Googling, recently.

We live in a world where google is an official verb. Don't know something? Google it real quick. Results to our important and not so important questions populate within seconds. Our hunger for knowledge (not to be confused with wisdom) can be easily met. Googling is handy and I like what it can do. Yet I wonder, how does this impact our curiosity and does it lead to transformation in thought and action? Maybe it doesn't matter and I'm weird to be bothered by this thought at 10:30 in the evening.

Anyway, that's a long intro to say, years ago, D.L. Mayfield shared her week in Google search terms and I liked her idea. If you can tell what a person values by peeking at their bank account or their calendar, does the same go for their search history?

Here's what I've been pondering:

  • Do daddy longlegs multiply?
  • Why is a timing belt called a timing belt?
  • Atlanta BeltLine gentrification
  • Ableism and the straw ban
  • Captain Jack Sparrow "opportune moment"
  • How to be a good conversationalist
  • Transcultural and multicultural
  • How to unevenly split rent
  • Naps for 15 month old
  • Christian missions in Japan
  • "You'll Be in My Heart" lyrics

I have heaps to learn and I might burst not knowing how to make new information useful. Also, still not sure about the daddy longlegs, but help—what is it they love about my shower?

A waiting room chair.

IMG_6429.JPG

Yesterday a friend and I spotted a velvety chair outside some condos, available to take. We hauled it off to Baxter, my car, and like that, my imaginary living room gained its first furniture piece. I dream of the day different guests might sit there—strangers turning family, little kids with little toes reading little books, mamas who need a minute, siblings visiting on vacation, grinning neighbors and grouchy ones, too.

A place to make my own seems far off and financially impossible. Before the chair-sighting, I'd taken a chance in a meeting and in a conversation, and the answer was yet again not right now. I returned to my temporary home a bit sad and disappointed but also comforted. I'd prayed a lot, asking God to guide this potential housing opportunity. You never know what to expect when your faith is bolstered and you start to ask big asks. This time, I received a no, a wait, and a chair from the dumpster.

One step closer than before.

This is day one.

You are going to have to give and give and give, or there's no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.
ANNE LAMOTT

Beware, these thoughts are trickling in at 9pm on a Saturday evening. I'm giving myself 30 minutes to write, the typical time it takes to craft three sentences at best.

This morning, I meant to sleep in. No plans are rare, not needing an alarm even rarer. Instead of lingering in my dreams or the weekend quietude, I bolted out of bed early and almost automatically, landing in front of the laptop. I opened my drafts, intending to write. Thoughts had woken themselves up and there would be no rest till they found themselves worked out on a page. Eventually, I lost myself to the internet abyss where I continued on in my usual way—ditching writing and clicking dozens of new tabs to inhale others' words and thoughts and creations. 

A few hours, gone. No contributions made. Not even a simple thank you given to this generous bunch—the writers and thinkers and creators before me. I have a digital stockpile of information and little to show for it. I've been taking in and not giving back.

After accomplishing nothing and dragging myself to make a fried egg, I pulled Bird by Bird off the dresser where covers are sorted in rainbow hues. Sometimes I forget they're more than decoration. When I do remember to read, I often get my hiney kicked... like today, by Anne Lamott.

Turns out, I'm darn selfish. 

I've done little with the skill or passion I have in writing. It's not been maintained through practice or challenged through discipline. To deviate from my old, attention-seeking days, I've overcorrected by deliberately keeping words and ideas to myself. Yet here I am, benefitting from what people give to the world, feeling connected and understood by them. Something is wrong here.

The books I adore only exist because their writers were generous. People who risked rejection and gave their time, honesty, resources, and whole hearts to write because that's what they were made to do. People who believed the act of writing was its own reward. I'm not like that, but I want to be. 

Today, September 1st, I'm aiming to write daily for 30 days. I'm curious to see why I'm drawn to certain content—specifically of those internet tabs lined in a row. I'll be asking myself, how will I respond to such and such compelling essay? Why does this art move me? What emotions are evoked? Whose work should I celebrate, thank, or promote today? And how might I learn to be a better giver, through words, and on here? 

That was more like 90 minutes, but hey, the words arrived before midnight. I'll see you tomorrow for day two. Now, I set my alarm for church and rest.

I'm not there yet.

Milton Avery,   Sally with Skull

Milton Avery, Sally with Skull

The girls I nanny like to pretend it storms inside their nursery. I'll offer my best booming sounds and give the lights a quick flicker. They'll giggle and hide below the purple umbrella till they're bored or till the thunder and rain voluntarily ceases. (Miss Erika is allowed to get bored, too.) One or the other eventually happens and we move right along, picking another game to play. It's innocent and sweet, so different than the tempest that's ravaged through my family these last 18 months.

Because much good has resulted from my move, sometimes I forget I'm recovering from trauma. Initially I typed I'm still recovering—with a hint of shame in that adverb—as if there's the expectation I should be dandy by now. Spoiler, I'm not. My mind is pinged with reminders of pain when I leave meeting rooms, dates, or conversations feeling overcome by fear. The awareness doesn't come immediately, though. I'll usually be circling in my thoughts, wondering what is wrong—why this amount of insecurity or emotional disconnect? Then, the ping. Or probably the Holy Spirit. It makes sense, but I'm a girl who likes to plow through challenges and besides, I'm tired of this storm. Can't we move on now? 

How easily I lose sight of God, dismissing the tender way he meets those with broken hearts. I get impatient and try to control how emotional healing might come. I know myself and my tendencies, having done this plenty of times with my physical health. A little whiny voice inside me cries, "Oh Lord, are we there yet?" There is anywhere but here, I suppose. Far, far away from the grief resurfacing, the anger I can no longer ignore, the haunting memories of abandonment and deceit. Sadness lines my eyes and seeps into my pillowcases, drop by drop. Tears and snot run downstream, carrying with them the very feelings I've wanted to bury. 

I'm standing at a visible junction, caught between choosing self-protection or leaning into God, my Protector and Shelter. Writing out my fears and their paralleling thoughts is helpful as I aim to healthily process. I'll share some below, and maybe you can relate? 

I'm afraid to trust. How do I let people in again? And trust them with my emotions or struggles, not merely facts? This skepticism has gotten icky. I'm tired of sharing like I'm reading ingredients off a cereal box. I don't want to rehearse vulnerability. Also, as I think to the future and my desire for marriage, I wonder how this might impact a relationship? 

I'm afraid to be myself. Who am I and where do I fit in the new normal? My identity as a child of God has not budged, but the way I interact with those truths have certainly altered. I miss the twinkle in Old Erika's eyes and am not sure if this version of her—rougher and more melancholy—will be as readily accepted.

I'm afraid of getting duped. I attribute this phrase to a wise, encouraging woman I got to meet with today. She's 100% right, I am. When you've been successfully manipulated or betrayed, you're left feeling like you should've known better. I scope out potential scenarios as a way to prevent further hurt or shock, deeply intertwined with my lack of trust.

I'm afraid God will change his mind. This fear (or some form of how I relate with and view God) is what all the others crescendo into. Is it true he will not tire of me? He will always be with me, loving me without condition, providing all I could ever need? Will he make right every injustice and provide comfort for every storm's aftermath? Will he stay and keep his promises to his people?

If I've learned anything while dealing with trauma and grief, it's that the way forward isn't charted out in obvious steps. You'll feel like you're living on a question mark. Some days, you're fearful or numb or plain angry. Other days, the sadness simmers and you feel fine. Today my friend gave me the okay to be where I'm at, unashamedly. There's permission to not rush ahead—to not try and suppress or escape the tumultuous feelings inside—because it's the desperate here, not some idealized there, that the Spirit meets us.

Shelter us with your wings, Lord.
It's in you we find our refuge, our comfort, our peace.

___________

FOR COMFORT:
Read Psalm 61 & Psalm 91
Listen to Shelter by Pastor Sam Crowley

Summer's honey.

My brain is still off vacationing in the land of snails. If I'm not watchful, I could easily let cognitive decline drive me to despair, swallowing up what's been good, lovely, and brushed with hope. It certainly has before. But God is showing me a different way forward, reshaping my thoughts about myself and my life. Writing is tiresome and inconvenient right now, so this post is an act of persistence. I'd rather keep my words to myself, never having to risk what you might think of me, my roller-coastering intellect, my lifestyle, convictions, or anything else. Alas, I couldn't ignore the nudge inside. I decided I'd write today not because I must, but because I believe it's a gift meant to be used and shared. I'm learning to offer my best based on my current abilities—which can change daily—and not what I once had or long to have.

I'd like to share what I've been grateful for this summer. These posts are hard to put together because I get concerned how easily special moments can be misconstrued. But I want to get better at celebrating the highlights, the honey, the sweet stuff. After all, not everything in life stings.

I've experienced God's generous care as people from church have extended friendship, resources, and opportunities to me. My family at Renovation has been the sweetest surprise while I've settled in Georgia. Bit by bit, the church-related wounds and skepticism I'd hauled up here are diminishing. I used to grumble when I heard talk of "life together." Now, I wouldn't want it any other way.

A theme has emerged the last few months. One of my pastors told me last week, "It's on you to make your needs known, and it's on us to respond." Uncomfortable, but I'm trying to directly ask, and then, the hardest part: to receive. It wasn't till I moved that I saw how unhealthy and lopsided certain relationships had become over the years. Some were built and sustained on me solely meeting needs. Rarely would I request help, but then I'd get bitter when few read my mind and rallied around me. My love of connection and fear of being forgotten drove me to pour out almost relentlessly. It looked and felt like love, but now I see how self-seeking much of my efforts were. (Apparently I'm The Helper or a 2 on the Enneagram... can you tell?)

God has been abundantly gracious, though. He has put friends in my life who are imperfect and kind and committed to his upside down ways. Once upon a time I thought Georgia-living would consist of Jesus, the squirrels, and me. I'm glad that didn't last. 

Two girls and I meet together weekly as part of a discipleship group. We'll check in with each other, spend time praying, and usually discuss points from Sunday's teaching. I've never been engaged in something like this. Staying committed and consistent has proven to be extremely life-giving and helpful. Life can be a bumbling road, but we hope to walk in the light with one another. I know these friends have already held out flashlights of grace and truth for me... hopefully I might be able to do the same.

I've been growing not only as a believer, but also a leader. In June, I started a yearlong internship at my church and I'm still amazed it happened. The girl who once had her qualms about all things church and vocational ministry is now working there? Yep, you bet. God is certainly bringing redemption, but he's also giving vision. There's this pulsing inside as I dream of what it'd be like for my brothers and sisters with disabilities to experience the Gospel and Jesus-centered community without any barriers. Do I know the right answer? No. Do I know where to start? Not really. But I believe he's provided this opportunity for me so trembly as I am, I've said yes. The pastors and staff have already been supportive, passing on courage and coaching that's desperately needed. I'm looking forward to sharing with you what I've been learning and researching.

A few weeks into the internship, I drove my AC-less '93 station wagon to middle-of-nowhere, Alabama for Hope Heals Camp. That's right, friends! YOU ALL DID IT. You financially helped send not only me, but other families to camp and you did it in less than 24 hours. In fact, your generosity was so great we got to increase the fundraising goal, which was then surpassed by a few dollars. Thank you hardly covers it. I'll be writing a separate post about the week at camp because there's far too much to say. A camper called it a piece of heaven; a place where people were embraced with their disabilities, whether visible or hidden. 

My 25th birthday was spent at camp. Families and volunteers took the time to celebrate me with love notes, singing in the cafeteria, and even a bundle of kombucha. The night finished with a talent show and I cried a stream of happy tears seeing the body of Christ come together like this. Of course, the show was unrelated to my birthday, but it felt like the sweetest "God wink" as Katherine would say. Later I climbed into bed and as all nine of my cabinmates slept, I continued to cry, recounting God's faithfulness through the last seven summers. It seemed too obvious. This was all because of his sovereignty—God weaving together moments and meaning in a way I never could've anticipated.

I journaled that night: Look at all Lyme disease has afforded me. The gift of Lyme disease, seven years later. The gift of being able to connect to a deeper story. The gift of beauty in pain. The gift of solidarity. The gift of Jesus being glorified in my very weakness. He is good, faithful, and kind. 

When I returned to Georgia, friends gathered over BBQ and a popcorn bar to play games. It was all I'd wanted as I turned a quarter of a century. The remaining five of us concluded the party in worship. United Pursuit's Take A Moment to Remember flooded through the house and we did just that. We remembered together. I thought back to where I was a year ago—crawling through what I'd named the Summer of Darkness. Clinical depression had drained color, dreams, and personality from my life. God has worked wonders! Yet he's also carried me through many valleys using the practical love, service, and presence of other hurting and hopeful humans. In that moment of remembrance, I realized years of prayers and wishes had been answered. There they were, around me. My friends.

A few weeks ago, my childhood BFF moved to the city with her husband. They'd been placed here for campus ministry which stuns me, as it's been over a decade since we lived near each other. Neither of us ever imagined Atlanta for ourselves, and yet, this is where we've reunited at last. My heart is soaring to have her 35 minutes away—or 85 during our city's infamous traffic hours.

I'll finish up by mentioning my station wagon, Perry, is no more. He was wonderfully resilient all these months, withstanding potholes and stop-and-go nonsense. Maybe it was the Alabama trip or him also turning 25, but he decided it was time to end his career as I pulled off I-75 last month. There were no warning signs, no reasons to suspect I'd be without a vehicle that soon. He was good one second and towed off to the scrapper the next. I'd been praying for reliable transportation since I moved, knowing 300,000+ miles on a car would eventually take its toll. Three days before Perry quit on me, a friend (who is also a mechanic) called, telling me about a car he was fixing that could potentially be mine. I thanked him and was excited about the possibility, but didn't think I needed it. God knew. Two weeks later and a couple gifted me with their car—the one my friend had repaired. Enter Baxter. He has AC, working windows, and yes, I 100% named him after the jovial, fun-loving Buster Baxter from Arthur.

So many underserved gifts. They taste sweeter now than perhaps they would've a decade, seven years, or even one year ago. Every waiting room, dark road, and lonely place is an invitation to meet with the living God—to trust him with all of my all as I once heard it said—and believe he might bring something beautiful again. I've faltered over and over, embittered by my circumstances. But God. Oh, sweet and merciful God. He's teaching me how to remember and receive—broken body, brain, and all.
 

As I dwell up here where the air is clear
Where the light is bright and there's no more fear
I know my place, I know my name
I know You've called me to do great things

UNITED PURSUIT, Take A Moment to Remember