Into the land of the living
Black bleeds orange into blue
I am coming to life,
Light is breaking through
I can hear the bells in the city
Across the ancient shore
I am ready to fight
Let down the scarlet cord
It’s time to shed this masquerade
You cannot love in moderation
Dancing with a dead man’s bones
Lay your soul
On the threshing floor
Andrew and I took a walk the other day during one of the most perfect days we have spent together in a long, long, time.
I had finally finished an exhausting 7-day work streak and had maneuvered my schedule around so he and I could have the same day off. It started with pancakes and bacon, my favorite used bookstore, a new coffee shop, and a nice walk together. Isn’t it funny how everything seems idyllic when you are in desperate need of these days of rest? That afternoon I had a Skype date with a friend I hadn’t talked to in actual years, so after a massive life update, my mind was in this place of awe. Have you ever told your life story, or verbally recalled a past season to someone else and then had to sortof sit back at the end of it and let it sink in? This happens to me all the time. God’s faithfulness continually astounds me. I had told my friend all about finishing my senior year of college, the cliff-jumping into the unknown called Korea, the difficulty and simultaneous goodness of that year, and then the more recent recollection of this past year back in the states and all that it’s held for Andrew and myself: adjustment, wedding planning, marriage, new city, new job, new church.
I’ve tried to write a blog/life update for a while now, but somehow end up always short for words as soon as I sit down to type. This is so strange if you know me at all because you probably now I never have an empty brainbox… but to be quite honest I’ve been trying too hard. I’ve been approaching the writing process with the mentality that I have to deliver something very profound and deep. But after the good conversation with my friend (Hi, Katie!!), and the peaceful walk with Andrew, I realized something liberating: the simple act of telling our stories holds enough profound depth on it’s own. There’s just no need to try to conjure up something out of our stories, because there’s so much already there! I am learning that when held up to the light of God’s grace and faithfulness, not one thing that has happened in my life ever lacks something profound to see, and will plummet me deeper to the depths of God’s goodness.
That being said, it’s time to go deep. Here is my September story.
For perspective’s sake, allow me to frame the seasons that have led me here:
- September 2015: Return from Korea
- April 2016: Get married & move to NC
- July 2016: Start job at Caribou Coffee
(It doesn’t look like much, and I am almost laughing aloud in Starbucks as I look at those tiny little bullet points and how simple they look, knowing how much lies between those lines.)
And now allow me to backtrack, starting in July. I was thrilled to get this job at Caribou, so thankful to be employed, to be finished searching, to have a job I was already familiar with, in a store that already held a lot of sweet memories with A and was a company I have always loved. This dream come true turned into a nightmare in about 3 days, when I started having panic attacks daily- so stressed out, and overwhelmed, and consumed by so much new at once. It wasn’t until a few weeks in, when I had gone home to see my family that I realized, it wasn’t just that the new job was too much for me. The job was just the tipping point into the actual ocean of new around me that I hadn’t acknowledged. My ever-wise mama pointed out to me so matter-of-factly: I have constantly been transitioning. See above list: one huge life change after the other!
I came home and decided I needed to go back, and start re-adjusting from as far in the past as I needed to go in order to work myself into being present where I am now. Does that make sense? Basically I looked back to where memories still hurt, and started processing from there. I actually dug through my old journals to find where I needed to pick up from, and this found me in last September. I was finally home, out on the back patio that I had longed for while I was in Korea, trying to enjoy the perfect weather that mid-September brings, and I felt utterly empty. I felt myself struggling in this emptiness throughout fall, winter, and of course the anticipation of getting married to precious Andrew helped, and I think the first few weeks after our wedding were the absolute best, most beautiful days of my life. But then transition #2 happened and I realized I had no idea what I was doing in this new town, this new place of life. Then I got a new job, and anxiety threw a few punches and I found myself both scared and empty and then depressed at the end of each round.
I have basically been writing out all I can remember from the past year: diving into the emptiness and counting all the fears, remembering all of the tension, holding out before me all confusion and doubts and every difficulty my heart has contained. This is where it would seem I have hit that block in my story where I have nothing profound to share, but let me remind you as I remind myself again: there is so. much. power. in re-telling your story. Even to yourself! In these last few weeks I’ve filled up a whole journal with my thoughts and prayers as I process, and that’s really all I’ve done, God’s sovereign goodness has taken care of the rest. And friends, we have gone from the shadows into the light. I have physically felt a pressure being lifted from me as I move slowly from this cloud of confusion and chaos, into the clarity of the present. The surety of this new place where I’m finding myself is in this deep, abiding sense of steadiness. It is unlike anything I’ve “felt” because it’s almost deeper than a feeling. It’s not something that comes and goes like ALL my tumultuous feelings. It is that I am changed. When I look at our wedding photos, I don’t even recognize those kids anymore. When I think about that girl sitting out on the patio that day, she was lost but has now been found.
This brings us back to that walk with Andrew. I was talking about how I had just shared in depth the last few YEARS with my friend, and how at the end of it I was amazed at how difficult so much of it had been, but in retrospect, it was all so GOOD. I told Andrew how much of a comfort the goodness in the middle of the hardship was when I got to Korea, how that year catapulted me into this reality, and now this is how I understand all of life. Before Korea, I firmly believed life was a series of mountaintops and valleys, hard times and good times were meant for separate seasons. There are definitely times of life that are sweeter than others, but as Andrew and I walked along and continued unpacking this, it became clear when we looked back over the last few months of our marriage that we really couldn’t see definitive lines separating the hard and the good. It is all, always, woven together. We talked about how in even the most wonderful times of life, there is something aching still. Living in light of life as a series of high’s and low’s makes me realize, no wonder I’ve struggled with the tension of anxiety! I have spent so much time being so afraid of so much, and letting that fear grip me, when instead I could have been processing as I go and living much more wholeheartedly. Even so, I am here now, and I am thankful for how hard the last year has been because it has led me to this place. It has all been a part of the process. And how would I know the beauty of morning if I never knew the darkness of midnight?
After our walk that day, Andrew went to a volleyball game and I went out to a cozy dinner in a little cafe with my mother in law. We got pumpkins and baking ingredients at Trader Joe’s afterwards, and then Andrew and I went on a spontaneous late-night date to our favorite place in the city and had our first pumpkin beers of the season, nestled in a back corner of the bar laughing and talking the way you can only do after a few drinks…. It was so sweet and perfect. I thought to myself, “Surely something bad is going to happen because this is too wonderful.” Only a few hours later I was half-asleep, scrambling out the door to a shift I had completely forgotten about, and spent the rest of the day tired and hungry and flustered and ashamed. A few weeks ago, it would have been the kind of day that wrecked me. But it was a perfect opportunity to put into practice what I have been learning: I cannot be shaken. God’s grip is so strong on me, I will not let these things tear me apart. And if I can trust his faithful hands through all these smaller moments combined, I know he will abide with me through even deeper waters.
So if you have made it to the end of this long post, high five. Here is my life and all it’s messes. And I suppose this is all I have: my story, plus God’s sovereignty, equals a blend of hardship and goodness. It’s simple, but I can’t get over it: the result of true story telling- to God, to yourself, and also to your people, is not only better mental health and a clearer mind, but a beautiful collection. Living this way now finds me gathering by the armfuls the beauty woven deeply into my circumstances, the richness of His presence even in difficulty. Do you know how much more brave living this way this can make you? Do you not sense how much more lovely life is when you savor everything – from the fresh mums by the doorstep to the abiding surety of Jesus, and his mercies anew every morning? He meets us in every moment and calls us to savor Him through every day whatever it brings, and then we get to go back further, and deeper, and recall and re-tell the sweetness and the bitterness over again and over and over again, to continue pulling the goodness from the stories of each and every season.
Oh friends. I promise you, you will always find the goodness.
And when you find it, share it again.
Land of the Living, Matthew Perryman Jones — because every season in my life has a soundtrack, and this one left me weeping with relief and joy and freedom.