Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Blood on the Forehead

“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

 For months now I have sat down to write, waiting and waiting for something to appear on the page and experiencing a mounting sense of frustration as nothing has come. Sometimes the hardest thing to experience as a writer who relies on the written word for expression is a lack of outlet for what is going on inside of you. There's emotions, experiences, thoughts that need to make their way through your pen but somehow nothing happens when you touch it to the paper.

 What creates an even greater sense of failure is when you know that you are doing all that you can be, all that you SHOULD be to foster and encourage those words to come out and nothing happens. Can I just say that the resulting discouragement can seem insurmountable? To say that this causes one to second-guess one's self, or to second-guess what it is that God has gifted you with would be a gross understatement.
 Not only have I questioned myself over and over again, I have to admit that I have also allowed myself to believe that others are questioning my role and abilities as well.

 “She’s written nothing of note lately, must not be anything left.”

 “That girl is seriously emotional; she probably can’t focus long enough to get anything out.”

 “No, for real though, she’s an emotional circus, she’d probably be more effective if she’d just chill.”

 “Mature Christian? Hardly. Mature Christians don’t make mistakes in x, y, z areas like she has. Repeatedly.”

I know this sounds ridiculous. If you’ve read anything I’ve written in the past couple of years you know that it is my emotions and the exposure of them that allows me to write the way that I do. I’ve never hidden this fact about myself. I truly believe that God gives some people a different level of self-awareness than others so that they might experience and examine these feelings in such a way as to gain full freedom from them and to offer His words to others to do the same. But one of the biggest lies that the enemy has ever told me is that people see me as unstable or too emotional to be effective.
I have felt things more keenly than others, I know this and accept it. I have even, over the past five years, gained the ability to control this fact on certain levels and have instead used it to my advantage when it comes to working for the Kingdom. One of my personal convictions has been that I refuse to allow the storms that have come my way to destroy me and that I would never allow them to happen without using them for God’s glory. I’ve done this by being as real as I possibly could, explaining my wayward thoughts and feelings and then applying Truth to them. Learning as much as I possibly could. After all, if no one is admitting these things and then sharing what God has taught about them, we’re all going to be feeling like we live in emotional silos and no one’s going to get anywhere. That’s how I’ve felt about all of this for a very long time.

I can also see, however, on the surface where people may have determined that I’ve always just been a little too free emotionally and not understood why I am the way that I am. I get it. I think it is right here, in this thought, that I begin to lose confidence and begin to allow myself to believe the worst about me. Or rather, I allow myself to believe what the whispers of the enemy tells me rather than the Word. What’s that about being honest where I’m failing? Exhibit A.

Now, this is not to say that I don’t see areas where I do need to mature. Lord have mercy, I see them. I see them and I know that I have to learn even more, dig even more, pray even more that God help me to grow in areas where I am still a spiritual child. I know that there are areas that I need true freedom but I don’t think being emotional is preventing me from gaining the ground that I need to gain. In some ways I feel that it gives me an advantage. I don’t think that having maturity is mutually exclusive from feeling things at a heightened level.

With all of that being said, there’s been a shift in my emotional being that was unforeseen, welcomed, and at times completely confusing to me. A shift that has altered my sense of self in such a way that it’s a little difficult to even understand how I feel at times – something that greatly affects my ability to write and express in the way I’ve always done in the past.

Let’s have some Story Time with Jess:

In December of last year, I was diagnosed with a little something called P.C.O.S., or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. This little gem of an affliction has been with me all my life and has gone completely undetected until recently. P.C.O.S. has, among many other things, a notable effect on emotions. It can significantly increase the intensity of depression, anxiety and mood swings. In some cases, these instances of heightened and intensified moods can be debilitating, something that is very difficult to describe or explain to those around you.

For two years prior to December, I was experiencing a deep, dark pit that just didn’t seem like it was ever going to go away. I had received some craptastic news in January of 2014, something that would make anyone feel pretty awful, but would not warrant the depth of my depression or the length of time that it stuck around. I now know why it was as intense as it was (in addition to the physical issues, I know the enemy used this and made things so much worse, trying to take me out of the game completely), and since treating the P.C.O.S. I have experienced a level of emotional stability and calm unlike anything I have ever known before. With my hormones now at normal levels, the swings just aren’t happening like they were. I can think more clearly and handle emotional circumstances with a greater level of calm.

As I said, this is something that I’ve had my entire life and never knew. Those moods and emotions were always just a little more acute than other people’s and never quite understood by anyone, myself included. But the tempest that always seemed to be raging inside of me has calmed and it truly feels amazing. I am coming up on a year of treatment and I cannot describe how life’s outlook changes when your body is no longer fighting you. Or how spiritually irate you get that the enemy took advantage of such a thing and now you’ve come back up swinging like Ali.

But…despite that clearer mind and calmer waters inside of me, writing has been nearly impossible.

This has, friend reader, freaked me the heck out.

It’s like a pipe that pumped out gallons and gallons of rushing water that has dried up to a mere trickle. As though the source of all that I wrote before has been spent.

Each time I’ve sat, pen in hand or my fingers on the keyboard, I’ve waited for the customary rush of words to fill my mind and swirl their way out through the ink or the clicks of the keys. I’ve waited for the swelling of feeling to come up through my chest and into my brain, to make it’s way out through the words that have never let me down and have always, always been my companions.

For the first couple of months, it wasn’t so scary. I knew that I was feeling better physically, and I knew that so often my writing was associated with the darker emotions and sides of life. But I was always accepting of that because I felt it was where God called me to operate in terms of what He was showing me and what I was learning. My willingness to be frank about it and share made those aspects of life less daunting and dark to me. It never occurred to me that not feeling those emotions in real-time would limit me and my ability to write with such abandon as I always had.

So, okay. That’s cool. *knuckle crack* Let’s write about the good things now.

…….nothin’.

Hoooo, did I ever start thinking I was a fool. That I had been misunderstanding what it was that I was supposed to be doing. That I had convinced myself that I had a talent where I didn’t and that I was such an idiot. Of course people are gonna think I’m a spaz. Of course this isn’t what God is calling me to do. Of course I’m gonna look like a total weirdo, flake, imposter!

I’m ashamed to say it’s taken me longer than it should have. It’s taken many, many nights of self-doubt and second guessing. I’ve believed what the enemy has told me, that this isn’t really where God has called me. I’ve let myself believe that others think so little of me because of what I’ve experienced. I’m ashamed, but I’m also realizing that it’s my human experience and my willingness to be used that He is looking for, not some mystical ability to write when things are going tough. He wants my willingness. He wants my dependence. He wants my obedience. I thought I was doing all of these things, but boy, did I ever miss the point. What a simple concept, but one so difficult to embrace and understand sometimes.

Even now it’s a bit difficult to fully explain all of this. Somehow I’ve filled four pages and still haven’t felt like I’ve nailed it. But I just want all of you who have supported me, loved me, prayed for me and encouraged me that He’s not done. That I haven’t got it all figured out but somehow I see the purpose now. I’m not silenced and there’s still a whole lot in here to be real about.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Dust Bunnies Make Awful Pets (Expanded Version)


 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in a bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book. (Psalm 56:8)

Since I was a teenager I made the promise to myself that no matter what, I was going to be as painfully honest with myself as I could possibly be. I was going to be transparent. There is something so refreshing about being transparent, with nothing to block the light. Light shows us what needs to be cleaned, what needs to be repaired. You can’t fix something you can’t see.

Try it. Go make a mess on the kitchen counter or try to glue back together a broken vase in the dark and then flip on the light. You'll see that all you have done is smear the dirt around and your fingers are stuck together. It's a lesson in futility in its purest form.

Sometimes the clear panes of glass of our hearts, through neglect or because we don’t want them to be seen through, can become shrouded in a film of grime. Things become dim and the areas that need to be cleaned become hidden.

Because I have promised honesty, I will tell you that my windows had become a little more than dusty. My transparency had become downright opaque. About a year ago (you'll notice there have been no new posts on the EVBN since...) I made the decision that I was going to hide what I was going through. I saw the pain in my family's faces because I was still hurting and still struggling and felt that I was burdening them (by no fault of theirs, they are generous and loving people and never made me feel this way, it was simply how I saw it in that state of mind). I had turned the blog into a book and began to sell it, and I felt that if people really knew what I was dealing with they wouldn't want to read it. I felt that it would somehow diminish the honest and heartfelt things that God had shown me.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lions, Bears and Giants

I have talked in the past about my dreams. They are small ones by most people’s standards. They didn't used to be, but life and it's experiences have changed my heart and mind as to what it is I really want.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be an archaeologist, an artist, a writer or an actress. I wanted to travel all over the world and see everything I read in the countless books that passed through my hands. I wanted to see the Great Wall of China and I wanted to walk right up and put my hands on a pyramid. I wanted to climb through an Aztec or Incan village and I wanted to dig for Viking armor on the coasts of Europe.

As I got older and my artistic abilities became more refined and I was able to write in such a way that people could actually understand the imaginations running through my head, I began to think that either of those directions were what I wanted to take. The moments alone in my bedroom in front of a canvas or writing in my notebooks consumed so much of my time, but my insecurities and my immediate world around me didn't allow me the confidence to pursue them much beyond hobbies.

I spent years after high school not having a clue (does anyone) and making mistake after mistake in my life. Eventually, I realized that what I was doing at the time was not what I wanted for the rest of my life and so I decided to go to school. Three years later I walked across the stage and I received my degree. During that time in college I met him. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cat(atonic)-Like Reflexes

I used to be a spaz. Like, a freak-out-on-a-dime kind of spaz that would leave me and those around me utterly exhausted. I like to think that while I can, at times, exhibit less than calm (ahem) tendencies, I have come veritable miles from the drop-of-a-hat kind of spazzer I used to be.

There is a direct correlation between the amount my faith has grown and the reduction in my ninnyhammer (1) moments. It really is an obvious deduction. When our faith in God and His ability to take care of us grows, we become less affected by the troubles or hiccups the natural world throws our way. It means that when something comes up that would normally have us in a frazzled state we stay calm and trust that He will work it all out for the good. This is a basic faith-skill so to speak:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

I, um….er…..struggle with this at times.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Night At the Museum: No Naked Cavemen Here

Since I've begun writing again, I've noticed a distinct change in the way I think. It's given me a reason to sit down and really contemplate who I used to be and who I am now, something I think we as a species need to do more frequently. It's so easy to get caught up in a cycle of defeat because we think to ourselves, "I've screwed up again, just like always," or "Gee, here I am at the same place I've always been."

As I was helping my sister plant a vegetable garden a few days ago (and realizing why most people buy their produce from a nice, air conditioned building instead of growing it themselves - insert revelation of hot sun, sweaty armpits, dirty knees and a burnt scalp here) we had a short conversation about how we are nothing like the people we used to be. It was one of those serious talks that finds its into an afternoon of laughter born from shared misery of some sort. (That's how we handle difficult or unpleasant situations in my family - kill it with sarcasm.) A conversation with an unspoken shared agreement that we much prefer the women we are now to the former versions we walked around in.

It hasn't been an easy journey of self-reflection, let me tell you. There are times when I literally face-palm when I think about some of the stupid, selfish, hateful and reckless things I have lurking in the murky depths of my past. I can say with heart-felt honestly that it is a miracle I am still alive. Meditating on who you used to be isn't a pleasant thing to do, and actually not something that I think needs to be done all the time, but it is something that I think we need to learn to take more time for.

Why?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Perfume: The Story of You


Things have been extremely quiet on EVBN. This has been (mostly) intentional. As with all of my posts, this one is yet another attempt to articulate just what it is that God is doing inside of me. I am finding it difficult this time to nail down the vocabulary to explain it. This is in part the reason for my cyber silence - lack of ability to fully explain this newest state of being.

You know that feeling when you bang your toe against the leg of the coffee table in the middle of the night and you're pretty sure that in a matter of moments you just might pee your pants from the pain and oh my goodness are you going to die? You hold your breath or jump around or, for those of us of the slightly more dramatic set, you roll around on the floor moaning and holding the throbbing appendage. You know the exact second when that pain disappears and you can inhale once again. Following that moment there is a period of time where the relief is so great it's almost its own kind of pain. Then...then there is this calm. You catch your breath and maybe just lay there for a second and think to yourself, "now, what in the heck was THAT all about?"


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Breaking the Boomerang: Give It Up and Leave It Up

Why is it so hard sometimes to let go? I mean, really let go. Why do we so often give things up to God, only to turn around and take them right back? I realize that this is a pattern that I operate in entirely too much. It’s as if to say that I don’t feel that God is big enough or that He cares enough to handle a situation for me.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am a worry warrior. I will latch on to something and I will gnaw that thing apart for days, weeks, months until there is nothing left. Yet even as I do it I know in my heart of hearts that I am not supposed to be doing this. I am supposed to be remembering that God is all-powerful and His outcome will be so much better than any that I can think up for myself.

The Word says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

That pretty much takes us down to brass tacks doesn’t it? There are over 300 different passages in scripture that tells us to not be afraid and not to worry - yet for some reason we can’t seem to help ourselves. As I am sitting here today, catching myself once again gnawing on a situation, I realize that the biggest enemy to my personal peace is my own assumption that I should take control and not wait to see what God does.  I am worrying about the outcome rather than trusting that all will work out according to God’s will.