LESSONS

Some friends of ours recently got married and asked us for relationship advice. Good God save us all - I have no advice. 

But I do have some lessons I’m learning. As in, I started learning them when we started dating almost ten years ago, I’m still learning them now, and I’ll  continue to learn them for decades of years. They are lessons that have applied to all the relationships in my life, so you don't have to tap out if you're not in a relationship.  

- EVERYTHING -

Your partner cannot be your everything and will not fulfill your every desire and dream.

There is this misconception that once you find your life partner you will be happier, fulfilled, and more secure. That all your hopes, dreams, and desires can be found in this person's dedication and love for you.

Nope. Just nope.

Your partner will make you happy, your life more full, and you will find some security in their love...but if you’re not happy, fulfilled, and secure as a single person - you won’t be with your life partner either.

So you can stop.

I can stop.

Stop trying to milk dry the person we love the most for all our fulfillment, all our happiness, and all our support. They don’t deserve to feel bone dry and inadequate when we are coming to them for our everything.

>> I’m learning that my happiness, fulfillment, security, desires, and dreams can’t be satisfied through Bobby. He scratches the surface to be sure, but that whole long list of all my needs are only satisfied when I live in the LOVE reality that burns from the sky to my heart and I acknowledge the Living God who says His love for me is deeper, higher, and wider than I can even imagine. Any desire and dream I have had and will have is satisfied when in unity with His desires and dreams.

- YOUR CRAP IS MY CRAP -

Both Bob and me brought a lot of icky stuff to the relationship. Fears, depression, insecurities, lack of belief, and selfishness to name a few. And they all have fleshed out in some horrific nightmare of a time in our lives if not daily.

Life is just so lifey - ya know?

Our crap tries so hard to put walls between Bobby and me, so that we are incapable of being a part of the unity and love that we have for each other.   

>> I'm learning that all the nasty we brought to the relationship is no longer just ours as individuals, but ours together. Which in one way is really awesome and in one way really rough. I feel incredible love and devotion when Bobby has made my crap his crap and stood by me in my depression, or supported me in my decision to go to counseling, or refuted my fears in his overwhelming belief in me. I think all relationships at their core have to be just this - acknowledging the crap in each others life and choosing them all the same. We have each other and that makes our crap less crappy. 

-mediocre -

"just wait till your married" 

People would freak me the hell out when they would say this.

Why do people think it's appropriate to insinuate so many horrible things about how your relationship is going to go downhill when you finally commit? Whether it be about how you're gonna gain weight, or be too busy to have a healthy relationship when you have kids, or your sex life is going to go to shit, or whatever!

 I'm waving a big BS flag on this one. 

>>I'm learning that healthiness is something we have to fight for both individually and relationally.  Yah, there is some truth in getting comfortable physically, in gaining some weight because you're so secure in someones love for you, in taking relational sacrifices to invest in a growing family.

But I have to believe that settling for mediocre and then somehow sliding into not healthy is a choice.

That I have the power and discipline to fight for healthiness both personally and in my relationships. That I can save money and book a romantic trip, that I can budget in counseling, that my healthiness is worth going on a jog, that even when we are dripping with children we are going to have passion. Maybe not the rip your clothes off passion all the time, but the passion that's elbows deep in legos and is still looking me in the eyes and saying, "I fully know you, I fully love you, I fully want you to be mine for forever".

I believe a healthy me is worth fighting for. I believe healthy relationships are worth fighting for. Healthy isn't easy because it's uphill. But healthiness is never mediocre. 

- GIVING UP -

There’s going to be a point where it hurts.

A lot.

Where it feels like you don’t want to stay with this imperfect person who never fully understands you and rarely loves you the way you need to be loved.

You’re going to contemplate whether it hurts more to stay or to leave. Whether it would be easier to go down separate paths.

You’re going to get in your car and drive down some God-forsaken valley road and end up in the middle of nowhere bawling because you know that you are asking someone to understand you, when you don’t fully understand yourself.

And you’re asking someone to love you fully, when you feel like some days, most days, you can’t even love yourself.

Sometimes it going to feel like loving that person is bleeding out for them and you’re not sure if this love will give you life or kill you.

 >>I’m learning that love isn’t snuggles, fun getaways, kisses, romantic evenings, having a hand to hold, or Instagram worthy pictures. It’s bleeding out for someone you’re devoted to, much like Jesus bled out for me, and the paradox being it somehow brings me life.

 

I DONT KNOW WHY WE ARE HERE

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I've been struggling lately. You know, the kind of struggling where your close friends and family check in on you a little too often and start out the conversation with, "Sooooo,...how are you?". Trying to gage if today is an okay day or another day that has swallowed you up whole. 

I'm realizing that some seasons just swallow you up whole. You can put on your big girl panties and try to make the most of it. You can beat your warrior chest and try to fight off the sadness, darkness, and demons. You can be zen like and take good care of yourself, take deep breaths, and go on walks. But regardless, the season has swallowed you up whole and being a high functioning sad person is the new norm...for now at least. 

There is a lot of logic in the decisions that have got me here, unfortunately though, my emotions haven't followed my logic. I've rearranged my life in my head a million different ways with a million new situations and decisions, and still I find myself knowing that the logic that has led me to the swallowed up season is the path I'm supposed to be on. 

I got a crazy good massage recently, full of essential oils, dim lighting, and peaceful music. It was the kind of massage that makes you forget about time and space and somehow you're teleported to some other reality. Every time I let the masseuse do her magic and I forget she even exists, I ALWAYS think of creation. How Father God massaged and molded my soul, body, and mind into being like a potter massages and molds a lump of clay. How He took intricate detail while massaging into existence every fiber in me and how His hands continues to mold and shape me through every situation and circumstance. His hands are ever-present. Comforting. Guiding. Correcting. Shaping. And I just surrender in that moment and think,

"What are You doing?"

Because I don't get it - ever.

Which is eventually followed by,

"I trust You."

Even when I don't want to end up trusting a God who is letting this happen - I end up back there. I trust You. I've despised Him, I've blamed Him, I've thrown up my head and yelled "wtf are you doing up there?!", I've told Him I don't want to believe in a God who is letting everything go to shit, and I end up broken on some floor, bawling, and knowing regardless of how I can't get my head around everything, I'm heard. Which means someone, something, some God is listening. And I feel held. And those hands  around my lump of a life makes me feel somehow secure in a overall plan, regardless of whether it's the one that I want for my life or not. As I feel the masseuse rub out knots in my body I come to realize God's hands are rubbing out knots in my head, heart, and soul. That He's moving around old stagnant blood to bring back some movement to areas where fresh blood hasn't been for a long time. 

It's hard being honest about being in a season that has swallowed you up whole. Because we all have a lot to be thankful for, because we don't want to sound like we are complaining, because a lot of people have worse situations. Because, because, because,...

"I should be happy."

"Why am I not happy?"

I get it. We've done such a good job of staging our lives and having all the stuff and pushing for happiness and goodness that when something like feeling we have no purpose, or broken dreams, or tragedy starts to swallow us up - we fear how the honesty of our reality will be received by others.

And maybe I'm just a complete shit show and everyone else really is as happy as their Instagram story says they are. Maybe your dark days are just shallow caves compared to the black hole I've been sucked into.

But on the off chance that you're not, maybe you're like me.

Maybe you're feeling like being happy is an uphill battle. Maybe you're trying your hardest to make the most of your situation...and you're just tired of trying. Maybe you've tried to make sense of why the heck you're here and what the heck God is doing and you come up blank every time. Maybe you're grasping for straws of hope, purpose, and happiness and they dissolve in your hands the minute you get a hold of them. Maybe you have felt totally broken for awhile and are trying your best to hold all the broken pieces of your life together. Maybe you have trusted God with your life and look around at the situation and have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT GOD WANTS OR WHAT HE'S DOING. 

So if that's you, you should know, me too. I'm with you. I'm for you. I'm swallowed up in here too. If we bring our small flaming candles together we can make a campfire. I have marshmallows. We can talk,..or not. Maybe let's just hold hands.

I don't know why we are here.

But I'll sit here with you in the darkness, looking up to a starry sky and ask a Creator God,

"What are You doing?" 

and I hope together we can say eventually afterwards,

"I trust You."

 

 

BELIEF

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If you haven’t caught wind yet, we moved back to Oregon. 

I started this blog because I wanted a place where I could be honest in a way that I felt like my social media and small talk was lacking. To go against the grain of all that was sparkly and shiny in my life and say, “yah, my life is hard and flawed and a mess but still beautiful” instead of just, “my life is beautiful”. 

So in honor of truth telling, I sit here being the first to say I didn’t want to come back to Oregon and I’ve been all sorts of weepy, depressed, and pathetic because of the move. I really thought I was made of stronger stuff, but turns out the strong stuff in me was only as strong as my belief in it. The moment I didn’t believe was the moment the strong stuff caved in on itself. 

On special occasions Bobby and I always do some sort of reflection and goal setting. Together we look back at what was hard and good, what we could improve on, what we grew in, what we learned, and what we hope for in the future. So on the 2nd anniversary of Bobby’s business, we sat down in a booth with no clue that after that meal we were going to decide to move back to Oregon a whole year and a half sooner than we had originally thought. It was a mutual decision based on what we thought was best for us and Bobby’s business in the long run. But even still, leaving San Diego felt like uprooting all the good that had grown there for me and facing all the dark and scary that had existed in Oregon before we moved. 

I basically have been crying ever since. You know, the sadness where you are penciling in your cries? “Okay, right when I wake up I can step in the shower and cry, then after lunch I can step away when no one will notice and get a good sob out, which will lead nicely into my weepy, beggy 'God wtf are you doing?' cry while brushing my teeth before bed”. It’s scary how high functioning a sad person can be. 

I was/am sometimes still fighting against the decision to be back in Oregon. Partly because San Diego is more my groove and Oregon is a lot less my groove. But mostly because I’m scared. Scared of all the times I ended up in the bad, scary place of depression here. Scared of how often my emotions follow the weather and how many damp, cold, dark days Oregon has in general. Scared of how stress had been a thick layer around my life here and how many times I had been in survival mode because of it. Scared of losing the growth that had flourished in San Diego for me and scared that the version of Ciara I had found in San Diego isn’t going to survive here. Fear is such a bitch.

So I wrote a list of things I was going to fight for in Oregon, with the mindset that I wasn't going to give up the happy, full life I had in San Diego. I was going to fight for the happiness and fullness to carry over into Oregon; caving in on myself because of all the sadness, darkness, and nasty weather was not an option this time. Those things ended up being hobbies, people, and goals that I knew if I fought for them would make me feel fuller, happier, and more myself. Sometimes they feel hard to add to my routine, or incredibly selfish to plan my day around, but they have been lifelines that have been pumping back into my weary heart, "it's okay, you're going to be okay, just keep breathing". It kind of feels like I'm offering pieces of me back to myself, which seems like really important business in a season of change. It looks like putting myself out there by going to new yoga classes and breathing deep, jogging around the block not for cardio but to be outside and remember I'm alive and my body is a freaking miracle, petting a lot of my neighbors dogs, talking on the phone every single day with friends and family, baking treats, going to counseling, and singing Disney songs in the shower until the hot water runs out...just because I'm an adult and I can. 

With all of the change it has felt like a lot is unstable, which has made me feel unstable. I have all these raw emotions I'm carrying around with me and my life feels like a constant coping process. I've pendulum swung from belief in the path we are taking and the peace we have to complete hopelessness and doubt in our decision one too many times. I've realized after going back and forth, back and forth that when everything feels unstable, doubt creeps in like a ninja that wants to f*** with your belief. 

The strong stuff in me is only as strong as my belief in it.

Aren't we all fighting? Against doubt, despair, hopelessness? Aren't we all trying to not cave in ourselves and breathe a little deeper, get outside a little more often and realize we are alive and this life is a freaking miracle? It's hard and it sucks sometimes, but miracle nonetheless. The truth is, when I cry it out, shake it off, and get up, still all I can say is I believe.

I believe in the God who makes the stars sing. I believe in the God who envelopes me when I cry. I believe in the God who paints sunsets over the land and whispers "this is for you". I believe that with every form of death there has to be life. I believe in unwrapping every moment the power, love, and sound mind that God says are my gifts from Him. I believe in universal love that sees every person as a person. I believe in a future  that goes beyond time, flesh, and our imagination; that is so unknown and yet somewhere deep in the pockets of our soul we remember. Eternity. I believe that my hands, my voice, my feet are God's creation and ultimately His to use as He sees fit. 

Belief is the beginning of hope for me. I feel less convinced of a lot of things, but regardless I believe. I'm pretty sure with this whole belief thing that less is more. The less you are convinced of, the more you understand - the more you believe. I'm not convinced of many things these days. Logic doesn't get to play in this campground. Just peace, hope, and belief. 

TIRED

"So what brings you here?" 

I'm sitting in a well lit room in a comfy chair with a stranger. A stranger I'm paying to be my friend. To listen. To give counsel. I'm wearing my waterproof mascara and my most comfy work pants (you know, the ones that have the elastic waistband). I was prepared on the outside and yet, I hadn't been prepared for that question. I had thought the first meeting would be a bs get to know you session. 

Somewhere deep down in me I hear my soul whisper, "you're tired.". 

"I'm tired!" I blurt out.

My paid friend nods at me and warmly smiles to go on. 

I'm convinced this is why therapists make any sort of money, they know when to encourage more out of you instead of filling the space with their own words. 

"More?! Crap, she wants more"... I think to myself while fidgeting with my turquoise ring.

"I'm tired.... Of feeling like this. Of being like this. Of dealing with the same shit every year and losing and hurting every time. I realized once another one of my "resolved" issues circled around for the millionth time with the same strength it had the last time, that I'm going to be dealing with the same crap over and over again in my life, just in a different way, with new scenarios. So knowing that, I guess I'm just tired of hurting so much every time it circles around, especially when I don't know why exactly it hurts or why I let it hurt. I feel like I shouldn't hurt anymore or I should have some control over my issues, but they are all so deep inside of me and I need help pulling them out, unravelling them, and calling them for what they are. A lot of them for the first time. So I guess my hope is maybe, if I know some of what they are and why they have control over me, they will lose some power and won't leave me lying on the bathroom floor crying every time."

She closes her eyes and nods as if she fully understands.

I sigh. I'm so tired. Why can't I get my crap together? I think of some of my friends and how I feel like they cope so well with change, marriage, contentment, and just life in general.  I'm tired of feeling like something is wrong with me,...especially when I know somewhere deep inside of me, that nothing is.  

I didn't know it then, but now 2 years later from this initial introduction to my paid best friend I know I was right. Nothing is wrong with me. 

 

 

God the Mother

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Something really scary happened recently: my friend Bre had a baby. As in, a ten-toed, two-eyed being popped out of her and lives and breathes and we call him Theo. It’s the craziest shit ever. 

All my life, I have been the first to go through just about everything, from full-time job and marriage, to buying a house and moving states. Which for years has made me the advice column with my friends on all the "what to do's" and "what not to do's". So when my Bre told me about our Theo, I was fully aware that I owed her big time. 

I feel a little behind on this whole baby fever thing. All I know, is that if it's anything like puppy fever then I wholeheartedly can attest to that shit being real because I need to be semi-sedated when I see puppies in the park. Needless to say, everything about experiencing a desire and readiness with pregnancy, labor, and having offspring feels very foreign and scary to me. I really wanted to be there for my friend in her journey into motherhood,  just like I'm sure my single friends really wanted to be there for me when I was planning a wedding at 18 and they were still in high school. But it's just hard. Because we are in totally different stages of life and desire. Even though I knew Bre was stepping into a season of life that I hoped to have in my future, I got pretty tripped up by the fact that everything was exponentially more scary because I wasn't there yet and for the first time I couldn't give her all the "what to do's" and "what not to do's".

When I met Bre at the hospital and got a glimpse of what labor was going to be like, my eyes got real big, I started to pit out, and then I seriously questioned if any human being could be worth this. 

I watched my sweet, calm, content friend moan in pain, which led to me feeling dizzy and taking a lot of deep breaths. Once I realized that her mother-in-law may or may not be watching me just as closely as Bre….I had to leave....and call my mom and apologize asap. 

Then Theo was here and in Bre's arms and I witnessed the craziest most beautiful thing: LOVE. Bre had an adoration and love for this baby who had done absolutely nothing to deserve her love. He actually had done the exact opposite and caused her immense pain... For awhile.

I was confused and shocked. I didn't anticipate the intense connection or the outpouring of love to break out of Bre with Theo. But it did. 

From what I gather, this whole labor/pain thing is a curse. A curse on Eve and her daughters for believing Satan's lie that what God provides is not enough. I cry with Eve every time I believe it. But what I experienced with my friend is that God in His immense goodness made it also a mystery. A paradox. That woman would desire a child knowing the pain ahead, share her body for 9 months, be ripped open, AND THEN LOVE the undeserving baby regardless. Regardless of the damage done to her body. Regardless of who he becomes or what choices he makes.

I can't believe this love. This love that God allows a woman to experience. It makes me wonder if what God has made a curse He has also made our immense blessing. That we would realize through it, the immense desire He has for us, regardless of the pain He knew we were going to cause Him. That He was willing to share this life with us and be torn apart AND THEN LOVE us undeserving sons and daughters no matter whether we choose Him as our Father or not.

That's the freaking gospel. I know we always say God the Father but I think I just experienced God the Mother and believed all over again.