All Manner of Thing

I am mentally or emotionally uncomfortable about 80% of the time. 10% of the time I’m checked out and the remaining 10% I feel good, happy, joyful. Say what you want about the difference between happiness and joy, I’ll take what I can get. (That’s not entirely true. I do recognize the difference between things that are merely soothing me and feeling a real letting-go kind of peaceful joy.)

I took an online test recently (certainly reputable!) that told me that I’m a “Highly Sensitive Person.”

Good one, Captain Obvious.

The most enlightening/depressing thing I read, as I studied up on this before unbeknownst to me legitimate personality profile was that Highly Sensitive People spend much of their time unhappy because they’re always kind of struggling against an overstimulating world and struggling toward an inner sense of quiet. (An impressively long sentence, if I do say so myself.)

Good luck with that inner sense of quiet I’ve been working on so assiduously… Continue reading “All Manner of Thing”

My Soul Is In The Sky

I’m still not entirely used to the sunshine in Colorado. It has been extremely cold and snowing for weeks, but still, when I walked through the building this morning at 7am and saw the cheerful, pink and gold glow of the morning, my heart leaped as if it were summer.

It was overcast for several days in a row and my mind quickly returned to Seattle expectations. I remember one year, growing up, when it was overcast for 90 days in a row. You can take it several ways, really- it can be a cozy shelter from the universe that allows you to wear sweaters and drink your coffee and read your books. Or, the grey ceiling can sit on your  shoulders, while the wet cold seeps into your lungs and your heart.

The older that I get, the heavier an overcast sky becomes. Which is why on days like today when I’m up early and there are numerous tasks to accomplish, I’m so grateful for how lavishly God pours out the sun on Colorado Springs.

It won’t make everything easy, but like good smells and delicious food, it sure won’t make it harder.

Reading in the Dark

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been a rough week.

Sometimes I get really stuck in the dark and I cannot see the way ahead. There are a lot of lies that whisper to me when the lights go out. It makes my head much like a haunted house and a heavy rock of grief, stress and fear sits on my chest and it actually feels harder to breath.

This morning during corporate worship I was desperate to get away from myself and see God. I picked up my Bible and opened to Isaiah because I remembered some good stuff in there where God says who he is in a very direct way.

Isaiah 43 has been an important chapter to me for the past ten years. Before doing the School of Biblical Studies, I had a hard time reading the Bible at all. Except for Isaiah 43. My struggle was that I couldn’t see how any of the words were really for me… people talked about “claiming the promises of God,” but I couldn’t see how any of those promises were for me… Continue reading “Reading in the Dark”

Paul’s Secret

During discussion group last night we went around in a circle talking about what we have learned from studying the New Testament. The students finished Revelation this week and will begin with Genesis on Monday.

It was so encouraging to hear the answers from the students because they are the reason that we, as staff, are here. I know that my part is a small one, but I’m grateful to have a part.

The staff shared, as well and I was glad to be last in the circle because I had no idea to say. I had some words floating around in my head and was also trying to listen to what others were sharing. It wasn’t until the person before me wrapped up that I grabbed ahold of the bones of a thought. Then the most unfortunate/wonderful thing happened. The truth I was trying to convey hit me as it was coming out of my mouth. Which, of course, means I cried.

Here is what I learned this last quarter:
Early on I was wrestling with the Apostle Paul… Continue reading “Paul’s Secret”

When You’re Gone

My strongest urge right now is to clam up. This rarely leads to anything good, and so I’m writing.

Today is my daughter Sarah’s sixth birthday. How does one celebrate (commemorate?) the birthday of a dead person? When people have children, they usually spend a decent amount of time planning birthday parties. What you do, you do for the kid. I assume you do what you think your kid will enjoy most. Birthday cake with trucks, cake shaped like a doll, colorful streamers, games, friends. If they are really young, you invite whoever will come and everyone sits and watches this dexterously inept human smear frosting from ear to ear, and from nose to toes.

But does a person who has stopped living continue to age? And what do you do on their birthday every year?

I have been asking those questions on this day for the last six years… Continue reading “When You’re Gone”

I’m Only Sleeping

I’m pretty sure I have jet lag every morning of my life.

I go to bed at night trying to tattoo into my mind the excitement I want to feel when my alarm goes off. In the morning, just a little too early, the cell phone song cuts through a thick fog of dreams, disturbing and addictive dreams. Whatever I thought the night before no longer ever existed. Coming up out of the water of sleep, my eyes sting and I suck in handfuls of air trying to find my phone in the dark. I sit up after turning the noise off and I take breaths that come from somewhere deep, like my body is the earth and some hidden cavern holds life, miles and miles from the surface.

Sometimes I check the media on my phone, little slices of affirmation or conflict that I feel dully, but feel more than understand. If I have enough wisdom, I refrain from looking at my phone because I know that all of those panting dogs will wait.

I blink, blink, close my eyes reminding them what it’s like to be awake. “Be awake!” I try to shout to my insides because they weigh so much more than usual… Continue reading “I’m Only Sleeping”

Trauma Brilliance

Some of the best moments of marriage to my ex husband were the weeks following our daughter’s death.

I won’t say that they were the only good moments, because that would just not be true, but they were some of our best.

The day of Sarah’s birth and death, we were both some kind of mighty beings. After all, I pushed a human being out of my body with no drugs and after over 24hrs of not eating or sleeping and undergoing unbelievable amounts of physical pain. I actually had burst blood vessels in my eyes and when she was finally on the outside of me, they laid her gooey, curled up body onto my chest and I thought, “Huh. That’s a baby.”

I guess it was exhaustion induced ambivalence.

It didn’t take long, though before indifference turned to wonder. Drained and bleary wonder.

We were, I think, too tired to do anything that day but obey whatever was happening each moment… Continue reading “Trauma Brilliance”

Surfacing

I’ve been thinking a lot this last year about hostility vs. hospitality.

A few years ago I began to have this hormonal imbalance issue which, when untreated, leads to varying degrees of unreasonable irritability (among other things). Of all of the side effects, this one is the most bothersome to me. Thankfully, I can recognize the difference between my own normal reactions and those that are caused by spiking hormones. It’s helpful that I can know something with my mind and act on that knowledge even when my emotions tell me to be verbally or physically violent. I’m thankful for this for many reasons.

At the same time, I’ve been noticing how much hostility there is within me that is not caused by hormones. These are the petty reactions, the selfish assumptions, the ungenerous decisions. They come from a deeper place that I can’t quite dig out.

Talking with a student and another staff person recently, we discussed how studying the Bible reveals what is really within us the same way that tragedy or opposition might. The student and the other staff person shared what had been uncovered about themselves and as I began to share, I was a little surprised to recall the main thing studying the Bible had brought out of me last year. Anger…. Continue reading “Surfacing”

Old Acquaintance

I’m that lady who alternately weeps and cracks jokes. It looks like insanity, but it is actually exactly how to stay sane.

Today I met a 70yr old version of myself.

Every week, some of our students and one of our staff go next door to an assisted living home to lead a Bible study. Every week, whoever goes comes back with full hearts and good stories. Those people are amazing. Sometimes only of a few of them show up, sometimes more than 5. Sometimes several people leave in the middle. It’s not just a place for old people, it’s for anyone who needs assistance in living, so there are people as young as 18 and one lady who is 97 and many of them are noticeably “different.”

Today the 97yr old woman came (I’ll call her Beth), as well as two other women (I will call them Cindy and Lily). Cindy left early because her bipolar disorder was making it hard for her to sit with a group of people. She apologized profusely, but exited quickly. Lily was the old version of me and she spent part of the time cracking jokes, noticing random things (“Look out that window! There’s a plane that just flew over the peak!”), and the other part of the time, she wept openly…. Continue reading “Old Acquaintance”

Holiday Equilibrium

The Christmas season is upon us. I think I’m finally beginning to reclaim some joy for this season.  It’s amazing what an idyllic childhood of Christmases will do to hinder and taint your attempts to enjoy the holiday as a single adult.

Christmases past are perfect in my memory and all of that had to do with my mom.She was way better than Santa Claus. Most of the year she was pretty stressed with work and taking care of three girls on her own, but at Christmas time she was the Happiest Little Elf version of herself. Her happiness would spill over to her three daughters in a way that caused us to fight less and love more. The weekend after Thanksgiving she would pull out the boxes and the whole house would be transformed. A stack of the best Christmas records would sit on the record player and when they  had played through we would just flip them all over and start again.

As the youngest in the house, I always got up first on Christmas morning. Sometime around age 7 or 8 I crept down the hall before daylight and there in the living room, in the magical glow of the Christmas tree lights, sat a shiny, red bicycle. I knew it was for me. After gaping at it for a few seconds, I slipped into my mom’s room to wake her up. Before I said anything, her sleepy voice came from under covers, “I missed The Face.” Of course she meant the face I made when I saw that glorious bike, so I replayed it for her…. Continue reading “Holiday Equilibrium”

Don’t Freak Out

Last Monday I taught the book of Philippians to the students in our School of Biblical Studies. I get nervous before teaching- not because I have stage fright and not because I’m afraid of what they will think of me. I get nervous because I really want to do a good job- I don’t want to waste people’s time, but I also want desperately to convey something of who God is when I teach.

I know, I know- this is really only something God can do. At the same time, I am responsible to invest time in studying the books I teach so that I do have a foundation. God can speak through any donkey, but I don’t actually want to be an ass.

Teaching Philippians was a really good time. A few hours before the teaching started I had this wave of gratitude for the fact that I get to do the thing I’ve dreamed of doing! It’s ridiculous, people. I have no degrees and very little experience. But I get to spend serious time in God’s word and then I get to lead this awesome group discussion. This is what teaching mostly is to me. I love asking the students, “What do you see?” because even after studying for weeks and weeks they still see things I have not seen. It’s an honor and a joy. We laughed and we cried. Together we had a clearer picture, a fresh reminder of who Jesus really is and who God is really calling us to be together….

Continue reading “Don’t Freak Out”

Love the One You’re With

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about singleness, relationships, and marriage. Is it just me?

About a year ago I was in a church service and we were singing this song I’d never heard when one line zapped me right in my… hmmm… gut? Heart? Brain? Whatever. It was this, “My heart will sing no other name, Jesus, Jesus.”
As I sang it, the desire rose up loudly within me that it be true. At the same moment, God spoke something very clearly into my head, “Peggy, I want you to stop having crushes.”

I used to think that having crushes was just a high school problem. After my husband left me several years ago I felt pretty sure that I was done with hope in the area of Romantic Relationships. But I guess I didn’t count on God working the kind of healing that he worked. I didn’t count on so little residual bitterness. That’s good, I know. Without the shield of bitterness, though, I started noticing … well.. men. And just like some silly high school girl, I started having crushes again… Continue reading “Love the One You’re With”

Failure Loses Its Sting

How was Paul the Apostle so confident? So active, so joyful, so sure of his position in God?
How am I so insecure? So easily discouraged, so doubtful of my position?

As I asked those questions, I heard in my head, “because you make it about you.” I make it about how I feel, what I think, what I’ve done, who I am.

When I woke up Friday morning I felt a kind of inner turmoil- like there was something rotten that needed attending. As I sat down to write in my journal I couldn’t really think of anything to say and I couldn’t figure out what my problem was. Because I’ve been slowly learning this lesson about the fact that my identity is not swayed by whatever my current emotion is, I just asked God in my head, “Is my heart in your hands, Lord?” and he simply responded, “It is.”

As I study Philippians, I’ve been kind of astounded by this statement, “If I am in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:22)

Paul knew that his work would accomplish something because he was doing God’s work, following God’s call, living in obedience. He was sure that God would make it fruitful.

He even says later in chapter 3 that he puts no confidence in himself and his abilities – it’s not about what he can or cannot do. He counted all of his former trophies as garbage so that he could cling to the sacrifice and perfection of Jesus. He strained toward identifying with Jesus in love and suffering – looking to position himself firmly in Christ… Continue reading “Failure Loses Its Sting”

Out of Hiding

About a year and a half ago God totally blew the lid off of my hopes and dreams for the future. At that point he told me I wasn’t dreaming big enough and when I examined what I’d been “dreaming” of, I realized this was absolutely true. Without thinking it through, I was just putting one foot in front of the other and looking for ways to come alongside others in their dreams.
Honestly, a bit of that is good because I really still have a heart to see other people walk in their calling and purpose, but what God was leading me to see was that He had something specifically for me that was way beyond what I’d ever considered.

As last year progressed three things appeared to be a part of that dream, 1. the whole world, 2. every area of discipleship and 3. teaching.

I can guess what you’re thinking, “Peggy, that’s too big. You gotta narrow it down a bit or you’ll do nothing.” Believe me, I said that to God. To be honest, I don’t know all of the specifics. I don’t know how the years ahead will look. What grows and grows and won’t stop is this deep hunger to teach people, show people, walk with people in such a way that they really know who God really is. There are many facets to that, but I am jealous for God’s reputation and His name not only because I love Him, but because I know that when people really know Him, they will be surprised, then saved and transformed. He is so good and so worthy… Continue reading “Out of Hiding”

If I Find My Way

Lately I’ve been finding (and needing) such deep encouragement from friends. A few days ago I posted about an email from one friend and last night I had a really life giving conversation with another friend who was willing to just dive right into my inner mess.

Sometimes I hesitate to post about messy stuff because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not doing well. One thing my good friend reminded me of on the phone last night was that I am usually more honest than is socially normal. So why would I avoid talking about feeling down?
Partly I’ve been avoiding it because I haven’t had time to understand it and find words that fit. It’s only those who especially love me who are able to sit through the words that don’t fit while I find the ones that do.

This morning I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller, The Wounded Spirit. He uses several verses from the book of Proverbs to talk about the many varied reasons why a person might feel crushed in spirit and what might be done about it.

Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” This well describes what has been going on recently, but there is also much more… Continue reading “If I Find My Way”