It helps to have a Crisis Plan.

This feeling creeps in and before I know it I don’t recognize myself.

My thoughts are cloudy. Sounds are muffled. I feel as though I am trapped inside a bubble.

My thoughts turn negative, my perception skewed to see the bad and not the good in almost everything.

Tears come very easily; yet, it isn’t about the spilled milk, or the dirty paw prints across the clean floor.

It takes days for it to register what this is.

And, then it hits me. October. This month. I hate this month.

October 29th looms large. The anniversary of my brother’s suicide.

First day of school

IU

Let's Dance

My favorite photo

Every year I tell myself I am not going to fall into this downward spiral. Every single year I say it won’t happen again. The depression, the cloudy head, the negative outlook. Yet, every year it creeps in and surprises me.

My husband notes a difference in me, my kids looks at me with confusion in their eyes. I become the weak one in the family; the one who must be tip toed around; the one with a short fuse. I don’t have as much energy to spend time with friends. I look at my full calendar and just want it all to go away.

I withdraw like a snail who hovers in her shell until the rains stop.

In response, I spend more time in silence listening for His Still Small Voice (1 Kings 19:11,12). I meditate on God’s word. I remind myself to get exercise and more sleep. I pair down my responsibilities so that I only do what is absolutely essential – food on the table, clean clothes, clean house, love and presence with my husband and children. And, I intentionally do not make any major decisions or take on any new commitments during this time.

After 11 years, I am learning what my “crisis plan” looks like.

I wish I understood the mechanics of all of this. Does my psyche/mind/spirit just know to do this? Is is a protection mechanism? Was the shock and trauma I experienced so big that I experience a PTSD type reaction every year at this time? I want to understand. Because maybe if I understand I can avoid the pain of this part of my journey. Maybe I can protect my family from having to see me like this.

Will I live the rest of my lifetime wishing the month of October away? Will it ever get any easier?

As I write this, I visualize the questions and confusion, the request for understanding and answers swarming up towards heaven, like bees from an angry hive. I imagine Jesus sitting with palms open ready to receive whatever my thoughts dish out.

He is patient and kind; he does not envy or boast; he is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at my wrongdoings, but rejoices with the truth. He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. He never ends. (1 Cor 13:4-7, paraphrased)

For now I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12, paraphrased)

His Truth brings me comfort. Even as I don’t yet fully know or understand how this chapter of my story fits into His eternal story, He does. And, that brings me comfort.

So, for now, I will sit with Him. And when the questions and confusion swarm, I will choose to lift them up into His open palms confident that He will receive them. I will choose to wait patiently in silence for His response. {I am tempted to wallow. Therefore, I must choose.}

The month of October may never get easier for me. But, over the course of the last twelve years, God and I have worked out a “crisis plan”.

I now feel as though I am sitting comfortably with a dear friend open and exposed. He sees me, the real me. I am not hiding anymore, and that feels good.

purposed for authenticity,

jana

Change is a comin’…

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I want. I want. I want.

I wish. I wish. I wish.

I feel. I feel. I feel.

I. I. I. I. I.

I strike out at my husband, my children, my dog.

This cycle must stop.

It fills be with bitterness, resentment, frustration, anger. I am selfish. I am intolerant. I am unloving.

These self-seeking mantras yield darkness where instead I must demand for Light.

I must change my thoughts.

But. It. Is. So. Hard.

I fight every urge in my body that wants to pursue my own interests, ideas, desires. I fight these urges everyday, feeling resentment when My desires are denied because of other pressing needs.

I keep hearing myself say, “I don’t want to be needed anymore. I am tired. When will I have time to just be?”

I resent being needed. I resent interruptions and uprooting. I resent that I am always the follower. I resent that my dreams and hopes and desires remain on the back burner until a “better time”.

I could stay here, in this place feeling bitter and angry and {let me just say it}…pissed off!

However, I have coped this way before. That road is dark, lonely, twisted, and leads to only greater misery.

So, I must change. I must.

And, I can’t do it on my own. My self would encourage me to stay angry and bitter. To act all of these feelings out.

I will need God’s help for this one.

I know a change is a comin’. How? and When? – I do not know.

Ann Voskamp says the answer is gratitude. Gratitude statements, one at a time, all 1,000 of them. I would have to agree.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me. Psalm 50:23

With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good. Psalm 54:6

The still small voice inside of me that wants to be heard, that wants me to pursue The Change says – “Jana, begin by asking, ‘Lord, what now? What do you want me to do, today? Where do you want me to spend my energies, today? Whom do you want me to be needed by, today?’

And then, ‘Thank you, Lord, that I am needed. Thank you, Lord, that I do not live in isolation. Thank you, Lord, for the family you have given me; the friends you have given me; the neighbors and community that you have given me….now at this moment in time. Thank you.'”

That voice…so small, so still….I almost miss it.

That voice…I fight it. I fight hearing it. I don’t want to listen, because if I do, it will mean I have to stop feeling sorry for myself. Stop ranting. Stop being angry.

I admit, it feels good to feel anger and resentment and bitterness. It feels cathartic – like eating chocolate when my emotions are running high; or shopping for things I do not need; or watching mindless television after a long hard day.

Cathartic, in that, I can deflect my feelings, and avoid looking at the dirtiness contained within myself. I can avoid admitting that I am a sinner filled with selfish thoughts and selfish desires. Avoidance feels good. But don’t be fooled. Avoidance and deflection are Satan’s best tactics – misguided, self-serving tactics.

I must examine these questions and speak these gratitude statements. I must. For if I don’t, the darkness will overshadow me once again and Satan will once again seek to destroy all that has been restored.

I must fight the fears and reservations simmering within me.

His ways are not my ways.

He wants me to Love in ways that are not easy for me. To deny myself and take up His cross. Self-love comes easily and feels so much better. To deny myself and allow myself to be needed by others – oh, how this tries me and exhausts me. I am going to be needed in this place, by those closest to me. My cup will be emptied time and time again. I must pursue fullness.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

purposed for Him,

jana

the Allure of Being a Popular Blogger

girl twirlingMy heart races as I sit down to my computer to write my first post after nearly a month in hiatus. I can’t explain my absence except for that fact that I kept hearing the Lord speak to me the word,

“Silence”

Over the past month, both my writing voice and my actual voice have fallen quiet, insecure and fragile. I am on a new journey. I am not sure exactly what it is or where it will take me. But, I sense that I am entering another place of waiting. And, from what I have learned before, the Lord will meet me there and show me where to go next. My job is to wait and pray with expectation; to rest and be silent – for I will not hear him if I am making or surrounding myself with a lot of noise.

I am reading through a book titled When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees). Of all places, I found it on the free shelf at our local library. It was published in 1990, yet, despite being over twenty years old, her words are breathing comfort into my soul. I realize I am now on the same journey she describes – a mid-life journey seeking meaning and purpose.

I am entering mid-life. I don’t like it. I am definitely not happy about it. I don’t see myself as a soon-to-be-forty-year-old, yet here I am on the precipice of a new stage. What now? What am I doing with my life? Is this all that there is? These are the questions racing through my head, and they are the same ones Sue writes about.

She shares lessons learned along her journey – lessons of Waiting, Resting, Entering into the dark place. She describes an image of becoming a “cocoon” in order to allow the His Holy Spirit to transform her into her True Self – the self that Christ sees.

Her words are familiar to me and capture the experiences I have had and lessons I have learned. And, I ponder, who is teaching these lessons to the next generation of women?

In my recent silence, as I have been reading through this book, God is reminding me of His first calling on my life – to share my story – to share the lessons I have learned, the wisdom He bore in me during a period of waiting.

But…then, this is where I begin to struggle and shy away from doing just that. Who do I think I am? What could I possibly have to say that hasn’t already been said? Is it egotistical of me to think that my words are of any significance? Who am I serving – myself or God?

I look at the beautiful, uplifting blogs that are out there. They share ideas about parenting, cooking, marriage, and home-decorating. They are happy, colorful, and fun. I am intimidated by it all, and feel that I am just a thorn in everyone’s side reminding them of the darker side of life.

But, here is the honest truth: I wish I could write about things that make everyone feel good and perfect and put-together. I wish that were the voice I had been given. It is more acceptable to write about things that make us comfortable, that feed our egos and materialistic tendencies.

(I am not bashing those blogs, please don’t misunderstand me. I love looking at them and getting insights on great fashion, home decor, and cuisine. The blogs are beautiful and their writers talented.)

I also know this to be true: My words flow freely and easily onto the page when I share personal spiritual struggles and the parts of my life that rub raw against the truths of Scripture. Beneath the squeaky clean spiritual surface of me lies a dark underbelly that is fighting for a chance to breath and bear witness of Christ’s love.

My blog may not be the most popular. I may not generate thousands of followers or start a movement and “go viral”.  And, I may never be able to afford, or decide to allocate, hundreds of dollars to develop a beautiful, new blog design.

I fight fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of failure.

Yet, God has given me eyes that see the grief and suffering in this world; a mind that questions the status quo; a heart that aches to know more of Him; and a spirit that needs to rest so that He can fill me again.

I will write as I feel led, when words hang on my heart aching to be spoken, and try not to strive for popularity.

newly purposed, 

jana

 

Layer Upon Layer

Laying in bed last night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I sensed a deep realization…in the pit of my stomach.

I will never be over the grief of losing my brother. This grief is permanent. Not going away, not in this life anyway.

My mind drifted to the promise of Revelation 21:4

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

To have this weight of sadness stripped from my soul, that is quite a promise.

I recently had lunch with a 76 year old woman. She has lived quite a life – one of sadness, loss, pain, and grief. Yet, she lives joyfully in all things and Scripture pours from her tongue. She stands on the promises.

As I spoke with her, it dawned on me that life’s circumstances mount on us. One on top of the other. Joys. Sorrows. Losses. Celebrations. Milestones. Layer upon Layer. Like an oil painting – layer upon layer of paint, varying colors, varying strokes. All necessary to complete the masterpiece.

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photo credit

As I listened to her tell her story, I recognized that she lives with the pain that came in her 20’s, the suffering that mounted in her 30’s, the loss she grieved in her 40’s – layer upon layer. Joys, celebrations, blissful moments interwoven with the darker days.

I began to see my life that way. I will never escape this pain. It will always be a layer in my life. And, daily I add layers on top of the grief, but it remains. It cannot be squashed out, or removed. It will not disappear or blend in until it can no longer be recognized. This grief, this sorrow, this sadness is here to stay.

I keep thinking there is going to be this “thing” that overshadows it, that makes it seem less real, that somehow frees me from the pain, once and for all. But, there isn’t going to be.

I must admit, I feel saddened by this realization. Sad that I will continue to bear the feeling of grief. Sad that it will always be here, a part of me.

Sometimes the memories make me smile. Sometimes weep. Sometimes be still and reflect.

Bitter Joy.

That is the identifier that comes to my mind – I will name this juxtaposition of two opposing emotions. Joy and Sorrow.

The memories are joy-filled, yet bitter as they cross my mind. Of memories lost, of moments that will never be, of time passing day upon day when he is no longer a part of my life. I can and do feel joy as moments flash in my mind.

I see wrinkles crossing my face, feel pains in my joints and muscles that are no longer as nimble or flexible,  and cover the gray hairs regularly. All in attempt to fool myself into thinking that time is not passing. Yet, time is passing, and nothing can bring him back.

I guess I am having a hard time accepting that I will carry this sorrow with me to my grave. This sorrow and others as they come.

We don’t move from one moment to the next – wrapping up the last and leaving it behind. They become a part of us interweaving, layer upon layer.

I guess I have understood that in my head. But, now I am beginning to feel it in my heart. I can’t say that I like it. The ache remains. It will never go away.

I can and will experience joy. I have been promised that…

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5,6

However, I am beginning to understand that Joy doesn’t take away or overshadow the sorrow. Somehow, they coexist. God is teaching me how to live with both…at the same time.

newly purposed,

jana

Quiet

quiet

 

As I am sure you have noticed, it has been rather quiet over here at jana’s three dresses. My life in recent days has been far from quiet, however.

I have begun several drafts for posts with “interesting” titles. However, I can’t seem to finish them. My intent to write begins passionately, then fizzles as I labor over the keys trying to make sense of my thoughts.

I am struggling to find answers to puzzling behavior in my oldest. We are getting some help from a therapist. But, my son’s mood sweeps up and down from moment to moment without warning. His dad and I are trying to figure it all out. The stress is mounting. All I want to do is get through the immediate crises, walk away, take a deep breath, and enjoy the peace before all hell breaks loose again. But, that doesn’t solve the underlying issue…and that is where we are struggling.

I have been called to a task that is big – God-sized. I am honored and humbled to be given this responsibility. But, at times, I feel like Timothy – overwhelmed and immature. I am helping to execute a workshop for Military Spouses that will bring speakers and experts together for a day. We will be sharing stories of grief and suffering, and offering words of hope and encouragement for military spouses.  A much needed balm for a storm that continues to brew with suicide, divorce and PTSD rates continuing to rise. I ask for your prayers for all military spouses and their families as we try our best to navigate these unchartered waters.

This is where my heart and mind are these days.

On the back burner are my plans for a blog redesign and my first e-book.

And soon, I will finish up the half-baked blog posts that lie in wait.

For now, I cling to this verse:

Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. 

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. 

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him. (Psalm 37:3-7)

newly purposed,

jana

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