Nothing Really Has Changed At All

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I’m not a winter person. And not being a winter person, I don’t go out when it’s cold and experience the day. But now that the warmer weather has come and we were in Vermont for the first of it, I found that I had missed being outdoors tremendously. And so with that being said, I chose the first day it stopped raining in awhile, to venture out.

There is a mountain in back our hotel that is quite monstrous. It is a skier’s mountain but people hike it in the summer. They have accommodated hikers by making switchbacks — those criss-cross patterns that make it easier to scale upwards. Almost 20 years ago, in the late 90s, my husband, our 3 daughters, and I hiked this mountain attempting to make our way to the summit. We were “hikers” then, having the equipment (backpack, water, flashlights, trail mix, etc. etc.). I was also 40 lbs lighter. This hike, so many years ago, resulted in our ending up depleted of all water and food, and exhausted — a couple of miles away from our hotel. This was nothing new. Almost every hike Tom and I ventured on usually ended oddly; this time, all 5 of us were depleted — laying out by some gated-community’s pond, scrounging for bits of peanuts found at the bottom of one of our backpacks.

But this time, I looked up at the switchbacks lazily meandering through the greenery and the wild flowers, and thought “why not?” And so I did. Or attempted to. It looked so easy when I was on the porch of the hotel looking out. I started off by walking up the steps, which in the winter would take you to the base of the ski lift, and wished I had a Fitbit on; I would love to know just how many calories I was burning since my heart rate had picked up quite substantially.  From this place I chose a path – they were well-marked and the green one looked right for me — and so I started the climb. What I had forgotten when looking out from the porch of the hotel, was that switchbacks, while appearing meandering and mild, were not so. All the while you are climbing, climbing, climbing.

My throat quickly became dry, my lungs started to burn, and what was that pain in my hip? That was new. I stopped often to take a drink, take in the view (which spanned over the valley), listen to the birds, and take in the smell of the sweet air.  I forgot how rejuvenating this was. I could “feel” the gentle tug of the earth wanting to pull me backwards if I didn’t continue pushing forward. It was a little unsettling because I really do have enough trouble with my balance on a good day, never mind adding in this level of gravity. I looked down at the walkways around the hotel and they were a bit far away — but I knew I could go a little further. There was no danger of getting lost at this height with everything still in sight. A few more switchbacks and I was ready to call it a day. I felt the satisfaction of having done something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I looked up at the rest of the mountain and remembered our almost 20-years-ago selves climbing up even further. I remembered the sweat, the steep incline. I looked down from my position on the dirt path, having just crossed thru a stand of trees and over a small stream.  My satisfaction took a turn; I was only 1/4 the way up. I hadn’t even made it off the base of the mountain. Not even scratched the surface.

But … I was happy with that, I had decided. I’m still in awe at the way the switchbacks look so calm and gentle from the porch of the hotel. I’m amused at how hard my heart was beating and how ragged my breath was at the small beginning of the climb. And so, almost 20 years separates me from where I once was, and who I once was, and where I am today. It would be a nice, tidy end to this story if I summed it up by saying “oh yes while my body can’t do the climb any longer, my wiser, stronger emotional self meets challenges everyday with strength blah blah blah.”. But this is just not true. What is true is that I’m still learning everyday how to meet the challenge of the day. I am still learning everyday how to adjust my sails to meet the winds. I am still learning everyday to embrace my limitations and to live within them. And I am still discovering who I am (since I don’t seem to like the same things I liked when I was in my 50s). So … I suppose all I can say after all is said and done is … nothing really has changed at all.

A Quest for Self-Truth

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About September, 2003 the pastor of my church, Pastor Peter Scazzaro, wrote a wonderfully powerful book entitled “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality”. Opening up those pages began a journey for me that I had no idea I would go on. Many times, over the years, I closed the book, putting it away for long periods of time, and then finding it and picking it up again. As a church, and in our women’s small group, we would read and learn and explore the paths together. But, I was blind. I couldn’t see and I couldn’t learn. I was in a darkness that was clouded over by anger over my life’s choices.  Eventually, this book would become my second bible, leading me to a path of self-truth.

In January, 2015, the last bits I was trying to hold together unraveled and was, unexpectedly, amazingly, put back together again, seemingly over-night … well, actually it took three days. Every so often, at different places in my life, I had the realization of there being a distinct difference between how it is when the world breaks me, and how it is when God breaks me; There is a universe of difference between the two. I know that when the world breaks me, the pieces are scattered, do not easily fit back together. Scars are formed. Some hurts do not heal. But when God allows me to be broken, under His watch, and by His hand, He knits me back together beautifully and wonderfully — all hurts are healed. He is the Potter and I am the clay.

I was given the gift of being broken by God, this past January, that allowed my husband and I to start over again from square one — a rare thing, I think. To actually begin again from a new place emotionally. To wash away pain, hurt, and anger of the past 39 years and 11 months, from the year we met to the present, of our own brokenness, together (“Broken Together” by Casting Crowns — a beautiful song!). It was three days of struggling for the purpose of clearing emotional space and verbally cleaning out; done in brokenness … so that, very unexpectedly, yet so much of the way God is: a fresh new married life came into creation for us.  I can honestly say we never were the way we are today. There really is something to the promises of God spoken of in Isaiah 61.

Sometimes I go back to “if only” — if only we had begun this way 39 years and 11 months ago…. If only. But its not about that — its about now and what we do with it. I have learned that I am responsible for what I do and decisions I make. I am responsible for bringing my sin before God and confessing it. And to receive the gift of the Lord that I am forgiven. I am not responsible for the decisions of others, nor their responses and reactions to me (as the saying goes: “what you think about me is none of my business”), nor am I responsible to their journey for their own self-truth.

Realizing this has been so up-lifting, freeing. I can breathe. And I do — I take deep, cleansing breaths and appreciate every day what God has done for me and my husband. He brought us through a wilderness journey that was just short of 40 years and gave us new life.

I am amazed, and grateful to God, for the husband I married — his stability, how he wakes up everyday happy and joyful! I am thankful that he was able, and willing, to go through the wilderness journey with me and come out on the other side, together.

And in my gratitude, I place one golden brick down at my feet at a time, step upon it and ask the questions: is this my truth? Is this who I am? Is this who I want to be? I look around for a good long while, and enjoy the view from this new vantage point. I have found that living in my authenticity, my own self-truth, has brought me peace, love, and joy … and is priceless to me.

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This is about my Lord and Savior and what He has done for me — and what He does for one, we can take comfort in knowing He will do for another. It is He who has restored, renewed me. and so as a testimony to Him — these are my stories…..