How I’m finding the me I didn’t know was lost

I used to be the kind of person who would snort-laugh and roll her eyes if anyone would have used the phrase, “I need to find myself.” Humor and sarcasm are coping mechanisms I’ve cultivated over the years, and the truth is that I was afraid and maybe jealous.

Because for a lot of years, I didn’t really know who I was.

Mikael Kristenson | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Mikael Kristenson | Creative Commons | via unsplash

That never seemed like a big deal until I started to figure it out. Now, it’s like new doors of possibility are flinging open and chains are dropping off my soul.

I didn’t know that the first step in finding yourself is acknowledging that somewhere, somehow you lost yourself. Once you know you’re lost, you can get on with being found.<Tweet that.>ow_whole

I can’t tell you the day or time I realized I was lost, nor can I pinpoint the start of the “finding myself” journey. But I know that so far this year, my year of “whole,” has been unlike any other. As in years past, when I’ve picked a word to focus on for the year, I see the theme in a lot of places. And those previous years of “release” and “enjoy” were important. But this year is becoming transformational in a way I couldn’t imagine.

I’ve been mulling this quote in my mind for a few weeks now.

When we are fully ourselves, He (God) is fully glorified. – “Longing For Paris,” by Sarah Mae

I think I’ve wrongly believed that God is only glorified when I behave a certain way or follow His lead. And He is glorified in those ways, but I never really considered that the me He created me to be brings Him glory, even if I don’t look anything like what I think a child of God should look like.

I have this same problem with my definition of what makes a good mom. My therapist listed out on a white board all the characteristics I thought would make me a good mom and none of them are realistic or accurate. There were a lot of “always” and “never” type of descriptions. (Always happy, never yells, has a clean house, etc.) She reminded me that God picked me to be Izzy and Corban’s mom and who I am is not a mistake for them. (Summer is giving me all kinds of mom guilt because I’m not crafty or entertaining. It’s draining on this introvert mama, and yet I want to spend time with them.)

Being the mom God created me to be brings Him glory and is much better for my kids than trying to become some other kind of mom. And being the woman He created me to be is a far better way to  live than trying to stuff my personality into a box  or conform to a mold that doesn’t fit.

Trying to be anyone other than who I am doesn’t lead to a happy life. It just makes me tired and frustrated. I am finding freedom and joy in saying “no” to what is not good for me and saying “this is who I am” about other things. It’s not always comfortable, but in the end it is good. It is good to admit that I love my kids AND I need a break. That I love Jesus AND I am full of doubt. That I’m glad I am married AND it is hard work.

I must also say that this self-discovery journey is not a solo project. I am grateful for a husband who gives me space and time to be who I am and discover who I am. (Even when that means he’s uncomfortable with my occasional swearing on social media.) The same goes for our church family. There are no boxes that we must fit into to belong. We are free to explore our faith and wrestle with our doubts in the community of saints who gather each week. We are guided and corrected when necessary but no one is turned out because of who they are. (Or who they aren’t.)

This is a gift we can give each other: the space and time and freedom to figure out who we are. It’s an ongoing process, I’m learning, and I’m not sure when or where it ends. All I know is that I want to keep figuring it out.

I recently read, in the span of  day or two, Glennon Melton’s Carry On, Warrior. I’ve been a fan of her Momastery Facebook page and blog for a little while but hadn’t taken the time to read the book yet. (Aside: YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.) Her vulnerability inspires me. Here’s one (of many) quotes from the book that spoke to me, especially in this experience:

We find out early that telling the whole truth makes people uncomfortable and is certainly not ladylike or likely to make us popular, so we learn to lie sweetly so that we can be loved. And when we figure out this system, we are split in two: the public self, who says the right things in order to belong, and the secret self, who thinks other things. (Carry On, Warrior, p. 51)

Her story is in the context of addiction and mental illness, but it’s all of us who do this. And  I’m not saying that everyone, everywhere needs to know our deepest thoughts all the time, but there is a way to make the two line up. I think. I hope.

It’s a slow death, but I’m gradually trying to kill that public self who only wants to say the right thing so she doesn’t get rejected. This is what it means to me to be my whole self. To be unafraid to let my secret self have a voice every now and then. To open the door a crack so that others can see that what they perceive is not how it really is.

This whole self stuff leads to relationships. Like, honest-to-goodness ones that survive the hard times. Melton also says:

I’ve never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I’ve made countless by sharing my weakness, my emptiness, and my life-as-a-wild-goose-chase-to-find-the-unfindable. (p. 21)

Knowing and accepting who you are makes you more approachable. Some of my best moments of connecting with other moms are when I talk about how I struggle and we find out we’re all struggling in the same way.

Just one more book quote that’s been helping me along. (If you didn’t already know this about me, books are my community, too.)

Part of becoming yourself, in a deeply spiritual way, is finding the words to tell the truth about what it is you really love. – Savor, by Shauna Niequist

This devotional by Niequist is one of my favorite things ever, and her writing touches a deep place in my soul. She said this in the context of admitting how much she loves to make and prepare and serve and eat food around the table with people. When I can say without embarrassment or hesitation, I really love to do this, then a part of me opens wider to the world around me. I used to think as a certain kind of woman I had to enjoy all the same things as other women. But I don’t. It’s okay. And my love for one thing does not have to cancel someone else’s love for something else. We are uniquely created by God, and our love for the things He has made us to love is lovely to Him.

What are your thoughts about “finding yourself”? Do you know who you are? And who you aren’t? What has helped you in this process?

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The ‘whole’ truth {a stop in the #OneWord365 journey}

Not far from our place is a house overlooking the river. A few months ago it was for sale, and it wasn’t on the market long. A ranch-style house, it wasn’t as spectacular or flashy as some of its neighbors, but its location is prime. I didn’t think much of it until we drove past one day and the house was gutted and the roof was off.

The new owners, apparently, are taking the frame of the house and turning it into something of their own. They’ve added a second story and a bay window and what the house is becoming is unrecognizable from what it was when they bought it. ow_whole

Transformation can feel like this–a tearing down and a rebuilding–and that’s the theme so far of my OneWord365 journey this year.

In becoming “whole” I’ve first become a whole lot more broken.

But Love has pitched his mansion in

The place of excrement;

For nothing can be sole or whole

That has not been rent. — Crazy Jane Talks With the Bishop, by William Butler Yeats

I’m reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Two-Part Invention, a chronicle of her marriage. She quotes this poem by Yeats, and I can’t stop thinking about it. That to become whole I must first be torn.

I’ve been seeing a therapist for a few months and that’s what this process feels like sometimes. A shredding of who I thought I was, of what I believed. A ripping apart of the falsehoods. An exposing of the inner wounds. I leave the office sometimes having shed more tears in an hour than in the weeks prior, and though I am often exhausted by the emotional and spiritual toll of the work, the days afterward are healing and I feel more like my true self. More whole.

How it works, I don’t completely understand. How healing comes from brokenness, wholeness from pieces, I don’t know. But I can feel it inside. Every time I am torn by the pain of the past, every time I bring it into the light, I am one step closer to the me I lost.

I am almost glad I didn’t know this was part of the journey. I might not have started it had I known.

Jordan McQueen | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Jordan McQueen | Creative Commons | via unsplash

This L’Engle book is convincing me that her life and words have much to say to my own. I am a late bloomer when it comes to reading her work, and this is an unconventional place to start, I would guess. A Wrinkle in Time sits on my shelf in the to-read pile but I needed her words on marriage more.

She says of the union:

And what I must learn is to love with all of me, giving all of me, and yet remain whole in myself. (103)

This, too, is a mystery. I knew when I got married that two became one and something new was created, but I didn’t understand that I could still be me, too. We are two individuals living in communion, and I do not have to give up who I am to be his wife.

The losing of me is no one’s fault except my own. For many years, I couldn’t tell you what I liked. I wouldn’t make my own decisions or form my own opinions for fear of losing friends. Even in my early Christian experiences I felt the need to conform to be part of the group. Though I might have had my own thoughts, they were masked depending on the situation.

I remember a time in college when a bunch of us were sitting around talking about movies we loved. After someone named one, I would declare, “That’s the best!” I must have said the words a dozen times for a dozen different movies until someone called me out: “They can’t all be the best.” I didn’t even know I was doing it. A few years later, a friend asked me what my favorite cake was. She was going to bake it for my birthday. I had no answer, so I told her white cake with white frosting. (How boring is that!?) No offense if that’s your favorite, but it wasn’t mine. It was just the safest choice. (For the record, the answer is Boston Cream Pie. Or ice cream cake.)

Becoming whole means accepting me for who I am and who I could be. It means discovering my wants, needs and likes and not being afraid or ashamed of them. I feel like I’ve only recently begun to get to know myself. Some days I’m sad that it took so long, but I’m trying to be grateful that it’s happening at all.

A few years ago after our marriage crisis, we attended a one-day marriage workshop that my husband helped plan at his school. One of the therapists leading the workshop led us in an exercise to build a bridge or some kind of structure using uncooked spaghetti noodles and marshmallows, I think. I have no gift for envisioning a strategy but Phil immediately had a plan. We set to work and when the time was up, we hadn’t gotten as far as some of the others. I was feeling bad about our seemingly failed attempt when the therapist went around the table pointing out the positive attributes of each structure.

“Phil and Lisa’s might not be very tall, but it’s solidly built. It’s going to hold up over time.”

Those weren’t her exact words, but the thought behind them. They were perfectly timed, and she had  no idea what we’d been through. I hang onto those words, still, for me and our marriage and the path that we’re on.

I may have gotten a late start on knowing myself, but I’m building a foundation that will support something I can’t yet see. It’s not about how tall or fast or soon but how firm the foundation. How solid the frame.

I may yet discover more tearing down, more shredding that needs to be done. Maybe that’s always part of the process. But I’m looking forward to the piecing back together. The rebuilding and restoring.

Most of all, I know now that broken isn’t always bad. Nor is it the end.

Sometimes broken has to come before whole.

What if we’re made to break?

A week or so ago, the kids and I had the car radio on, tuned to the local Christian radio station, which is above average when it comes to that sort of programming, and we happened to hear a concert of sorts by a singer I didn’t know. She was talking about a song that had been playing on the radio and what it was about.

“It’s about this idea of planned obsolescence, how everything we have is made to break …”

And she played the song and it’s about our stuff–the electronics and material goods we have and how manufacturers make their lives only so long so we have to buy more.

But I couldn’t get over that phrase, “made to break.”

I wondered if it was true of me.

I wrote earlier this year about how my journey toward “whole” is taking a turn through “broken” and how surprising and unexpected that has been. It still unsettles me, this idea that there are things in my life that still have to break before I can come closer to “whole.”

But I think I’m slowly starting to understand why.

Tom Butler | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Tom Butler | Creative Commons | via unsplash

I recently read Laura Hillenbrand’s unforgettable book Unbreakable, the incredible tale of Louis Zamperini’s life. Olympic runner. Soldier. POW. It is horrific and amazing and heart-breaking all at the same time.

And I’ve been thinking about the title and how Zamperini was a survivor in every sense of the word. In the book, there are clear moments that show how his body, mind and spirit were unexplainably resilient to the forces that tried to break him. It’s an appropriate title in the sense that he wouldn’t give up when tortured or when stranded in the middle of the ocean with no hope of rescue in sight.

But Zamperini eventually did break. At a Billy Graham crusade when his family life was falling apart and his drinking was out of control. He had reached a point when he couldn’t do anything to save himself or get himself out of a mess or escape his nightmares.

He broke. And God worked in and through him to make something new.

Surviving impossible odds is inspiring. So is admitting that you’re at the end of yourself.

My husband and I started watching “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” on Netflix this weekend. It’s a Netflix original series co-produced by Tina Fey (love) about a woman who was part of an underground (literally) cult for 15 years who decides to make a go of life in New York.

For 15 years, Kimmy and the three other girls were told they were garbage and dirt and worthless. Kimmy resisted those labels in the bunker. And now she’s out in the world again with a middle-school education. She is naive and innocent and optimistic, refreshing in a world that is all too cynical. She challenges me to see the world anew.

We’re led to believe that New York will try to break her (and that it will succeed).

Doesn’t the world break everyone eventually?

There’s that Hemingway quote we toss around about how people are strong at the broken places. But the rest of the quote is not as inspiring as we would believe by taking only the first line out of context.

Here is what the whole thing says:

“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.” – Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Maybe everything breaks and we expect that, but maybe everyone breaks, too.

And maybe we’re made that way.

Maybe we’re not meant to do everything exactly right all the time. To carry all the burdens of this world, our worlds. Maybe we’re not meant to always have a healthy life, a comfortable existence. Maybe we’re not meant to help ourselves (so that God will help us) or rely on our individualism to save us.

I’m not saying God wants to bring suffering and hardship and calamity into our lives or that He takes any pleasure in it when it happens. I cannot believe in a god who would smile on adversity. The God I know is not cruel.

But maybe we’re made to break.

Our bodies, our relationships, our spirits, our beliefs, our emotions … at some point they all fail us. They all break in some way and it all breaks us. Mostly of ourselves.

Because when my body breaks, I’m broken of my independence. I have to rely on and trust others.

And when my relationships suffer a break, I’m broken of my selfishness that contributed to the rift.

When my spirit breaks, I’m broken of my self-sufficiency. I admit I need help.

And when my beliefs break, I’m broken of my assurances that I’m right and you’re wrong. I find that God is still God even if what I thought I believed changes.

And when my emotions break, I’m broken of living in my own power. I remember how weak I am and how much I need the power of God in my life.

Maybe breaking isn’t bad.

Maybe it’s necessary.

And maybe it’s not only necessary, maybe it’s for our good.

What do you think of the idea that we might be “made to break”?

How have you seen a time of brokenness work in your life?

 

When the path to ‘whole’ takes an unexpected turn

I will confess to having high expectations and a buoyant hope when I began the year focusing on the word “whole.” ow_whole

After all, it sounds so good, this idea that after years and years of feeling broken and worn down that maybe this would be the year some of those things could be mended and repaired, that the areas I’ve felt were lacking would somehow find completion.

We are one month into the year, and I am now discovering that this journey to becoming whole is going to be a lot harder than I thought. And sometimes it feels like this:

Why wasn’t she ready to fully release all the pent-up sorrow and pain? Because she feared if she fully acknowledged what she’d been holding inside for so long, it would overwhelm her, flood her, and she’d break. She wasn’t strong enough. She was getting by, but healing took work, courage, strength she didn’t have. — Sabotaged by Dani Pettrey, p. 166

But, I’m also discovering that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, it might make it that much better than if it were easy.

Tom Butler | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Tom Butler | Creative Commons | via unsplash

I still have hopes for transformation this year. I’m taking positive steps toward wholeness, like counseling and medication and acknowledging my needs and grieving losses. But on the way forward, I’m finding that I have to look back. And sometimes in looking back, old hurts resurface, and wounds I thought were healed prove that they were only temporarily numbed.

As I’ve sought “whole” I’ve stumbled onto a lot of “broken.” And I’m seeing that this will be the first step in my healing–to break again. Not as a consequence of poor decisions but as an act of healing.

Sometimes on the road to healing, you must reopen an old wound. It will hurt again, maybe as much as or more than it did when it was first inflicted, but as you reconnect with and embrace the healing process, it will begin to hurt less. … That’s the only way it can heal. — Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner, p. 318

For the deepest wounds I’ve suffered, I realize I’ve merely done the barest amount of work to survive. I thought I had healed, but I only covered them up. Like a broken bone improperly set, I haven’t healed the right way and so I must break again so that I can restore full function to the broken parts.

It’s terrible. Sometimes.

It hurts. But it’s not pointless.

And though it’s early in the process I can already feel the difference in the healing.

I covered over my hurts, my heart, my feelings which kept the bad things from hurting but also held some of them in. And it kept the good things from penetrating the barrier.

Sometimes, when you’re broken, light shines through the cracks. And the pieces you thought were holding you together get rearranged to make something else.

I was so moved by this song and video when a friend blogged about this idea of being shattered. I might have to add it to my list of theme music for the year. I’m also now totally obsessed with this violinist.


My pain and sorrows have festered in the darkness, and it’s time to let the light in.

But light hurts sometimes, too. When you’ve been in darkness, light has a way of shocking your sense of sight. Blinding almost.

It’s the same with the kind of light that penetrates the darkness in your soul. One of the hardest things about my therapy sessions is when my counselor says life-affirming things to me. Things like “You are strong and brave” and “You are worth it.”

Those words sneak through the cracks and light up the darkness and even when I try to push them away, they settle in. And push the cracks open a little more.

I’m no gardener so I don’t know what kinds of things thrive in the darkness, but I know that my heart is not one of them.

Leon Ephraïm | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Leon Ephraïm | Creative Commons | via unsplash

I need light.

And sometimes the light needs an opening.

And sometimes the opening has to come through a crack or a break.

Falling, breaking, failing–it all used to scare me because I thought it meant the end.

But I think that’s wrong.

More often than not, the breaking is just the beginning.

Are you pursuing a OneWord this year? How have you seen it working in your life?

For more information on the OneWord365 movement, visit oneword365.com.

When music takes me back in time (and I’m not sure I want to leave the past)

We’d been away from church for a couple of weeks, and I always forget how dry and empty I am when we go through a stretch like that where we’re traveling on Sundays or visiting family. I think it’ll be no big deal and when we’re finally back with our church family it hits me. Then, all of a sudden, I find myself sobbing in the middle of singing. Tears of gratitude to be back. Tears of sorrow at my own pitiful state. Tears of joy because I am safe and there is hope.

I’m learning to never leave home for church without some tissues tucked in my bag because I’m sure to need them if I don’t have them.

So, it was all of those things that had tears streaming down my cheeks at church on Sunday. But it was something else, as well.

It was the songs themselves. And the older I get the more I believe that songs are a portal to another time and place. If a book can sweep me into another time and place, one I’ve never lived, then songs have the same power to connect me with my former self.

Joshua Earle | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Joshua Earle | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Our song time opened with one we sang at church camp, where my husband and I served as staff to high schoolers who were dealing with a lot of the same issues we struggled with as 20-somethings. That song was followed by one that broke me in college, just a year or two after I’d opened my life to Jesus’s leading.

And in an instant I was no longer in the middle of sanctuary in the middle of winter crying with my husband by side and children nearby. I was sweating in a simple chapel in the woods, surrounded by teenagers jumping, shouting, passionately declaring that God was the cry of their heart. I was flat on my face in the basement of a college chapel, undone by my sin and the love of a King who would sacrifice Himself so I could live. I was a girl again, a decade or more younger, with fresh hopes and dreams who couldn’t imagine knowing any other life than one that had Jesus in it.

Snapped back to my present state, I cried again, wondering where that girl had gone. She had no idea what was to come, and had she been given a clue, I think she would have ignored it as impossible. I cried because there are days I want to be that girl again. To believe the best. To still have hope and dreams. To be passionately pursuing the God who changed everything.

And there are days I would never want to be her again because she was so naive and unaware of the world around her. Of the hard realities of life. She knew little about what it means to persevere, to forgive, to endure. Hers was a simple faith that didn’t always ask questions. She was motivated by good behavior and what others thought and her grown-up counterpart wouldn’t trade the faith she has now, as hard as it is, for what she had before.

The girl who sang those songs years ago and the woman who sings them now, they’re one. I cannot be who I am today without that girl from long ago. Even if I sometimes pity her. Even if I sometimes wish it could all be different.

But I can’t go back. I can only go forward. And words like this spur me on:

There is a kind of bravery born from understanding that what lies in front of you is merely the end result of every choice you’ve ever made, and there is nothing left but to follow that path to its end. (Billy Coffey, In the Heart of the Dark Wood, p. 348)

And,

I was learning the secrets of life: that you could become the woman you’d dared to dream of being, but to do so you were going to have to fall in love with your own crazy, ruined self. (Anne Lamott, Small Victories, p. 101)

This is where I find myself when the tears pool and my present self fades. When I remember who I was and compare her to who I am. I am needing to leave the old behind, to follow this path to its end, even if it’s not the path I would have chosen, and accept the pieces of myself that I want to hide and dismiss, those places where I see only wrong and not enough and different.

I want to love my “crazy, ruined self.” The me I was and the me I am now.

This is what I want from the year ahead. This is what I mean when I say I want to be “whole.”

What was the last song that took you back to another time and place?

The missing key to joy {a OneWord365 reflection plus a 2015 revelation}

If you’ve been following along here for the past couple of years, you might know a little something about my OneWord365 participation. If not, you can read about the start of it here, or select the OneWord365 category in the righthand sidebar under the “what I write about” menu to see all the posts I’ve written about my words of the past two years.

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In short, it’s a revolution rather than a resolution for the New Year. It’s a choice to focus on a word that leads to change or transformation. My first year, it was “release,” as I discovered the need to let go of some things I’d been holding too tightly.

This year, it was “enjoy,” as I realized my need to not be so serious or fearful about life all the time.

In a way, this year was a OneWord365 letdown compared to 2013 when I literally felt freer at the end of the year as a result of letting go. As this year comes to a close, I’m not sure I’ve enjoyed life as much as I could. Sure, there were highlights, and it’s not like we’ve had a miserable year. But I don’t feel like a major attitude shift has happened as a result of my One Word this year.

I take complete responsibility for that. And I think maybe I got ahead of myself. After my year of release, I reasoned that it would be easier to enjoy. And in some ways it was.

But I think for true transformation to happen, my 2014 One Word is going to have to work together with my 2015 One Word. (It’s coming, don’t worry.)

I start thinking about these things ridiculously early. Or maybe not, but even before this year was close to its end, I was contemplating my next year’s word. It’s not magic or a guarantee but I find having a One Word does help me focus a bit. I look for the word and its application, like a yearlong treasure hunt. And in some ways, it’s like speaking a truth over your year. This word, I declare, is what I want for my life right now.

It’s not a science, for certain.

For a month or more, I thought my word for 2015 would be “strong.” I have plans to work on my health in 2015, and “strong” is something I’ve not felt in a long time. But it didn’t sit the way the other words have. It seemed like a good concept but not the exact right fit.

So I brainstormed some other words related to “strong” and what I hope 2015 will mean for me. I tossed around “healed” and “free” and “light” and “open,” words that are good, too, but still not quite there. They were part of the idea I was working toward but none of those words by themselves represented what I wanted.

Then one day as I was leaning over the dryer pulling clothes out, a word settled in my soul. (That sounds strange, right? But sometimes that’s how it happens. The word finds me when I’m no longer actively looking.)

It’s the right word because it encompasses “strong” and “healed” and “light” and “free.”

For 2015, my word is this:

ow_whole

In an effort to enjoy, I rediscovered how much of me is still broken. And it’s not that I think I’m useless or need to be cast aside, but I’m certainly not where I want to be mentally, physically or emotionally.

To be whole next year means that I’m going to do some things for me, things that have taken a backseat in past years. As a wife and a mom, I’ve let others’ needs come before mine, which sounds sacrificial and maybe even a little bit spiritual but in reality, it’s put me in a place that isn’t healthy.

I’m not exactly sure what “whole” will look like, nor do I expect that in one year all the broken parts of me will be miraculously fixed and healed. For me, it’s a start. It’s a line in the sand that says, now it’s time to focus on me, not so I can selfishly demand the world revolve around me and my needs, but so that I can be the best me. It’s a gift to my family for me to be whole. And it’s a gift to me, too.

I’ve already taken a few steps toward wholeness. I’m on medication for high blood pressure, which means I’m also looking at ways to eat healthier and exercise more. I’ve started seeing a therapist because my mental health is probably as bad (or worse) than my physical health. (And it’s not that I want you to feel sorry for me, and maybe you don’t think I should be talking about these things, but putting it in writing keeps me accountable and frees me from fear.) Taking care of my mental health may also involve medication, a decision I’m still considering.

What else will “whole” look like?

Defining, and following, my dreams (and God’s) for my life. I’m an incomplete person without my writing, so that will take on a greater role in my days. How, I’m not sure yet. But I have a second kid starting school next fall, which means I’ll have five whole days a week without children starting in August. A taste of that free time this year has me dreaming about pursuing more writing opportunities.

I will start another novel next year. Though I’m not yet finished editing and rewriting the one I finished a first draft of this year, I’m desperate to start planning and plotting a new story, one that has been on my mind for years and is a completely different genre than the first one I wrote. It’s a story that I think will bring personal healing as I write it. (Expect to hear more about this next year!)

Beyond that, I don’t want to set up too many expectations for my One Word because it will turn out different than I expect. It has so far. Though I’m not a fan of surprises, even good ones, I want to leave room for the Spirit’s work in my One Word. I cannot plan what God has in mind.

Before I end this post, I need you to know that this is the scariest One Word yet for me. I’ve been thinking about the passage in the Bible where Jesus asks a man who has been an invalid for 38 years if he wants to get well. I always thought it was a ridiculous question. Who wouldn’t want to be well after being not well for so long? But it’s interesting how we adapt to our unwellness. It becomes comfortable and we know how to function, how to survive. Throw us a curve and make us well? Then we have to operate in a new way.

Next year, I turn 37. (That’s eerily close to the 38 years mentioned in that passage.) And while I’m not sure if I’ve been “unwell” that entire time, I know that next year marks a turning point if I truly pursue wholeness. And it scares me a little. Because wholeness will change me, and even if the change is good (and it will be), it will be different than what I’ve known.

Still, I don’t want to offer excuses to the Lord for the reasons I’m not well. I want to hear his call to wholeness, pick up my mat and walk.

It’s sure to be a shaky journey, and if you aren’t afraid to walk it with me, I know I will need your support.

I also can’t end this post without asking you to consider choosing one word for next year. You don’t have to make it official by registering on the site although that does have the potential for community and accountability. You don’t have to blog about it, either, or publicize it on Facebook. But if you take some time to think about it and a word settles in your soul, will you tell someone about it so they can ask you how it’s going?

You can a leave a comment here with your word, too, and we’ll encourage each other along the way.

5 on Friday: ways to choose joy

Earlier in the week, I wrote about finding joy in the here and now, no matter the circumstances, why that’s important and how I’m reluctantly accepting it.

Choosing joy. It sounds good. How do we do it?

I can’t promise that what helps me will help you, but maybe you’ll find an idea for your life based on what I’m discovering. Or maybe you won’t, and that’s okay, too! A year ago I would have said “you’re crazy” if you’d told me I could find joy no matter what. Some days, I still think it’s a little crazy.

Nevertheless, here are some suggestions.

1. Find your inner goofball. Silliness does not come naturally to me. That’s more my husband’s arena, and sometimes I just want to roll my eyes right out of my head at his antics. But here’s a secret I’ve learned in six years of parenting: the sillier you are, the more your kids laugh, and kids’ giggles are an antidote to negativity. (I’m guessing this tactic doesn’t work after a certain age, say, puberty maybe, but for now it works!) If you don’t have kids, watch a comedy. Or several. Sometimes a good laugh is just what you need. When we were at our lowest points, unsure how we were going to get through, laughter was a lifesaver. There were times that laughter led to crying, which was just the release I needed. (We’re kind of in love with Jimmy Fallon right now. If you need a good laugh, check out this video. I laugh every time.)

What joy looks like

What joy looks like

2. Do the opposite. Sometimes life is so frustrating, you just want to scream. Or is that only me? I almost never feel better when I scream or yell at someone or some circumstance. On rare occasions when I remember what does work, I sing. Whatever I can think of. Or I turn some music way up and belt it out. At the end of a long day, the last thing I want to do is sing, but it does give me a lift. Occasionally singing loudly when I want to yell leads to dancing in my kitchen when I want to run away from life. So, consider that a warning. Singing leads to dancing leads to forgetting you’re in a public place and dancing in the aisle of a grocery store. (Not that I’ve actually done that. Yet. But there’s one grocery store in our area where it could happen. And almost has. I’ll let you know if I make a fool of myself!)

3. Reflect. On where you’ve been. On how far you’ve come. On the goodness of God. That’s one thing this song has helped me do.

We have a lot of good in our lives. Sometimes it just takes more effort to see it. <Tweet that>

4. Serve. Maybe you feel empty, like you don’t have anything to give. I get that, too. And when someone tells me to serve I want to shout, “yeah, but who’s serving me?” Selfish, much? All the time. But doing something for someone else does some mysterious thing in my heart. It connects me to the rest of humanity, reminds me of my place in the world, that I’m not alone and have a purpose. Retreating into my own misery is like letting a wound fester. It stinks and eventually does more damage than whatever caused the pain initially.

5. Say yes. I’m a notorious naysayer. For so long we didn’t have the means–money, time, physical energy–to say “yes” to much of anything. This year, I’ve vowed to say “yes” more often. To trips to the park for no other reason than it’s nice outside. To ice cream as a treat for the kids helping out around the house. To new opportunities to be involved at church. To friendships that stretch me. To experiences that scare me a little. I’m not sure I’m succeeding at this much (it was a long winter!) but it’s there in my mind. I can’t say “yes” to everything, nor should I, but automatically saying “no” robs me of the chance to find joy in something new.

joy snowman

I hate playing outside in the snow. But one day I said yes to my kids and we built these silly snowmen. The joy lasted for days.

Choosing joy isn’t a hard choice for some people. And I’m sure you all have your own methods to find ways to enjoy life. Care to share?