the beauty between pt. 2

(If you didn’t read part 1, it’s here.)

“When the storm clouds rise
And the sky is dark
And I’m pressed with anxious care
I’ve a safe retreat in the strong, high tower
For no ill can harm me there”

We all have normal levels of anxiety. A certain amount of stress is healthy. For me, in middle school mine was my crush finding out I liked him. In high school, it was being embarrassed in front of peers, or realizing I forgot to do my homework. Now, it might be that I’m running late to lunch plans or not getting my charting done at work in time.

But for the past year and a half, my response to certain situations in my life has been a little less than normal. A heavier, more impactful level of anxiety has made quite a presence in my life, shifting my relationships, my thought processes, and overall well-being.

“When the lightnings flash
And the thunders roar
And the storms in fury be
When they seem so sure to engulf my soul
Then I’ll hide in Your safe retreat”

Sometimes I worry about small things, like  having to prepare a bible study lesson and having no clue what to talk about. And sometimes they’re bigger, like having family members who aren’t talking to each other, or not being able to explain to a doctor what’s going on with my patient. But no matter what it is, big or small, I freak out. I set really high expectations for myself. When it comes to my knowledge, my capabilities, my friendship — I want to be the best at all of it. But when I can’t be, and when I don’t meet those same expectations for other people, I panic. My thoughts race all day, my heartbeat quickens, and I become at a loss for words. I make excuses and back out of plans, I forget important information, and sweat through all my clothes… I lose my appetite, or I overeat. Sometimes, I don’t want to leave my bed. These things feel so sure to engulf my soul.

Often, I feel so silly for the way I feel. I think about the dilemmas of our universe and measure up my tiny grains of anxiety to those huge grains, hoping it would make me feel better. But invalidating my feelings only makes it worse. Brushing it off and not talking about it with people has only proven to be the worst medicine.

“Soon the storms will pass
And the sky will clear
And my rest be calm and sweet
I will trust and wait with no anxious fear
For I’ll hide in Your safe retreat”

To know that God is in the midst of it all brings an indescribable peace. When life is throwing curve balls and heavy storms, He’s right there with me. He doesn’t watch me struggle and say “Alright, enough with the water works. Move on already”. His heart breaks when I’m sad. He meets me where I’m at, and gives me enough grace to bring me through it. And He gets pumped when I’m joyful.

Skies may not always be clear, and rest may not always be restful, but He is a safe haven where anxiety and fear can be eradicated. Even though camping out in this little tent of safety feels uncertain, it’s the best deal from the best Source. So I will trust and wait.

(Song lyrics from “Safe Retreat” by King’s Kaleidoscope.)

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the beauty between pt. 1

Some of my post-grad days are really good. I love the days when I’m off and get to spend time reading a good book, or when I get lunch with close friends I haven’t caught up with in a while. When I take a trip with my family, or dress up to go somewhere on a Saturday, I’m think to myself “life is really fun”. But some days just aren’t. Some days, I make mistakes or give the wrong answers at work and have to talk about it. Some days I get home at 9 because I didn’t manage my time well and have to wake up at 5 am to do it all again. Or I have to cancel dinner plans with a friend for the 3rd time because I’m just too exhausted and go more weeks without seeing them. It stinks.

I don’t feel hopeless, but I don’t feel at peace either. I’m stuck in between.

So to motivate myself, I just rush through life. Which I think we all tend to do. We all “can’t wait” for the week to be over, or for summer to come, or for a marriage to begin, or for the next paycheck. We are always looking for the next thing because we have this urge for more of something. More security, more love, more satisfaction. But we’re always left wanting more afterwards.

For the past 2 months, I’ve been listening to this really incredible album by King’s Kaleidoscope called The Beauty Between. It’s an album about being present where you are, in the “between” parts of life – right in the middle of two extremes. About how everything is not black or white, so you kinda just hang out in this gray area. About how not everything makes sense, or is defined, or is even planned to expectation, and how uncomfortable that can be. But as the album goes on it shares, quite melodically, how beautiful those parts of life are still.

While I don’t feel like my mundane life is beautiful all the time, I’m reminded that I’m merely wrong, and that it is. How beautiful is it to laugh and to cry and to ask questions and to know the answers and to fail and to succeed. How beautiful it is that going to work at 6 am means seeing the sunrise and that near or far, I still have friends that feel like sunshine.

There’s so many gaps and deficiencies in life and we simply can’t fill them all in. I feel like I’m dosey-doeing through them, but luckily I’ve got a faithful dance Partner.

I fortunately fall into the beauty between.

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blessed

So I wrote this thing about a month ago, when the reality of being unemployed truthfully settled in and my emotions surrounding that were at an all time high. Although now, I am employed. I actually start orientation tomorrow, so life came at me fast. But our generation has a tendency to only show the peachy, positive, bright side of life on social media. Too often, we only celebrate our successes, but don’t embrace our failures. I wanted to delete what I wrote, because I thought it was too whiny, too spiteful, and now, too irrelevant. However, I’m hoping to speak to people like me, who find it hard to rejoice when others are doing really well or seemingly better. For people who want to be or do something somewhere else, but don’t know what that “else” is.

 

My spirits have been up and down. I know the job search is difficult. I was warned it’d be a long process, and potentially a discouraging one, but that I would need to remain encouraged and persistent. I know that most of everyone has been through this stage. Some unemployment periods longer than others, but many people have had the sheer joy of doing 30-45 minute long applications, never hearing back for weeks, and then finally getting an email that just says something along the lines of “we decided to pursue another candidate”.

I know in a few months time, I’ll look back and scoff at how worried I was. I’ll get something eventually, and have a new list of concerns that don’t include being unemployed. But right now, I’m really not in the mood for people to tell me my time is coming, to be patient, and to enjoy this time. Because I am doing all of those things. I feel good most days. I have plenty of time to workout, I can make my own meals, and I get to read books for fun in my spare time. Money is tight, but I’ve been getting by with the help of really loving parents. I’ve been able to refresh and keep up so many good friendships, and have been able to invest more time into church and ministry. But when you apply for 5-10 jobs a day, for weeks and weeks at a time, it feels like it’s own job. I’m tired of talking myself up in these copy pasted cover letters when those words can’t sum me up in person. The more jobs I get rejected from, the less I want to apply. And the more time I spend in bed. And the more baked goods I eat. And the sadder I feel.

As graduation was approaching in the spring, I started to make efforts to change my attitude about certain things. In March, I made the decision to a.) Not compare my journey to others’, and b.) Celebrate my friends who are getting jobs even when I’m still looking.

And it has been really difficult. I deleted all of my social media for a month this summer, hoping to avoid those God-awful “I’m pleased to announce” posts. Those have always rubbed me the wrong way. Seriously, it’s great that you got exactly what you wanted at this world-renowned organization that loves you so much. YAY let all of Facebook join hands and praise your success. Like seriously, did you do that to inform your friends and family that you’re doing well, or did you do it out of vain? I don’t plan on doing that whenever I get a job. And now, I have friends who are close to me getting interviews for the same exact jobs I applied for. It’s nearly impossible for me not to constantly debate in my head whether or not I did something wrong or that I’m just simply not good enough. I’m just kinda over this whole thing.

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I’m trying not be down about it, and I’m trying not to compare myself to others. I’ve been doing pretty well about remaining optimistic. But today is particularly hard. And I kinda just want to cry and watch This Is Us.

You would think by now that I finally found the light at the end of the tunnel. I have a job now! I can finally pay for my car without help, I can stop getting samples of makeup from Sephora and just get the real thing, and actually get more than just a drink when I’m out to eat. But it’s funny how we can be when God gives what we’ve been asking for. I’ve been waiting to be out of this awkward post-grad stage, and now that I’m on my way out, I’m kinda asking God to rethink His decisions and take back what He’s given me. A friend of mine said “I have to remind myself that everything I used to pray for is what I have now. Too often, we beg God for things, and once He delivers, we say it’s too much.” And that spoke to me because that’s where I’m at.

I realized my motivation in not posting about my new job wasn’t genuine. I didn’t do it because I wasn’t proud, and because it wasn’t my dream job. If I had got hired at one of the best hospitals in my area, there would’ve been no hesitation in broadcasting that. Because that’s what we want people to see. But that didn’t happen. I’m working at a hospital I didn’t anticipate, on a floor and with a population I didn’t expect. And that is okay.

I’ve been reminded to always celebrate those doing well around you. There’s something so special and humbling about sharing excitement with your achieving friends. Their victory becomes your victory.

I’ve been reminded that the timing may not be what we expect, and the blessing may not be what we think, but we’re still blessed. God doesn’t play favorites; He has our best interest always and has purpose and reason behind everything.

I’m anxious about working and getting a taste of the real world for sure, but I’m also really excited to start a new journey. It’s going to be challenging, and my perpetual state of exhaustion will only be heightened. Thankfully, I’m surrounded by fantastic human beings who are all in with me, willing to meet me where I’m at, and share in my victory.

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cleanse

I stopped using social media for a month and here are 9 positive lessons I learned:

  1. Enjoy the moments you get to be apart of and fully immerse yourself instead of wishing you recorded them for other people to see
  2. Don’t automatically pick up your phone during socially awkward moments of silence and dull conversation; put away and dive deeper
  3. Detach your self-worth from outward love and approval ; love yourself for who you are, and your body for what it is
  4. Be more intentional in your relationships and facilitate sincere conversations with people you think you know really well
  5. Don’t assume friends are doing well from photogenic pictures and 10-second videos; put meaning to ‘keeping in touch’
  6. Form your own opinions instead of cleverly articulating someone else’s
  7. Take pictures because you love them and want to capture the candidness life has to offer
  8. Let go of the pressure to persuade your followers how adventurous and artsy you can be; you are both
  9. Don’t compare your journey to others’ journeys; not everyone is getting married or working their dream job (there’s always a few that happen at the same time so it feels like everyone, but you are most likely in the majority)

A month isn’t a long time, but it made a significant difference. A month ago, I was waiting by my phone, hyper-vigilant about how many likes and views I was getting. I was watching friends’ Snapchat videos, wondering if I wasn’t invited because I wasn’t actually that likable. Every time I exited a social network, I’d open the next one, continuing this rotation of opening and closing apps as if anything would have changed within the last 15 minutes. Surprise! That cute couple is still together. That girl from college still turns up every weekend. That friend is still dancing in the car (LOL totally me)… Nothing ever changed. I was still me; they still them. But I noticed the more I used social media, the less content, less creative, and less confident I was. Scrolling through timelines became less about keeping up with people I cared about, and more of a place for self-loathing, pondering why my life didn’t look a certain way.

Gradually, I let these minuscule, fleeting things equate my value, and it’s a bad habit I think we all fall into every now and then. It’s hard when our world glorifies money, beauty, and success. But I know that my worth and my identity isn’t rooted in the things of this world; it’s rooted in Christ. He goes before me; to Him my heart belongs and in Him my treasure is stored. I know that I exude love and that I’m full of life and that I’m fearfully made and that I’m beautiful every single day, without the fashion and the makeup and the Insta likes. I just had to be reminded. And what a sweet reminder God’s love is.

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“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

i don’t believe in running

That’s what I used to say to my insanely athletic sister who always wanted to know if I would run with her in the early mornings.

Hell, no.

Why would I opt to gasp for what feels like my last breath in 90 degree weather, only to stop after 10 minutes and not be able to move the next day, when I could just enjoy a bag of Sun chips and watch an episode of Parks & Rec instead? It didn’t make sense to me, so I would always joke “I don’t believe in running”. And she would go on her way.

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That was 6 months ago I last felt that way. Now, as I sit in my preparation class for my nursing boards and seemingly disappoint on every single question, all I want to do is run. I want to run away from the insecurities that creep up, telling me I’m not smart enough, I won’t be as good as my classmates, I won’t be competent in my career. I want to run from the anxiety and sadness I fall into when simply thinking about my past and present failures.

But I don’t. Instead, I run outside.

I run in my tasteless Nike shoes and oversized t-shirts around The Green on campus to be consoled. I run towards my feelings and problems, rather than in the opposite direction. I run to and through and with them, hand in hand, validating them and embracing them. Much like how the breeze embraces me when my feet quicken across the pavement.

My mile time stinks. Every now and then I quit early or get shin splints afterwards. I’d love to get better, but it’s not really about that for me right now. It’s about the journey. Even though I can feel the quickening of my heartbeat and the hyperventilating of my breath, I can feel the warm, radiant rays of sunshine glistening on my skin, too. As my Beats play my favorite rap playlist throughout my auditory, I take notice of how the cool air feels between my sweaty fingers and tightly curled hair. They remind me that things are going to be alright.

I guess running isn’t so bad.

via Daily Prompt: Quicken

just do it

I was talking to someone the other day who felt like she was stuck in a spot. She shared how she has longed to move on & be the foster mom she’s always wanted to be, but feels like she has issues to work through first. Issues that have been in place for years, but haven’t been resolved because of work and negligence of counseling. I asked her if she felt like these problems had to be fixed right now in order for her to achieve motherhood, and she said she doesn’t know if it’s really holding her up, or if it’s just an excuse.

We think that because we are not as loving as we could be, as selfless as we could be, as adventurous as we could be, that we can’t do great things right now. We are perfectionists, and want to show up in tip-top shape, looking our best, but God does the coolest things when we are the most out of shape. He wants to meet us right where we are, in the grit and rubble of our lives, and show us how He can take something that is broken, and remake it into something that is beautiful. You don’t need to be all fixed up and wrapped with big red bow to be useful. Sometimes, we have to be really screwed up in order to recognize our need. I think that is incredible.

I struggle with this a lot. There are some goals I want to achieve that I won’t say out loud because I don’t want to fully commit, or I’m scared it won’t come to fruition. There are so many opportunities that I turn down or run away from because I don’t think I’m a good enough person to go for them. I think there’s a lot of work to be done and I never think that I’m ready to take on certain tasks that come my way. But having these weaknesses and doubts are a chance to see what grace is all about. Some of the greatest growth and blessings come through not knowing what the hell you’re getting yourself into. Not being ready. Being broken.

Embrace the fact that you may not be your best self. You think you’re unlikely; well you’re not. God has used some of the most amateur, unlikely people to take on his most marvelous deeds.