Here Be Dragons

It has been 6 months since I last posted here.

6 months of uncertainty and fear.

6 months of apathy and disdain.

6 months of me giving in to doubts and letting myself become spiritually derailed.

So I ran away.

I planned a 2 month trip across the entire western United States.

I packed up my car.

And I ran.

Technically I’m still running. I have three weeks left of my trip and I have no idea how I’ll go back.

I don’t think I can go back. Not to the way things were. Not to the fear and the apathy. Not to the uncertainty that gripped my heart every time I thought about the future. Not to the mother and father struggling through their own pain. Not to the friends who have known me for the better part of a decade (and longer in some cases). Not to the loneliness, and the sadness, and the wishes and hopes that are only a faint dream.

I didn’t have an emotional breakdown on this trip until I hit Montana and that was only because of a friend who is going through her own spiritual upheaval.

But the mountains brought me peace.

And the ocean is bringing me hope.

And if I set sail into that unknown and meet a dragon, perhaps he will pick me up, and we’ll fly.

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Going Deep and The Weight of Presence

Occasionally I hear friends and family use the word Weight when describing the feeling they have in the presence of God. Other terms I’ve heard used: Syrupy, Heavy, The Spirit Oozes.

But I must be honest, I don’t like the word Weight when discussing the presence of God.

Don’t misunderstand, I completely see and feel how people think of Heaviness during worship or prayer. The Spirit of God is a powerful, tangible thing.

But when I hear the word Weight I think Oppressive and Shackled and Stuck. Heaviness implies being Pulled or Pushed Down. Jesus clearly says “My yolk is easy and my burden is light.” So why do we use the word Weight?

I cannot answer that question for anyone but myself.

And as for myself, I think the presence of God is Deep.

It is Rich.

It is Palpable.

But there is also a Lightness that cannot be felt through any other experience.

There is a Freedom that can only be found in the very heart of God.

There is a Weightlessness when the Spirit comes and convicts and carries your burdens that defies explanation.

The only tangible thing I can think of as a (painfully pale) comparison is a truly well made crème brûlée. It is a dessert that is Light and Airy, but the custard has an Intensity of texture and flavor, and you only appreciate it when you have broken through the hardened sugar crust.

In the same way, the presence of God can only be felt in full when you get out of your own way and allow the Spirit of God to break through your barriers.

I don’t discount the use of the word Weight. Everyone feels God moving in different ways and everyone feels the seeming absence of God in different ways.

I do not know that everyone has felt abject hopelessness. I have. That sense of utter despair. THAT is a Heavy feeling. THAT is a feeling that Presses you down into the earth with such force you feel you can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t even think. You end up feeling numb.

The Spirit of God is indescribably beautiful. No words can accurately describe the Joy and Hope and Grace that permeates every cell in your body when the Spirit of God takes hold of your heart and soul.

Perhaps that’s where my dissatisfaction comes from. The sheer inadequacy of language itself to describe God.

Without words, how can we know God? We must go Deeper into His presence.

Defining Arguments

I find it intriguing how many types of arguments there are. Perhaps the diversity of anger is due to the diversity of humanity. Or perhaps the differences are a simple result of the different motivations behind anger.

Relationships end because of arguments.

Lives are cut short because of arguments.

Empires are toppled because of arguments.

And then, there is a different type of argument.

The kind that define a relationship more clearly.

The kind that grow lives in better ways.

The kind that build strong foundations.

I just had an argument with my mother. The jury is still out on which kind it will end up being, but I’m hoping for the latter.

I fear becoming resentful. Of her, and my father. Of the entire situation. I probably have a right to be to some degree. However the problem with that is that I don’t want to be resentful. Resentment, to put it politely, sucks balls. It breeds and spawns until one is a shell of bitterness and cynicism. One can’t enjoy the big beauties in life, much less the small miracles of every day. Some days those small miracles are what I cling to.

The argument started because of my fear. Because I don’t want to be trapped as my fathers babysitter. Because I find that I have lost a large part of myself over the past few years since his diagnosis and I am desperate to find that part of my soul again.

So I prodded and she poked and off we went.

There were a lot of tears. And no true decision made or path chosen. But the tears came out and the words were spoken and I pray the hearts involved will be stronger.

Until I know for certain, I’ll just go eat some fried chicken.

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Whirlwind Week

This week has been…let’s say interesting.

This week God put up a sizable roadblock across a path I thought He was clearly leading me down. It has forced me to stop. It has forced me to step back. It has forced me to look away from the path I was looking down on, and to look up into His face instead. It has forced me to question everything I was beginning to form plans around.

I didn’t like it.

This week I watched as my newsfeed was filled with stories of joy and anger. Love and hate. Compassion and selfishness. Grace and pride. I have watched arguments destroy friendships and understanding break down walls of ignorance. It broke my heart.

I haven’t known what to say.

This week my father decided to stop driving. The relief in my heart was palpable. He’s gotten lost a handful of times and in his words, “That’s enough. It shouldn’t happen anymore.” The fear that he will get lost and end up in another state or that he will get distracted and wind up in a wreck has greatly eased. My mother has been weirdly amazing about it all by accepting it, facing it, and agreeing to let him stop instead of trying to force normalcy on him. We’re waiting to see if she finally has that breakdown we all think she needs to have. But for him to be able to choose and not to have something forced upon him is so very important.

I cried tears of sadness and joy.

This week my mother and father FINALLY went to an Alzheimer’s support group. They even saw someone they knew. They listened to stories of people who truly get it instead of the sympathies of people who can’t fully comprehend. In my mother’s words, “It put some things in perspective.” And she knows better now that she is not in this alone.

I felt so proud.

This week I turned 26. If I’m being honest, I hate birthdays. The obligation people sometimes feel to get you something. The empty “Happy Birthdays” on Facebook that you only receive because the website forces your friends list to know about it (Yes I’ve hidden my birthday from FB so you’re welcome friends list). If I’m going to celebrate my birth, it’s going to be less about turning another year older and more about how I managed not to do anything stupid enough to get myself killed in the previous year. Leaving aside the fact that I wasn’t even technically “born” I was removed like one removes a tumor via C-section, as infants, we do quite literally NOTHING to bring ourselves into the world. Our mothers do most of the work. On our birthdays we should celebrate THEM even deciding to have kids at all. After all, the sheer amount of torture we put them through to bring us into this world combined with the insanity we drive them to as we grow up, should be far more important than a party that says “Congrats, you managed not to die this year, here, eat cake.” I did get a card with dinosaur finger puppets though, so that was awesome.

I feel the same as I felt last year.

I am completely uncertain about this next year. I have no plan. I have no direction. I do not even have a glimmer of a thought for what God is leading me to do I only know he’s leading me to something. He’s just being nice and quiet about what, exactly, that something is.

Aaaas usual.

So here’s to being 26. Or something.

Who Gives This Woman?

A week ago today, two dear friends married, and I had the honor of being in their wedding party. We had all gone to college together, and everyone was friends with everyone so it was, in effect, a giant reunion. At least, the kind of reunion you look forward to…unlike most.

The days leading up to the wedding were busy but fun:

Last Thursday myself, the maid of honor, and the other bridesmaids threw the bachelorette party. Laughter, games, and a lot of sangria later we drifted to sleep, looking forward to the next day of hilarity and nonsense.

Last Friday we all got manicures and pedicures. My ticklishness reminded me why these are things I do not do often. The brides mother brought us all Lebanese food (their family is Lebanese after all) and we awkwardly stuffed ourselves as best as we could with wet nails. That evening we had the rehearsal dinner with all the groomsmen and family members, and we stuffed ourselves even more on amazing BBQ like good Texans do. The late evening was spent with even more laughter, games, and sangria only this time, with all the groomsmen, so things were even more absurd.

Late that night, us four bridesmaids piled into the giant, kingsized hotel bed with the bride to pray over her.

About halfway through our praying, the brides father called her, and the following is their conversation:

In a quiet voice, “Hi daddy.”

In an equally quiet voice, “Hi baby…You get married tomorrow.”

Through tears, “I know. I’m excited.”

“Good. Are you going to bed soon?”

“Yea, the girls are praying over me and then we’re gonna sleep.”

“Ok. I love you baby girl.”

“I love you too daddy.”

Then they said their ‘Goodnights’ and hung up.


That was the first moment that I realized that if God blesses me with a marriage, my daddy might not be able to call me the night before my wedding to tell me he loves me.


The next morning, three of us bridesmaids went for coffee. The wedding day had begun and we all needed caffeine.

We all went to a ‘Luncheon with the Bride’ that some of her parents church friends hosted, and then we all started getting ready for the wedding itself.

The hotel suite smelled like hairspray by the time we were done with hair and make-up. We drank Dr. Pepper, listened to big band and oldies music, flirted with the photographer, and took awkwardly bad selfies.

Then it was time for her to put on the dress.

She wanted her father to wait in the next room until it was on and she had had her moment to see herself for the first time, and the following is the conversation when she was ready:

With trepidation, “Alright. Let him in.”

“Tim! You can come in now!”

“I don’t wanna!” But he comes in anyways.

When he sees her, he stops, he smiles, he breathes a small silent laugh, and he wipes a tear from his eye before going to her.

“Baby you look beautiful.” He hugs her close.

“Thank you daddy.”


That was the moment I realized that if God blesses me with a marriage, my daddy might not be able to recognize me in a wedding dress.


We take the bride down to meet her groom for their First Look. It’s a tradition that has gained popularity wherein the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony to alleviate nerves. They take a private moment to commit their lives to one another before they do so in front of their friends and family.

The groomsmen came down too, and we all hid in the back to watch. And we cried. And laughed. And then we all took the wedding photos because no one likes the weddings where the reception takes hours to begin because of the pictures taking too long.

We took funny pictures and beautiful pictures and silly pictures and pictures the couple will hang in their home for years to come and the following is a conversation the photographer and her father had:

From the photographer, “Alright, I need the bride and just her parents.”

Around laughter, “Can we take one where I’m threatening him?”


That was the moment I realized that if God blesses me with a marriage, my daddy might not be able to joke with my husband.


We finished the pictures and went back up to the suite to wait on the cue from the wedding planner.

We put on her veil, ate a quick snack, flirted more with the photographer, and posed in front of the window that overlooked the beautiful city skyline.

The other bridesmaids and I wandered into the other room of the suite while the bride and her father stayed together at the window talking. I didn’t hear that conversation. I didn’t want to.


That was the moment I realized that if God blesses me with a marriage, my daddy and I might not be able to have a quiet conversation before the ceremony.


We got the call. It was time.

We went down to the garden where the ceremony was being held.

The wedding planner lined up all of the bridesmaids with our groomsmen. She gave us our cue. We began to walk.

Now the brides brothers are all over 6′ and I am barely 5’2″ and I was standing on ground level with the seating, right in front of her family. So when it was time for her entrance, they stood, and I couldn’t see a thing. So I looked at the groom.

I do always love to look at the groom though. To see that unabashed joy on his face. When the movie “27 Dresses” came out I was happy to find that I wasn’t the only one who did that.

But when the bride and her father got to the alter, I turned and looked at him.

I saw the joy on his face. And I saw the sadness. The knowledge that he wouldn’t be the most important man in his little girls world anymore. But also the certainty, that he was giving her to someone who loved her just as fiercely as he did.


That was the moment I realized that if God blesses me with a marriage, my daddy might not be well enough to walk me down the aisle and look that way.


The rest of the ceremony was perfect. The dinner was delicious. And then her father stood to give his speech, and while I had become accustomed to the pangs of sadness that had been plaguing me all day, the thought that my daddy might not be able to give a speech at my wedding cut very deeply.

I decided in that moment though, to not throw myself a pity party. This day belonged to two of my favorite people in the world. This day was theirs to celebrate and laugh and remember as the happiest day of their lives. So I grabbed a second…or third…glass of wine. Danced until I was exhausted. Laughed as loudly as possible. Made as many joyous memories as I could. And celebrated the beauty of love, and family, and friendship.

Today is my pity party. Because one day, if God blesses me with a marriage, when the minister asks “Who gives this woman?” My daddy might not be the one who answers.

A Year In Review

This video broke my heart.

To be reminded that this is what my father is going through.

To be reminded that some of these events he has already forgotten.

To be reminded that it will only get worse.

It broke me today.

I love Christmas. Christmas is my favorite holiday because of the joy it brings to me and my family. Celebrating the birth of Christ with those I love. Laughing hysterically at bad Christmas movies. Watching my parents dance around the living room during “White Christmas.” Singing the songs, decorating the tree, eating the dinner all together. I love Christmas. But I can’t help wondering how many more I will have with my father. How many past Christmases does he even still remember?

And I’m scared.

I know tomorrow I will wake up looking forward to Christmas again. It’s already only a week away. But right now, I am sobbing. Because I can’t imagine a Christmas without my father. A new year will start in two weeks and I am terrified of what hurdles it will bring. What will he forget? What will we have to start doing for his care?

Most days are not as hard as today. This one though, it caught me off guard.

Forsaken

Have I written about my mother yet?

No, I don’t believe I have.

My mother is a type A perfectionist. Not in everything of course; much to her chagrin our house is a bit of a mess. But my mother is a PLANNER. This is the woman who printed off about 4-5 different route options for EACH park at Disney World, all depending on what attraction we wanted to see first. The binder for that vacation was 2″ thick, and yes, there have been binders for almost every vacation our family has ever taken.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my mother’s organizational skills. I certainly didn’t inherit them quite to her extremity, but she is the one who has carried us through the last few years:

Since dad was laid off.

Since her parents, my grandparents, both passed away a year apart from each other.

Since dad was diagnosed with alzheimer’s.

Since his parents, my other grandparents, have had major life and health changes that my uncle is often unable to properly deal with because he lives half way across the country.

My mother is a strong woman. And I admire and respect her so very much.

But my mother is afraid. As I said, she is a planner, and within the last two years, her entire life plan has been turned on its head.

How does one cope with that?

The man she planned to grow old and retire with, has been given maybe ten years. The job she loves, she may have to retire from early because of having to care for him. My mother has an incessant need to control, to plan, and to make sure everyone and everything is ok. But my mother is angry. This entire situation is completely out of her control. And she takes it out on others. And she takes it out on my father. And I never see her turn to God with her anger.

And I wonder if she feels forsaken.

I have heard many say that being angry with God is prideful and unjust. After all, He is GOD. Who are we to question Him? Who are we to yell at God when our lives are falling apart? But I do not believe this.

I read the Psalms of David:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night and am not silent.” 22:1-2

I see the words of Job:

“Though I cry ‘I’ve been wronged!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice. He has blocked my way so I cannot pass; He has shrouded my paths in darkness. He has stripped me of my honor and removed the crown from my head. He tears me down on every side till I am gone; He uproots my hope like a tree.” 19:7-10

These men were angry with God. They cried out. They questioned. They begged. Because sometimes, all we can do is scream out our anguish, and sometimes, only God is there to listen.

But just because we may be angry with God, does not mean we must lose hope. It does not mean we must believe the lies that we are lost. It does not mean we give up.

It means we must fling ourselves ever deeper into His glory and grace and His very being, because who else is strong enough to catch us and all of our baggage?

So how do I help my mother? I see the worry and the sadness in her eyes and countenance, and I am at a loss for what to do. How can I help her? How can I convince her to talk to someone? How can I make her see that she is not forgotten by God? How can I love her as He loves her, when her anger is still so strong?

I do not have answers to these questions. All I have, is faith.

Name Your Fears Because He Will Provide

I am seeing a counselor.

Based on my previous post, one can comprehend why. Facing a disease such as alzheimers is rather stressful and learning how to cope with it is an ongoing process. It is cyclical. I will repeatedly tumble through the stages of grief as my father slips away more and more.

My counselor has encouraged me to look at the fears I have for myself, not just the ones I have for my father, but those I do not dwell on because they center so close to my own heart. To face them. To name them. And then, to turn them over to God.

So here goes:

I fear getting this disease myself. We do not know where it came from in our family. No one that we know of in the family tree has it, and it came from seemingly no where.

I fear becoming resentful. Resentful of my father and thinking of him as a weight around my neck. Resentful of my mother because she needs me to help. Resentful of God for sending my life down this path.

I fear that my fears will overwhelm me. There are days where I want nothing more than to drop everything, quit my job and run away to travel and see the world. Other days I want nothing more than to stay in bed all day hidden from the world with my books and Netflix. I fear that one day I will do one of those things and I won’t want to turn back.

I fear that I will let responsibility overwhelm me. I fear for my tomorrows because I worry that I will become so consumed with the sense of responsibility I won’t follow God. What if He leads me to stay here? Will I feel stuck? What if He leads me away? Will I feel guilty for leaving? I am 25. I fear that this will consume my life before I realize.

I fear disappointment. What if I pray for a cure and it never comes? What if I pray for my dreams to come true and they never do? How do I live this life I have been given faithfully when I’m not even sure how to get through one day?

I do not like fear. I do not like feeling weak. I do not like being out of control. Giving names to my fears makes them real. It makes them painful. I would love to bury my head in the sand until everything blows over, but that is not any more realistic than if I were to sprout wings and fly away.

I have to remember that God will provide.

In the last few weeks I have seen His provision. An opportunity to work with a mission organization. A new job to provide money for the gas necessary to get to said mission organization. Three pathways before me that are marked more clearly than they have ever been.

In the midst of this provision I have also felt attacked. Mentally by temptation and laziness. Physically by illness and exhaustion. Spiritually by apathy.

I have to remember that God will provide.

When I fear the disease itself, He will provide.

When I fear resentment, He will provide.

When I fear my fears, He will provide.

When I fear responsibility, He will provide.

When I fear disappointment, He will provide.

He will provide strength and endurance. He will provide faithfulness and trust. He will provide spiritual, mental, and physical needs. He will provide, because He cares.

Forget-Me-Not

My father has alzheimers.

You’re probably reading that statement and wondering about the title of this post. Well let me see if I can explain.

We got the diagnosis about a year and a half ago. In that time I have struggled with God. Struggled with anger and resentment and the Why Me’s that well up in my soul. The heartbroken questions that fall from my lips, Why? What do I do? Will this happen to me? What about my mother? What can she do? What if? Oh so many what ifs.

And I have felt forgotten by God. Like I have been tossed aside for someone better, someone with more sweetness or kindness or compassion, someone with more potential. Someone who is a better example of Christ than I could ever hope to be.

I have felt lost. I have felt broken. But I do not feel those quite as sharply any longer.

Oh don’t get me wrong, I definitely still feel anger. I am very much going through the stages of grief, although I seem to bounce around between Anger and Depression more than anything else. But in the last year I have learned something. Or rather, appropriately, I have been reminded of something:

 

I have not been forgotten. I will never be forgotten by the One who made me.

 

My earthly father will one day look at me and not know who I am, but my heavenly father has engraved my name upon His hand. While my earthly father is one of the greatest men I know and one of the dearest people in my heart, my heavenly father sacrificed everything to give me a chance, to give me hope, to give me joy. In the last year, He has renewed my spirit so many times, and reminded me of His love for me. I am consistently reminded of how desperately I need Him. How He is the one who fills my soul and every longing of my spirit. How He is the one who will carry me through my grief because He is so vastly stronger than I.

I’m the one who has been forgetting Him.

I forget all He has done and all He has promised to do. I forget the evidence of His grace that He has sewn into my life. I forget that He will sustain me, guide me. I forget so much, and yet I’m the one selfishly crying out so as not to be forgotten.

Yes I see the irony in all this. And I am able to see it and to smile. I can tell God is already pulling me through to the other side of my grief. I do not doubt that I will feel it again and again, that’s the nature of this disease. But I trust in God. And I trust that each time He will be there pouring out His love on me and my family.

No, I am not forgotten.

 

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Words

I love words.

Words do not always love me.

My words are not eloquent.

They do not inspire and teach or build and create.

My words are angry.

My words are hurt.

Bitter words that drip from my lips as hot tears from my eyes.

Sarcastic words that hide fear.

Quick words that lead to regret.

Loud words that cry out in pain.

Quiet words that cut deeply.

No, words do not always like me.

But I still love words.

In stillness and silence I hear different words than those I speak.

Soft words of comfort.

Slow words of love.

Strong words of encouragement.

These words are not mine.

These words of grace come from One who is more.

More than I.

More than all.

More than enough.

His words are great.

His words are perfect.

His words sustain.

His words give life.