Tuesday, September 29, 2015

never too much

"I'm sorry," I say as I try to wipe my face, hold my phone, and drive all at the same time.

When I called him that night, I knew that I would probably cry at some point. It had been a hard night, and my heart was heavy and confused. I even mention it to him several times in the conversation that I might cry, just to warn him.

I didn't know that I would end up sobbing.

"Don't apologize. You're totally fine," he says sweetly. I can hear in his voice that he wishes he could jump through the phone and be there with me.

I continue sobbing as I head down Highway 50 and try to find the words to explain what he has just done for me.

All my life, I've been extroverted. Enthusiastic. An external processor. Emotional. I go through many highs and lows emotionally. I've been on the mountaintop, I've been in the valley - sometimes in the same week. I even walked through a season of depression a few years ago, though I didn't even realize it until recently. I just feel things very deeply. I've always been sensitive, but I've always seen that as a weakness, mostly because of the way people would respond to my sensitivity: uncalled for, overreacting, unnecessary - too much.

That being said, ever since I was a little girl, I've been characterized by enthusiasm and joy. I'm bubbly and outgoing. I love people and stories and beauty. I love being able to connect with people and their journeys. I don't like small talk - I'd rather have a real conversation with someone. I love to laugh, long and loud. I'm the first person to jump up and do the Cha Cha Slide at a wedding reception. I love being silly, and for other people to feel safe being silly with me. I don't like being serious all the time. I hashtag out loud in everyday conversations with people. I have a new catch phrase every month. But as I went along in my life, I found that there were people out there who treated my enthusiasm for life and fun like a weakness, too: too loud, immature, lacks propriety - too much.

I'm also a huge external processor. I need other people to process. I just do. Sometimes I don't know what my opinion is until I speak it out loud. I need to ask questions and seek advice. In general, the more people I talk with about something, the better I feel. I'm not a "think about it for three weeks and then share it with someone" kind of person. If it's on my heart, I need to talk about it with someone, stat. But over the years as I became more aware of how huge a part of my personality this is, I found that it was hard to think positively about it. Like everything else, it was a weakness: tiresome, burdensome, draining, time-consuming - too much.

I couldn't really see it, but it was true: every major part of my personality had come under attack. There was little about myself that I didn't see as a weakness. They weren't personality traits. They were character flaws. And you know what? Feeling like there's more stuff about you that needs to change than stuff that doesn't - it's exhausting. And it hurts. You are too loud. You are too emotional. You talk too much. You don't think before you speak. You aren't spiritual enough. You aren't serious enough. You are fearful. You are tiring. You are annoying. You are a problem that needs to be fixed. You are not enough. You are too much.

For years I have quietly believed that I would just need to spend the rest of my life apologizing for my heart. I would just have to get used to being sorry for what I'm like - for who I am.

And then, the kindest man I know speaks words that he doesn't even know will have the impact that they do, and my heart cracks. The floodgates open, and I'm sobbing on the other side of the phone. His words completely lay me bare.

Could it be? Could it be that someone I love so much and want so badly to think I'm not all of these things actually likes these things about me and is grateful for them?

Could what he's saying be true? How this part of me, my openness, my honesty, my willingness to invite him in and share my heart with him, has changed him?

My heart bursts, and I'm overwhelmed. I find myself trying to make a joke of it, saying, "Well NOW I'm crying." There I am - still apologizing for this thing that he has just told me is beautiful and valuable and necessary and good.

I'm quiet for a minute, my babbling capabilities disarmed, because it's becoming harder to breathe and the tears are falling hard and fast. It's hitting me what this actually means, and I can hardly believe it: I don't have to apologize for my heart anymore. Not with him. I'm bursting, trying to explain the utter relief that I feel, while still trying to wrap my head around it. I tell him, "No one has ever said that to me before." I can barely get the words out. I try to catch my breath and choke out, "You have no idea how much this means to me."

Oh sweet reader, whoever you are, hear this today: You are enough. You are never too much. God loves you so much and made you just right. Your heart? You don't need to apologize for it. In fact, your heart and it's deep, deep beauty? It's changing people. And it's so, so good. Don't let anybody tell you differently.

Monday, January 5, 2015

on fresh starts

Hi there! It's been a while hasn't it? My last post was nearly 3 months ago. What have I been up to??

Well, teaching, teaching, more teaching, choreographing, the holidays, and a small time in bed due to sickness.

And now it is January. 2015. A new year.

A fresh start.

Well... it didn't feel like that for me this year. Not until today.

Why? Well, my New Year began with a terrible cold and a bitter disappointment. It started, not with grand intentions and proud declarations, but with a weepy time journaling, praying that God would somehow bend and break me to His Will, when I felt like He was stripping me of the most beautiful things.

Getting sick meant missing out on a beautiful day of music and adventures with a dear friend, and it also meant several days in bed, doctoring my sore throat and dreadful sinus pressure, and losing time to work on the things I should have done before break.

And then, just when I thought I was doing better in some sin struggles, I fell AGAIN, and I was so frustrated with myself and angry at the "fresh start" I very much wasn't having. I got before God and asked His forgiveness and help, but I felt very defeated.

But then today, something amazing happened.

I finally started reading The Gospel Primer, the book my church is reading devotionally together throughout the month of January. I got out my Bible and my journal and the book and a pen and I set to it. But just as I was getting started, one of my dogs came upstairs, whining like he had to go out.

I pulled on my robe, found my slippers, and headed downstairs with him.

But when we got downstairs, and I prodded him to come outside, he wouldn't go. He just laid down next to our other dog in our living room.

I looked around, and saw a beautiful display. The Christmas tree - our first real tree ever - lit up and beautiful. The white/gray haven outside the big picture window. And two sleepy dogs, who just wanted my presence. They didn't need to go outside. They just wanted to be with me.

So I went quickly back upstairs, pulled on a pair of stripey socks, grabbed a blanket and all my books, and headed down to sanctuary I had nearly missed.

There I sat, in our old tattered rocking chair, a giant pink fuzzy blanket to keep me warm, gospel truths pouring into my heart via the books in my lap, and the beautiful atmosphere warming my heart.

As I "Mmmed" and underlined, and journaled out some prayers, a wonderful song a friend recently told me about played over and over in my head....

I am the Lord your God, I go before you now, I stand beside you, I'm all around you..... Come to Me, I'm all you need, Come to Me, I'm your everything... Do not look to the right or to the left, keep your eyes on Me....

And as I looked up, and saw outside the beautiful newly fallen and long anticipated snow, blanketing everything in the most perfect of whites, I couldn't help but think, "This is it. This is my fresh start."

My new year didn't start at midnight on January 1st. It didn't begin with gallant decisions. It began with the breaking of my will. It began with weeping because I couldn't bear to lose such a day. It began with more weeping because the pain was too great for me to bear. It began with disgust for my sin, and the desire to truly repent. It began there, in the quiet haven of my living room, as I took in all the beauty that surrounded me and thought, "I nearly missed this."

Dear reader, I don't know how your new year started out, and I don't know what your hopes and goals are. But I do know this - if you ask God to bend and break you to His Will - He will listen, and He will do it. And it will be painful and frustrating and scary and at times even heart-wrenching.

But it will never be wrong. God's leading in your life can never, and will never be wrong.

And you will never be alone. God will be with you through it all. Wherever you go, what you do, more than you know, He will be there.

I saw this tweet the other day and it struck me. E.M. Welcher wrote, "Let me be your friend for a minute: 2015 is going hurt too. You're going to need Jesus again this year. All year."

We tend to get really mushy gushy about new years. Like, "2015, be good to me!" And, "I know this year is going to be great!" Or we get cocky about it. We plan and resolve and think everything it going to be better, simply because it's January 1st. And listen, I'm all about thinking positive and setting goals and looking forward to new and beautiful things! But I appreciate Welcher's reminder. Even in your best year - you're going to need Jesus.

And don't forget that Jesus is near because He loves you and knows that you need Him near.

This Christmas season I heard not one but two very good sermons focused on God dwelling with us. And it was so encouraging, and also sort of attention grabbing to me. I mean, I've heard that before - Jesus being Immanuel - "God With Us" - but I just couldn't help but wonder if God was trying to drum something important into me this year:

Sydney.... I am WITH you.

You see friends, fresh starts and new beginnings are wonderful, but they aren't possible without God, His work, and His nearness. God breaking us down, bending our wills, making us holy, and dwelling ever so near to us.

So, welcome Him in, and breathe in His nearness tonight. Offer up your fresh start. Surrender your gallant plans. Take your will and make it HIS. He just wants to be with you.

Go to Him. He's all you need.

Come to Me, Bethel Music Feat. Jenn Johnson
"Don't look to the right or to the left, keep your eyes on Me..."

peace for this night

I really do believe that no matter who is elected President tomorrow, God is still King and still good. I really do believe that no matt...