Measuring Life with Paper Towels

Most days feel the same. I wake up, go about a familiar routine of working and living, something fun or dramatic happens most days, and then I go to bed.

When I measure my days that way, they all blend together.

PiagetLast semester in school I had to do a self-exploration paper measuring my own physical, mental, and emotional development. I had to choose a development theory and then compare my own personal development to what a famous so-and-so said should have happened in my development. Trust me when I tell you that it was a complicated, long, and stressful assignment. As it turns out, I had pretty normal physical development but, according to the psychology gurus, had a somewhat abnormal psychosocial development. I’ll hold on while you pick your jaw up off the floor.

The assignment to compare normal v. Sarah caused me some emotional stress but it also was great. Yeah, my life was sometimes pretty messed up —raise your hand if yours wasn’t! — and some rotten (terrible?) things happened… but, damn! A lot has changed and I did not end up where I was sure I would.

used_mini_cooperI finished the assignment, got into the car, and drove to Target to pick up game prizes for the monthly Bingo night I organize at the local homeless shelter. As I was driving, I was feeling sad and mourning things I felt I missed out on from my past. And then I came to a stop light and looked around inside my car. I’m driving a Mini Cooper, I thought. This has been my dream car ever since I saw The Italian Job a decade ago. I’m driving my dream car.

Suddenly my gloomy thought process of look how much I missed out on in my adolescence changed to, Holy crap. This Is Your Life, Sarah. You have a Mini Cooper! You’re in grad school!!! You have great friends! You have a lovely home and You Are HAPPY!!! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN!?

My mind started doing a flash-movie-sequence of “This Was Your Life, Sarah!” It was intense. I remembered the absolute poverty of spirit I had in my early-to-mid 20’s when every day I wanted to die. Then I remembered the absolute poverty of my wallet when I, like many 20-somethings, had no money. I recall that going to the grocery store was like a game of wallet-roulette. As in, do I have enough money in the bank or will this check bounce?

And then I remembered a shopping trip I took with my mom about 11 years ago, after my parents moved into their mountain home in West Virginia. I went to the grocery store with my mom, tagging along while she shopped since I was at my parent’s house for a weekend visit. We got to the grocery store and walked up to get a grocery cart. Mom told me to get a cart, too. So, I grabbed a second cart and figured she was going to do a lot of shopping since I was there to help her. We walked into the store and my mom said “Get everything you need.”

gorcery cartI almost burst into tears.

I had been struggling with finances and she knew it. Usually she and my dad gave me a miserable time about financial management and how irresponsible I was with my money, blah blah blah. So, I almost cried because, number one, she wasn’t giving me a hard time about money and, number two, I needed a lot of stuff.

I said, “What? You can’t afford this!”

We weren’t rich growing up and “we can’t afford it” was something I heard and said regularly. I don’t know why I figured that my parents still “couldn’t afford it” after all their kids had moved out, but in my mind I was 12 years old again at the grocery store figuring out what we could afford.

Mom said, “I know what I can and cannot afford, Sarah. Get everything you need.”

PapertowelsMy eyes welled up with tears and I said, “Can I get… paper towels?”

Paper towels were the measurement of extravagance to me. When you’re 20-something and broke, you go into the grocery store for only the essentials… food, toilet paper, soap. The end. Paper Towels? Please. Ain’t nobody got money for that.

Mom looked at me with a mixture of pity, sadness, and maybe maternal sympathy and said, “Yes, of course you can get paper towels. Get as many rolls as you want.”

It was like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, except it was “Sarah and the Grocery Store” and it was awesome.

In the end, I think “everything I needed” totaled around $70 which, to me, may as well have been $700. And yes, I got several rolls of paper towels.

Back in the present day, I pulled into the parking lot of Target realizing that I’ve bought paper towels for years without even thinking about how much they cost or the extravagance they once were for me. I went into Target and picked up the prizes for game night and bought myself a few extra rolls of paper towels because I could.

Several years ago, my sister bought me a journal with this on the cover. I never wrote in it because I did not have an imagined future or dreams. I had no concept, at all, of what I should write.

Several years ago, my sister bought me a journal with this on the cover. I never wrote in it because I did not have an imagined future or dreams. I had no concept, at all, of what I should write.

It’s a stupid measurement for some, but I measured my progress with paper towels. A decade ago I never imagined my life would go on much longer, let alone that I would go to college and get a bachelor’s degree. That was not a dream I dared to dream because I was so depressed that it never occurred to me that I could be successful or happy. I believed I would be stuck in bad relationships, unhappy, subjugated, and then die young. And there I was standing in line with a cart full of prizes and paper towels, looking forward to spending time with the residents at the shelter, and getting ready to walk out to the parking lot and get in my dream car. I marveled that I not only finished my bachelor’s degree, but that somehow I was in grad school and that I am actually looking forward forward to the future.

In my daily routine, I don’t typically think about how much my life has changed. I’ve been making it a mindful habit now, though. When I look back I can see how much I have changed from when I was a girl who could not afford paper towels or to think about a future.

How much have you changed?

I can’t speak, my brain isn’t working.

van-Deurzen-Existential-252x378One of the simultaneously greatest and worst parts of getting a degree in counseling is the amount of self-discovery that is possible. I’ve recognized some disturbing things and really awesome things about myself. I also convinced myself, through my reading of psychological disorders, that I sometimes have stress induced non-fluent-aphasia. (My whole class mocked me for saying it. They’re sooooo unsupportive! I told them they stressed me out so much that I couldn’t talk anymore, which lasted for all of eleven seconds.)

I almost laugh that some people assume that because I’m studying counseling, that I must be studying or analyzing them.

Uh. No.

i_think_therefore_i_am_i_think_sticker-p217795138398035049en8ct_325I’m way to self-absorbed right now figuring out my own stuff to even consider trying to counsel or analyze anyone else. These days, in many of my interactions I’m wondering how I am acting and if I’m being emotionally healthy. Other times I’ve completely closed my mind to all-things-psychological and just want to pretend to be normal for a minute.

On the bright side of self-discovery, I was able to stop smoking. It’s been almost 40 days and no slips, no horrible cravings, and I’m doing well. That is a good outcome of introspection. I’ve also realized some truly awful habits that I have. Sometimes I shudder when I realize:Adler quote

1)      What I have believed to be true (faulty belief)  is probably not true.

2)      I have been acting based on this faulty belief.

3)     These faulty belief-based behaviors have become unhealthy habits.

An example? Sure!

Someone hurt my feelings and I caught myself in my faulty-belief cycle. Yay for self-awareness! Typically (in the past), when my feelings are hurt I initiate an internal pull-back/shut down sequence. Inside my head it goes like this,

What a JERK! Did anyone ever teach him to *think* before he speaks? That was SO MEAN. Geesh. I can’t even believe how crappy that was.

And I stir it up and then stew on it. And, as I stew I decide that he’s just not going to get any response from me at all and I decline calls and don’t respond to texts because:

  • I can’t think of anything nice to say
  • I hate the thought of being thought of as:
    • A bitch
    • A shrew
    • A nag
    • Overly sensitive
    • or many of the other attributes that come to mind when I think of other women when they react to having their feelings hurt or being angry…

And then I worry about these two things:

EXIS CHICKEN1)      If I “confront” him, will he stop liking/loving/being friends with me? (cannot stand to face that! And this, of course is a faulty belief. One can “confront” someone without being a bitch, shrew, etc…)

2)      He will says something even meaner after I say “you hurt my feelings”… but this time it won’t be a thoughtless statement, it will be a purposeful, mean thing said specifically to hurt my feelings. Then what will I do? Cry even more? Be even more hurt? Want to hurt him back? (Another faulty belief because if he does say something meaner, then that’s on him, not me!)

The second thing has happened to me before where I say, “You hurt my feelings” and someone says back “I can’t help it that you’re too sensitive and got your feelings hurt”. And then, BAM! Their jerk-behavior just got thrown in my face and I accept it as my problem! I absorb it. It goes deep inside of my heart and it wounds me and I believe that it actually is my fault. Or, on the flip side, I decide that I will not deal with this person at all anymore because they’re so mean and I cut them off.

Ultimately, I never want to deal with any of that so I typically choose is the pull-back/shut down sequence. ‘Cause you can’t hurt my feelings if we’re not talking…  duuuuhhhh!

As an aside, none of this previous example is at all accurate if someone hurts my feelings that I don’t care about or know very well. When those people say something thoughtless, I have no issue going for the jugular. This is something that makes people think I am a bitch and that I should deal with at some point.

Anyway. So someone hurt my feelings. And instead of jumping to the “jerk” conclusion, I think, This is another human being with feelings and history and reactions. Let me approach this a different way. Let me say something before I spin-out or GET hurt. I decide to pick up the phone and say something and be vulnerable. I’m going to let them know that my feelings are hurt and give them the opportunity to give more information (“what I meant was…”), apologize, or hurt me more.

franklI decide to do it via phone. No text or email. I’m just gonna pick up the phone and say it. This makes me even more vulnerable because I have to speak from my heart and not in a planned-out email or text. I’m gonna be brave or, um, a regular adult.

So, I call. And what do I do? I leave an unintentionally passive-aggressive voice mail that barely makes sense and certainly does not articulate that “my feelings are hurt” or allow the other person to say what he meant. My voice breaks during the message because I’m about to start crying and I hang up.

Great job, Moffat.

I am obviously not very good at this yet. Now I have to decide if I’m going to call back and try to clarify… or just, I dunno… get stress induced non-fluent-aphasia.

Self-awareness is fun.

The Event

censoredSometimes it’s hard to say what you want to say without saying it. Do you know what I mean? You know if you say it, you’re probably going to have said too much. Or, if you do start talking, there’s a good chance you won’t stop talking (or writing) until everything has been said.

And so, you don’t say it. But then you don’t say anything at all because it is more difficult to get to from Point A to Point C due to the major detour you have to take to get around Point B. The effort seems too great and you just don’t say anything.

I’ve been trying to blog about other things — I even tried to blog about dating, but even then I was trying to say something without saying it and avoiding Point B. Ultimately it was not authentic and did not make sense (It didn’t make sense to me).detour

So, let me just address Point B. It was a life-altering event. In fact, it was one of the single-most life-altering, painful, and changing events of my life. It is The Event. And, because The Event involves other people I really love, I cannot share much about it.

Still, I need to acknowledge The Event because it changed my life and so that I can get on with my writing. So I will provide the vaguest description possible and go from there. I already have the next few blogs lined up in my mind, but I need this out of the way.

brokenThe Event started with a phone call the week before Thanksgiving 2011 and ended badly in April 2012. At its core, it was a relational issue that was about hurt instead of love, and was fueled by past wounds/bitterness which never yield anything resembling health or life. Bitterness, dishonorable and dishonest words and actions hurt several people and, unfortunately, caused incalculable emotional and relationship damage. Or, put another way: people were hurt very badly and cherished relationships were damaged.

The Event broke me.

It’s been almost two years since The Event’s finale, a year of therapy, and I still cry when I think about how much The Event broke me.

http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/grief.jpgI spent months in the mire of hurt and learned that sometimes you just need to experience hurt to its awful, tragic, tearful, agonizing depth and you need people to let you feel it. I relied on the comfort of faithful friends while I cried and cried. They reminded me that they loved me and were there for me. And they let me mourn. I needed to mourn because it was a part of a process. If I hadn’t mourned, I may have never healed.

So, that’s what I did. I had an immense depth of grief for myself and those who experienced The Event with me. I cried for the loss of it all and, for months, every single day of my life felt like a funeral. Every day something else happened that added hurt onto hurt and I felt like more had been lost – or that I was lost.

Throughout this time, subtle things were shifting in my belief-system and in the basic assumptions I had about myself and the world. Though I was engulfed in grief most of the time – especially when I was alone – there were moments of revelation. I had already planned to go to Ethiopia, so I followed through with my plan and prayed that God would let me find joy.

2012-08-06 10.39.31The insane amount of emotional, prayerful, and financial support I received before my trip and the actual trip to Ethiopia in August 2012 saved my life. Being on another content and doing work that God blessed me to do allowed me two full weeks of being away from my own history, pain, and baggage. It allowed me to see myself outside of The Event. I found a hidden and preserved part of my being that existed outside of the reach of The Event and all the Mini-Events from the last 30+ years of my life.

A preserved part of myself was re-born in Africa amidst unconditional love from total strangers. That was one of the reasons I wanted to go back to Ethiopia even before I left. In Ethiopia I was being healed by God and by people He placed around me who didn’t know anything about me or about what had happened in my life. And, at the same time, I was helping and encouraging others and getting involved in a fruitful ministry. In Ethiopia, The Event and other past deep wounds had no bearing on what I was doing or who I was; I was happy, joyful, full of life, and experiencing my own dreams in reality. But, since I had no idea how to encourage the preserved, new part of me that existed in Ethiopia when I was back “home”, I cried every. single. day… for months after I returned. Every now and then an Event-aftershock rocked my world, and I’d be thrown back into my grief.

In time, though I still experienced waves of grief, I also experienced waves of joy which is what I’d asked from God. Eventually, and without my notice, the “preserved” part of me that was born in Ethiopia started to grow and thrive here. And then one day, The Event affected me less. I hurt less.

As the pain became less intense, I stopped needing to “process”, talk, or think about The Event as much. And, eventually I was done processing, living, and re-living The Event. I learned that I am more than my history, heredity, or experience.

As more time passed, that preserved part of me began to thrive here, at “home”.

That Event requires acknowledgement because I was totally broken. Where I go next was changed two years ago because of that brokenness. I don’t need to detour around it anymore. I am where I am, in part at least, because of everything that happened. When I look at the map of my life, The Event is marked; I can see where I’ve been, how I got to where I am, and can even predict and plan with hope and directed action where I will go next.communicating-the-future-pam

Sometimes we heal stronger. Forgiveness comes with time and usually through a process of pain, letting go, and allowing yourself to be changed. I was definitely changed. I don’t hold on to The Event negatively anymore, though I acknowledge the pain and accept that pain has a purpose. I wish it hadn’t happened because it did not need to happen. But it did and I am different because of it because I choose to be different because of it. The important distinction is that, though The Event informed and pushed me to make dramatic changes, it does not define me.

I choose to let other things define me… like hope, perseverance, choice, and joy.

Saving Anita.

(originally written/posted September 2011. Re-posting to raise awareness/funds for American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s “Out of the Darkness” Community Walk on 9/28/2013. Donation details & link at the bottom of this posting.)

I told Bekah, “I know this might sound silly but, every single dollar I raise for our walk feels like proof that I love Anita and that she mattered.” She said, “It’s not silly; I feel the same way.”

Over the last couple weeks I have told Anita’s story about 100 times. People ask me why I’m trying to raise money for suicide prevention and I spare no detail. I know what happened to Anita as though I was there because I’ve heard my Aunt tell the story so many times. She must have said “we had no idea,” or “I wish I would have…,” and then re-told the story at least a thousand times from the time we all landed in Florida for Anita’s funeral until the day that Anita was buried. Since then, my Aunt has probably re-told the story ten thousand times more and said, as many times, “I wish I would have known”. She is the greatest advocate for suicide prevention that anyone could meet. Every time she talks about Anita, my Aunt shows you the pieces of her fragmented heart.

I might come across as matter-of-fact when I say “this is what happened to Anita” but that’s because it *is* a matter of fact. The fact is she was so lost inside her own pain that the only way she could escape the monsters inside her was to shoot them. She laid with the angels in a small gathering of trees just a few blocks from her parent’s house for over a week until she was found. It took the police so long to find her because no one was looking for a teenager who ended her life — they were looking for a normal, rebellious, life-of-the-party teenager. It never flashed across the imagination of her closest friends that the reason she hadn’t called was because she died. The fact is that no one knew how hopeless she was and how deep the despair ran through her.

No one knew the dark path Anita walked until her mother found her journal and read her daughter’s pain on each page. Anita wrote asking God for forgiveness for wanting to die and wondered if He could forgive her. I believe Jesus knew Anita’s pain and the moment she pulled the trigger, He took her up to be with Him. I believe He knew that she was sick and he did what any father would do when looking into the face of a wounded, sick child: He opened his arms and gave her comfort, peace, and took her pain away forever.

But we — the family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and memories of Anita — are still here. Anita’s mom, dad, and brother have to walk past her bedroom door all the time. They have to look at her makeup still sitting on her bathroom counter. They look at her Facebook page and see the multitude of comments from her friends, family, and classmates. It is a comfort — knowing that there are hundreds and hundreds of other people that miss her so much. There are hundreds and hundreds of people that want to know why Anita didn’t ask for help, why she felt like she had to walk in her pain all alone, why she believed no one would understand what was happening inside her, why she had to fight her fear on her own. We don’t know why she felt that way, but she did.

I know that my loss and my pain isn’t a fraction of what Anita’s mom, dad, and brother go through every second they take a breath and remember she’s gone. I know that her best friends must be tortured over the loss — why didn’t she tell them? Her teachers probably look at her empty desk and wonder how they could have seen her but never really did see her. Her cousins look at the pictures of all the family reunions with our skinny, long-legged Anita climbing a wall, digging in the sand, or jumping a wave and realize that she won’t be at next year’s reunion either.

I went to our family reunion this year (2011) in June and I was the first one there. When I walked into the condo and looked out the sliding glass doors onto the beach, I saw a little girl with wild, auburn, curly hair and long, skinny legs running for the water and I thought, “Oh good! Anita’s here!” The reality that she wasn’t took my breath away. I cannot think of the ocean without thinking of Anita and when I think of them at the same time, I can’t help but cry and add to the ocean of tears already shed for Anita. I don’t think that any of us cry just because we miss her or just because we wish we’d known. I think that a lot of us cry because we know, now, the horrible pain she was in and the desperation she must have felt and we cry because we have to — because no one should ever, ever have to go through that alone.

And that is why we are walking “Out of the Darkness.” Anita stayed in the darkness bound by her fear, hopelessness, and the demons that tormented her. We know that there are others who are in a similar place and we want to bring light to them and show them that there is more than one choice and that there is a ray of hope that things will get better. We want to save another person from walking into the woods all by themselves and making a life-long choice. And, God have mercy, we want to save other families from having to endure the absolute, unyielding pain and agony of this loss. The loss from suicide is unlike anything else and I am horrified that 30,000 American families (over a million worldwide) start in this hell every year. I say “start” because the hell is ongoing for the survivors of suicide. It may lessen over time and God can grant peace but it does linger for a long, long time.

It’s only been 10 months since Anita died. October 22nd would have been her 19th birthday. Her journal entries for this time last year said that she was going to kill herself before her birthday but then she decided to wait until she turned 18 to see if that made things better. You know what that tells me? It tells me that there might be some other girl somewhere who might give it a few more weeks before she decides.

Anita is gone and I can add all the dollars in the world and none of them will bring her back. But, there is another girl, maybe, who has decided to see if something gets better or someone asks the right question at the right time. You know what that means, right?

That means there’s still time to save her.

To donate or find out more information, please click here.

To dream the impossible dream…

20120806-202240.jpgAt some point in in the last year, I wrote, “the American Dream isn’t big enough for me.” This was in the context of desperation. After I returned from my trip to Ethiopia, I felt desperate all the time. I could not figure out how to be happy back here in the US because, even though I have material things and the best friends a woman can ask for, I missed the sincerity and unreserved love of Ethiopia.

I decided to take “a calculated act of hope… peering into the future and letting a piece of my heart rest [in Ethiopia] while I stay here and cultivate all God has given me.” I was (am) willing to sell everything “to go where I am called and to where my heart is calling me.”

I assumed I’d be going back to Ethiopia in Feb 2013 — which didn’t happen— and that I’d be gearing up for a trip there this month. That didn’t happen either.

train-derail-3What is happening? Did I loose the drive? Did I forget about my trip? What was it all for if I’m not back there right now?

Have I derailed?

The lessons I learned in Ethiopia gave me a new perspective and made it possible for me to examine my life in a new way. I am learning the vital lesson of endurance and that preparation is a key element of success. I’m also learning that vulnerability to God and trusting His guidance must be the focus of any pursuit.

I realized the best way for me to help and serve people – both here and abroad – is to finish what I started in 2006: my education. Having an bachelor’s degree in psychology is an accomplishment I am proud of, but it is not sufficient education to do the work I want and need to do. Before I can be the most useful, I need to be better prepared.

I have to get my master’s degree and that means going to graduate school.

empowerSo, no, I have not derailed. I am still on the path laid out before me. Getting back to Ethiopia is still in my future and, with the right education and experience, when I do go back it will be in a much different capacity than helping with IT and communications stuff. When I go back I will be able to help equip counselors and social workers with diagnostic tools and rehabilitation resources. I will go back with life-skills training and help women and girls learn to be empowered, using their own strengths and gifts to bring about change and growth in their communities.

And soon (as in 4 years from now), I will be able to start working within my own community and providing counseling and resources to people here who need it.

This is my big dream. It is going to be difficult, as most things that truly matter are. It will require patience, dedication, commitment, and lots of hours of study and practice to get there, but I’m on my way!

lucyThis is another “calculated act of hope.” I want to be skilled and trained so I can continue in service — in professionalism, wisdom, and experience — wherever God directs me.

A Joyful Shout(out)

I have a cozy, beautiful little apartment filled with things that I love. After my cleansing quest, almost all that remains are lovely things… and two little dogs who are, right now, playing tug with a squeaky toy and leaving me alone so I can write. The trees around my home are bright green with new life and my little yard smells like mulch and flowers. I have to think about how I got to this place and how, despite all circumstances, I’ve managed to have a spirit that is quiet enough to hear the birds sing and the small voice of God teaching me gratitude.

I’m counting my blessings.

On Monday morning, my friend Erin said “goodbye” (for now) to her dad. He had cancer and left this life to be in Heaven. I didn’t know the man at all but I know two of his daughters, Sara and Erin, very well. Their dad raised them to be blessings on this earth. He taught them patience, love, servitude, and to show mercy to those who do not know how to be merciful to themselves.

The funeral was in Warrenton, VA and I drove to the funeral through memory lane. I don’t drive to Warrenton very often, but I used to all the time when I was younger. Much younger. Erin and I, together with friends Christy and Joy, drove down those same roads Four girlstogether often. Erin, Joy, and Christy were my rescuers. I had a miserable home life and they gave me one escape after another. I think about them and my youth often. I think about the loneliness and desperation I would have had if they hadn’t rescued me. I will always be grateful to them for helping me escape from my life.

During a loss as tragic as this— the death of someone you love— your mind is drawn to take stock and think about life’s journey. Where have you been? Where are you now? How did you get here? Where will you go next?

I’ve gone through stages in life, as I’m sure many have, of pure and desperate unhappiness. In fact, I would say that was the predominant theme until my mid-20’s. I’ve had miserable experiences, near-death experiences, and have been almost consumed by pain. I have not reached the point of peace, yet, where I can look back at these experiences with thankfulness for some sort of life-lesson. I still look back on them with agony and, often times, regret.

So, I have been through what I’d call ‘the valley of the shadow of death.’ (Please forgive the self-indulgent and dramatic nature of this claim.) Compared to where I am now, some of those memories are so far away that I usually cannot even conjure them in mind. That is such a blessing – the way our brains block out certain things. Certain events stir them back into life, but some memories are gone forever. I can see a shadow of them, but their pain is gone. Another blessing.

There’s a song by a band called Waterdeep that describes my adolescent and early 20’s life perfectly:

I was hungry child. A dried up river. I was a burned out forest and no one could do anything for me.

And then what happened? Friends happened. The best friends anyone could ask for. Through the grace and mercy of God, I have been abundantly blessed by having an amazing circle of incredible friends. These friends — like Erin, Joy, and Christy — helped bring me out of my life of death into a life of love. They helped me learn how to trust again. They helped me learn how to pray and sing and laugh as loudly as I wanted. They taught me that I could be anyone and anything I wanted, but helped me learn to be who God made me to be.

KayStephandmeIn my late 20’s, these people were Brian, Stephanie, Kayleigh, Amanda, and Greg who ripped me out of myself and pointed me straight to Jesus. When I cried, they cried. When I rejoiced, they rejoiced. They prayed for me all the time, and held me up when I could not stand on my own. And I know that my life would not have come to the place it is now without them. They taught me to worship and pray. They taught me to give mercy and grace to others because they had mercy and grace for me in seemingly endless amounts.

EmandSarahThe blessing of Friends helped me get to this cozy, quiet home filled with love and lovely things. My friends are miracles and I am mystified by God’s generosity to me in giving them to me. These friends would walk to hell with me, or just walk a 5k with me at the slowest pace imaginable because I had gall bladder surgery four days before. (Thank you, Emilou.) They rush me to the emergency room when I’m standing outside bleeding because I should never be allowed to use an electric hedge-trimmer. (Thank you, Ashley.) They come over every morning for five TaraandSarahdays, make me coffee, and bring it to me where I’m laying on the couch recovering from surgery. (Thank you, Special K.)

They tell me to “SNAP OUT OF IT!” (Thank you, Tara.)

They tell me when I’m wrong. They tell me when I’m over-reacting. (Thank you, all.)

The tell me to “do better next time” and encourage me to be who God made me to be. They remind me that I am not merely a product of genetics and biology, but that I can write my own story and that my story will be so much better if I let God write it for me.

How great are my friends? One of them threw me a puppy shower when I adopted Jackson! (Joneser!!!)

So, Emily. Tara. Kathryn. Amanda. Stefanie. Shelly. Jonser. Ashley. Fee. Suzie… and so many others:

KathrynSarahWhat would I do without you? You have been powerful sources of life, love, acceptance, honesty, humility, art and music, comfort, compassion, and laughter in my life. I am rich beyond my wildest imagination because of you. You helped me get to where I am now and I love you.

As to where I’ll go next: Who knows, but I’m taking you with me!

Paul, Esther, and Martha.

Paul wrote, “I do not understand my own actions. I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate… I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Keith Green paraphrased Paul’s words and said, “There are things I hate, I end up doing. Things I wanna do, I just don’t do.”

I had a conversation with my counselor and with a friend of mine discussing how I have the tools and, sometimes, the will to do the things that are good for me, but for some reason, I just don’t follow-through.

The both had the same response: Just do it!

I feel  better knowing that one of the most prolific apostles wrestled with the same human struggles I do. I am sure that Paul got his stuff together, eventually. I need to do the same thing.  It is time.

We can all agree that we go through seasons in life. The Byrds echoed Ecclesiastes: To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn) and a time to every purpose under heaven.

I’ve been going through a season of loss and mourning. The last year has offered more joy than I knew was possible along with unimaginable pain and loss. The season needs to change for me.

Winter is over. The Spring is here.

To convince my body that the season’s changed, I’ve been gardening. I’ve been foraging in the woods and finding plants that I can bring into my garden.

I am at one with nature.

I’ve found mint, lemon balm, and some really pretty, flowering plants growing in the wild. I’ve also been taking pieces of other plants and shrubs, and moving them to strategic locations in my garden. Right now, it’s not much to look at, but I know that the roots will find a happy home in the fresh soil. I know that if I keep the soil watered and fed, the plants will flourish and soon the garden will be full of beautiful life.

I need new life.

It is time to stop doing the things I hate and spend more time doing the things that I love. It is time for me to take care of myself like I care for my garden. I’ve already spent the time weeding my own personal garden – the garden in my heart and in my life. And now, it’s time to cultivate health: healthy relationships, healthy spiritual responses, and a healthy body.

Esther, from the Bible, spent a year doing that – taking care of her physical body. The Bible said that she had beauty treatments and special food. I think this is a scripture we can all get behind!

I need to keep channeling Martha Stewart. I need to keep my home beautiful, clean, and orderly. I know that the gardening, home keeping, and beauty treatments are all external responses but they are important to internal health.  

I think they are important because they keep me in a healthy place and make sure that I keep things beautiful. When things are orderly and beautiful, it is so much easier to do heart-healing and soul-caring work that I cannot neglect.