“Oh Lord, where do I fit? How do you drink when the sweet and bitter mix? There might be too much bitter in that sweet. I want to let go….move on….embrace today, but self-will run rampant gets me every time.” (A glimpse into my heart, June 11, 2013 Nashville, TN) I didn’t do much journaling over the year and a half season we lived in Nashville. Every effort to write seemed to come with a resistance; a weight that kept me silent. I spent many nights sitting up, with racing thoughts, but my hand was too heavy to lift the pen. What little did make it to paper came as desperate pleas…calls for release from a prison I couldn’t define. I didn’t find myself there…..in the South. I thought maybe I would. But, I couldn’t see my mind through the trees, I couldn’t breathe freely in that stifling air. For the first time, I resided in the hustle and bustle of major metropolitan life…a city filled with people and dreams, hearts, and egos. I sometimes filled a single seat amongst many, in the stadium of the mega church we meant to call home. But I wasn’t home….never was. It was the loneliest time in my life. I can say that now, and I’m ok with it. I learned through this, its not worth it to deny where you are in a season. There can be too much loss that comes of it. Yes, there will be those that judge, that maybe whisper behind your back…but their pricks are nothing compared to the trouble that comes from your own deceit. Once, a mentor of mine told me, “Jen, you need to just be Jen. I mean, you need to just sit in that chair, and BE Jen.” I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Every fiber in me cried out “Noooooooo, I need to be this and this, and that and that! Anything but me!” I think that is what I made Nashville, my escape from me…. a long time desired dream since early girlhood. If only I could leave, run off far away, I can be whomever, whatever I want! Emptiness is what came instead, along with her friends, insecurity and fear. Thankfully today, I can easily say who and what I am NOT, and I’m ok with those nots. So, all that’s left is me, and I’m finally settling down, contentedly into that chair.
“And, as she fell asleep still thinking of violets and fairy rings and moonlight over the wide, wide land, where their very own homestead lay, Pa and the fiddle were softly singing,
‘Home! Home! Sweet, sweet home,
Be it ever so humble
There is no place like home.'”
-By the Shores of Silver Lake, Laura Ingalls Wilder
No better words to end our journey through the first five novels of the “Little House” series, and to send us off to sweet dreams on the first night in our new home after months of continuous change, moving, and uncertainty. On restless waters we sailed, searching faithfully for the warm beacon from a lighthouse in the distance, and finally pulling into a safe harbor.
I was flipping through my homeschool planner the other day, taking an end of the year inventory and assessment. Each turn of the page was a reminder of all we had been through this year. I was amazed at the extent, and realized not only did I need to gift myself grace in the areas I failed, but also, despite all the “interruptions” we experienced this year, learning happened.
There can be a heap of pressures and fears, from both external and internal resources, when you educate your children at home. This year, being our second year since venturing on this journey, I felt them so heavily and deeply, that at times the burden felt too great to carry. I am reminded now that it is not mine to carry. (1 Thess. 5:24; Heb. 13:20-21; Matt. 11:28-30)
Getting lost in the pages of another time and place was one of our anchors this year. It connected us, kept us grounded, and for a time we “lived” there. Everything I’ve read thus far about using whole living books to learn, was lived out in our homeschool. We will never forget our experiences with Laura, Mary, and Carrie, and Ma and Pa. They wove in so well to our own personal experiences this year, that they are forever connected.
Part of that connection is the meaning of “home.” We lived in several houses this year, but “home” was always where our heart was….and that was being together. I know, its cliche, but its true, and I can’t imagine any other way of experiencing this than having our boys “home.”
When I was in high school, I almost won a trip to Ireland through the local newspaper for an article I wrote for our school newspaper. As a finalist, I had to go through an interview process. I was quite nervous about it…wasn’t my writing enough to get me the ticket? I didn’t feel prepared to answer questions about myself with these professional journalists. I wanted to impress them of course, and I remember feeling like I had to come across as this extreme extrovert, when in reality I am not. The one question I felt for sure that I bombed, I probably answered most honestly. “Jennifer, do you express yourself better in speaking, or writing?” Without a doubt, I answered, “In writing.” I always have felt they wanted the former, though my assumption is almost certainly off.
I believe writing is my true soul’s way of speaking. My heart wants to write. It energizes me, inspires me, most of all it heals me. Heartache motivates me more than anything to write. My personal journals no doubt reflect that.
I am always moved deep within when I see others use words to heal. It resonates with the way I am designed. Today I wanted to share something my husband wrote recently that is close to my heart. It is an experience we both are processing. Hope you enjoy.
My husband Danny, wrote a piece of our story to share with People of the Second Chance. I am so grateful for this inspiring group of people and their message for hurting lives. I am also proud of my husband, who has revealed to me the love of Christ through his own brokenness. I admire his courage to continually share about something so painful, yet something that radically changed our lives for eternity. You can read our story that was featured today on the POTSC website here : http://www.potsc.com/potsc/my-addiction-our-second-chance/
I’m struggling to break free from my perfectionism, my unrealistic expectations, my stringent, legalistic ideals. What should my life be? A list of do’s and don’ts? A schedule to be followed? A perfectly regimented march? Keep in line, Jen, or face the consequences!! Hmmmmm, I’m beginning to wonder what those consequences are. Pain, disappointments, failure! I bet, yes. Laughter, joys, success. I bet too! What should my life be? Freedom to choose? A spontaneous adventure? The twirling dance of a free, creative spirit? A full breath of fresh air.
When I make a cake, I try to do so in the cleanest way possible. I avoid a mess. When my boys make a cake, it’s one big, swirling, laughing mess! The messy process is fun, something to be savored. Something to be embraced.
I wanna live like that!
What about you?
My youngest son loves trains. Literally whenever he sees one, his whole body responds. Eyes and mouth wide with amazement, shudders of excitement, arms and legs waving and kicking with joy, tiny fingers pointed, followed by sweet shouts of “Choooooo Chooooooo!” Even presented with only the remote possibility of getting a glimpse of one of these power movers, he will wait patiently, as near to the empty track that Mommy or Daddy will allow, for just that chance to experience that rush again. I would love to take him on a train. He hasn’t yet seen a train from the inside perspective, only as the standby observer, from a safe distance, off the track. He sees the train for one brief moment on its journey, never knowing where it came from, where its going, or what its main purpose is.
I suppose life is like that. We are all traveling on a track toward something. Lately though, I’ve been wondering, is it ever possible that you can step off the track, maybe even get derailed, and become the observer….the one patiently waiting at the side of the track for that glimpse of another train steaming forward, full of power and purpose and focus….only to see it pass and disappear around the bend, leaving a sense of emptiness and longing. Longing to be on the track.
I’ll be honest, that’s me. I feel like wherever I turn there are people energetically focused, aware of purpose, filled with a dream, steaming toward a destination. If I work hard enough at it, I can remember when I had that much drive. What is easy, is remembering when I lost it. Sitting rather awkwardly across from a therapist, my eighteen year old self expressing fear of the possibility of dying young. Why? Because the focus and purpose for my life that I had built up in my still developing, inexperienced mind was crumbling before my very eyes. Only a couple of months into film school, a huge financial commitment, a mountain of expectations I could not live up to, physical and emotional exhaustion, confusion, and an overbearing desire to run. Run I did. Whether or not that dream was one God placed on my heart or not, my leaving, left a huge portion of me empty, lost, listless, off the track.
My desire to create stifled by fear and insecurity, I excelled in studying the creations of others. Artworks of the ancients became my passion. Perhaps the only time I felt focused on something so deeply, were those years earning my degree in Art History and Religious Studies. But, I could never see beyond that, never sum up a driving force to plow forward toward a goal. I studied for the sheer joy of learning, with no intentions.
I had taken on a “let life happen to me” attitude. Fast forward several years, my days are spent home, with our two little ones. Enduring tantrums, and the humdrum of housekeeping. I have experienced my small, private victories and accomplishments within our walls. Laughed and delighted in our boys and their silliness and zest for life. I have experienced the powerful fellowship of women who chose the same. Seen their passion for that choice. I’ve tried desperately to share in that feast with as much fervor, not even bothering to ask why I would.
But….yet still…as I see those around me moving forward in their lives, those working toward something, a focused point and passion, those living out their dreams….I can’t help but feel, I am off the track. My focus, purpose, dreams, were lost a long time ago I am afraid. I don’t know how to get them back.
Where are you? On the track or off?
I am a writer. No wait…I AM A WRITER! What does this mean? Does it mean I write for a living, that I’m a published author, a reporter…what? I am none of those things today. Does it mean I write because I want to, I love to, I can’t help it? Quite possibly.
For the next 15 days I am taking the Great Writer Challenge at goinswriter.com. Today, I face the challenge of declaring that I am a writer. This is no simple declaration. Who am I? My goodness, I haven’t even updated this blog in forever! Does that disqualify me from being a writer? Perhaps, if I allow it to.
In my mix of thoughts and emotions as I write this, fear and pride are my biggest walls to hurdle. Fear of criticism, ridicule, rejection and failure. Fear that I’m not good enough, that I am not what I declare. Fear that I am! Prideful in that I want to hide my inner self from the world, not allow others to see and assess or judge who I am. To hold on to some amount of dignity.
Despite it all, today I step forward in faith…as weak as it may be…I AM A WRITER.
What do you need to declare today?