now. Even in the best of circumstances, I catch myself wondering what will come next. I even have a hard time settling into good seasons because I get so afraid they will end. I tell my counselor this is fear comes from historical data, not my crazy. He doesn’t buy it. I digress. Anyway, you can imagine how someone like me might do in the midst of some pretty heart-wrenching circumstances.

I’m doing my best to embrace what this season has to offer. By trying to embrace, I mostly mean I’m trying not to kick and scream my way through it. I’m also trying to limit my ice cream intake because, as it turns out, my metabolism has not gotten better with age. If this season of heartache can be compared to a cold winter, I’d love it to be a mild, quick one like in Florida.  Grit your teeth and just get through the short period of awful. There is a reason I live in the South, after all. But, this grief feels more like I need to buckle down in Montana for eight months. The only way to get through a Winter like that is by leaning into the cold, lighting a fire and making the season work for you. Embrace what it has to offer by whipping out your favorite cozy sweater, heating up some cider and using the time to hibernate and rest. I’m doing my best.

The thing is, Spring always comes.

It hasn’t sprung here yet. But, most days the snow is melting, albeit slowly. I’m trying to see the Winter for what it is. A time for not yet seen growth. A time to learn patience and faith, believing the harvest will come. When I choose, I see glimpses of goodness every day. The Lord has been faithful in provision, in relationships, and in His kind patience towards me.

And, I won a raffle at work a few weeks ago, so THE TIDES ARE TURNING, PEOPLE.

A Reclaiming.

For most of my life, I allowed myself to be defined by my circumstances. I fit into a lot of categories that were not glamorous or exciting. Many experiences in my life were, to put it bluntly, devastating. That’s not to say I didn’t have good things or amazing people around me – I did. But, the lows of life seem to have a greater effect than the highs.

And I was the girl who had a lot of lows.

I was the girl who grew up in a home that was marked by divorce, domestic violence, and substance abuse.

I was the girl who was abused and silenced and metaphorically put in a corner. It took me years and years to find the voice I lost.

I was the girl who never quite fit in but wasn’t all the way on the outside edges either.

I was the girl who tried too hard and did too much because she was so desperate for approval. I was the girl who made all of the right decisions.

I was the girl who didn’t invite friends over because of that one birthday party when the cops were called and all of those pre-teen girls were left crying, probably scarred for life.

I was the girl who felt like she was never enough and at the very same time felt like she would always be too much.

I was the girl who seriously contemplated ending it all.

I spent the first twenty ish years of my life walking around as a victim. I let every single circumstance mark who I was. I slumped and slouched and scooted through life – a shell of all I was meant to me.

And then I started to realize that, while I didn’t get to pick anything that happened to me I was actually responsible for how I decided to respond to it. It was up to me to make the life I wanted and to become the person I wanted to be.

By God’s grace, a tribe of beautiful people alongside me, years of counseling and a decent amount of wine, I grew up. I walked away from being a victim and decided to be an overcomer. Most of my freedom came from just deciding to claim it. 

I became the first person in my entire extended family to graduate college. I traveled the world. I moved across the country and made a life for myself. I started mentoring college kids. I met the perfect college pastor and fell in love.  I got married and started my life with someone else, anxious to start a family of my own. So much of where I’ve found myself the past few years has felt like a reward. I felt like I had finally arrived and everything I had been through was worth it because I was exactly where I wanted to be.  I had found my happy ending.

And then.

In one evening, weeks before my 30th birthday, everything changed. My marriage, my ministry, and life as I knew it was flipped upside down. “I want a divorce,” he said. “I don’t think we should be together.”

[I won’t share all of the details surrounding my impending divorce here.  While it is certainly my story – it is someone else’s as well.  It’s layered and messy and devastating and confusing and the people that need to know the nitty gritty do.  Please don’t try to come to conclusions or make assumptions. This story is still being written, and only two people have the right to tell it.]

So, here I am. In a place that feels so uncomfortable and foreign and at the same time, familiar. I can sense the victimhood trying to find a crevice to sneak in to. The temptation to throw my hands in the air is great. It might be easier to just admit defeat. It feels like I have a constant cloud of disappointment resting over my head. Most days, it’s as if I am staring at a wall that’s eight foot deep and the only tool I have to dig through it is a toothpick.

But. I refuse to spend twenty ish more years as a victim of my circumstances. I refuse for more time to be wasted, to be stolen. I will not be defined by one more disappointment. I will not define the Lord by the choices others have made or by the unfortunate things that happen. He is good. He is good. He is good. I refuse to slouch, slump and be silenced again.

I haven’t had to actively decide to be an overcomer in quite some time. In the last several years, life kind of just settled down and my new identity came fairly naturally. But, now.

Now is the time for reclaiming. 

I’m reclaiming my identity as an overcomer. I’m reclaiming my independence. I’m reclaiming dreams that had died. I’m reclaiming my feminity. I’m reclaiming my voice. I’m reclaiming my faith that God works all things together for our good and for His glory.

Oh, it hurts like hell. I’d love nothing more than to push rewind and go back about six months. It’s painful in ways I didn’t know life could be. There are days when I swear I’ve run out of tears to shed and still they fall. I’m learning that grief is not a friend, but a necessary nuisance that you can either invite to the table or have him interrupt your dinner party…either way he’s coming to stay for a bit.

This is not an easy “glory hallelujah I get to learn something new situation.”  I don’t want to do any of it. It’s hard work. It requires more of God’s grace and more of leaning on all of those beautiful people. It requires more counseling and it certainly requires more wine.

But the decision is mine.

I can give in to my circumstances or I can decide to learn, grow, trust, hope and believe.

Now, please pass the Chardonnay.