january

On the first, I felt paralyzed by fear. It’s the calm before the storm– that moment you know you’re going to be sad for quite some time but it hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s the moment right before irreparable damage is done. One breath in, one breath out. It’s not going to be that bad, right? It’s just a pinch, kind of like getting an immunization. One breath in, one breath out. The anticipation is the worst part. It’s not going to be that bad.

***

It hurts like hell.

That’s what it felt like on the second. I thought it might have been the bottle of champagne I quickly downed the moment he left, but after a few glasses of water and several cups of coffee I realized that the pain wasn’t sitting in my head or my stomach, but in the space right behind my heart.

I could not keep my shit together. I was trying to focus on work and coffee and new years and good things but tears kept blurring my vision and memories crowded my mind and I spent more than half of my morning doubled over in a chair, ugly crying, wishing I could take the last two months of feelings back.

That’s the thing, isn’t it? The terrible thing about break ups: I haven’t ever missed the person’s presence as much as I’ve resented the things they leave behind.

***

Day three: say your truths.

It snowed today, and the morning felt more full and less empty. Snow is magical like that: it brings a white blanket of newness and hope. New Years Day didn’t leave me feeling ready to start over, but I was ready now.

I drank a bunch of coffee and stared out the window and helped some customers and smiled a little. As I was heading home, a stranger energetically asked if I would take his photo in the middle of the street. As soon as he thanked me, another man handed me his phone asking if I would mind doing the same for him. This was my favorite part of the day, because there is something magical about the way that snow can make grown men so excited that they act like children.

but after all of that, and a good nap, the snow started melting and froze over– ice is less magical. I started to feel crummy again and I tried to reach out to friends. But the truth is that some things you just need to handle on your own. People want to sweep your sadness away when in reality the best thing to do is sit with it. I sat surrounded by yellow Starbursts on the floor. A friend texted “how are you?”

Sad.

“Say your truths.”

my worth isn’t defined by any one but Jesus- and I forgot the others we say when we believe a bunch of lies.

“they don’t feel true.”

*~*~*~*

the following weeks were a blur. School started and friends are heartbroken and there are more hours for me to work at my dreamjob for free. I begin a 5k program with my best friend and try not to drink too much and at the same time try to not sleep to little. I wish I had written more in January but life keeps moving even when you want it to go slow. Time can seem like such a tease.

*~*~*~*~*~*

This month started with sadness and ended with joy. I’m so thankful for friends who check in on you when you least expect it & most need it. Also for realizing that Bridget Jones is my spirit animal. (Where’s my Colin Firth/ Mr. Darcy?)

I have so many words for January: gratitude. anger. healing. coffee.
I’m glad it came and I’m glad it’s gone. It’s like when you’re almost-but-not-quite to the summit after a long, difficult hike. It’s gorgeous. Breathtaking. & you’re so proud of how far you’ve come– and so fucking tired. You think, “Its worth it to hike the next mile to the top, right?” RIGHT?! Isn’t this enough? Haven’t I healed enough? Forgiven enough? Made enough healthy decisions?

Yes. Enough. Always. But there’s also more, always.

My intention for February: don’t give up on your healing. Don’t stop doing the hard work of fighting your demons– those fears and insecurities and painful memories don’t deserve to stay. You are already whole, and you are also being made whole.

So take a few deep breaths, drink some water. Congratulate yourself. Take a moment to enjoy this present moment, wherever you are. And then keep going.

Grace and peace, friends.
The good news is that the Kingdom, the Kingdom of Love, has come and is coming still.

the snap of a finger

This year has looked a lot like fits and starts: ups and downs, bravery and courage followed by moments where I let fear win (and win pretty big). It’s looked like standing on a mountain top one moment and greiving in the valley the next. If you’ve been there, I know you know how exhausting it can feel. If you’ve been there, I know you know how shitty it feels to take three steps forward and five steps back.

But what else did I expect of change, really?
The other day, after the chaos of Christmas has calmed, I looked at my roommate and said, “I wish I could just snap my fingers and the apartment would be clean!”. I say stuff like this a lot. Because- finger snapping is pretty easy and everything else seems really hard. There’s no end to things I wish I could snap my fingers have have them be done like magic: my undergrad. emotional healing. grocery shopping. that awful five hour flight to Texas. coffee delivered to me in bed. conflict resolution in relationships. the ability to foster kiddos.

Change doesn’t really look like finger snapping, though. It doesn’t look like the clock hitting midnight. And unfortunately, it doesn’t even look like this:

Graph

I’m not sure about you but, for me, it looks a lot like this sometimes:

6170-illustration-of-an-up-and-down-graph-pv

In response to my finger-snap-clean-apartment comment, my roommate said something pretty great: “How about we tag team it? We’ll set a timer for 20 minutes and see how much we can get done!”

I didn’t know it at the time, but those things say so much about how it feels to end 2015 and go into 2016.

One. “Let’s tag team it”. I’m not alone, and neither are you. We’re put on this earth to do things together; to rejoice with and weep with and help each other out. And here’s the thing: you don’t always have to be the helper. One of the best things I’ve learned this year is to ask for help when I need it.  Also, hear me when I say this: saving the world isn’t on your shoulder either. When we find something that makes us come alive, often times we can look around and see that it’s making other people come alive as well. They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it certainly wasn’t built by one person. Take a deep breath. Let’s tag team it.

Two. “Let’s see how much we can get done!”. Starting is always the hardest part, in my opinion. To get off the couch, or open a Word document. To roll out the yoga mat. To free yourself from the warm embrace of the blankets on your bed. The fears of starting are overwhelming: whatever I start won’t end very well, or it will be exhausting and time consuming and a whole lot of work. And to be honest, it probably is! The other night the timer went off after cleaning for 20 minutes, and we just kept cleaning until it was all done.  Because the truth about starting is that, once you get going, you very rarely want to stop.

2015 feels like I earned an “I” for Incomplete in it. There were lots of starts and not a lot of nicely wrapped up loose ends. I still don’t have a degree in my hands, and it turns out that I still should probably be in counseling, and I still can’t do a handstand. But that’s not how years work, is it? They aren’t closed doors at midnight. The moment passes. You drink some champagne. We all wake up exactly as we did the day before, and get to pick up exactly where we left off.

When I first started to practice mediation, I was surprised to hear that there is grace for the wandering mind. “It’s only natural. Just remember your breath, and pick up where you left off.” If I’m honest, I’ve let my mind wander a lot lately and instead of wanting to pick up where I left off, I’m tempted to quit the whole damn session. But here I am, to remind myself and you it’s only natural. perfectly human. remember your breath. you’re alive. pick up where you left off. you aren’t too much. you aren’t fucked up. failure doesn’t mean going back to square one. 

My resolutions look a lot like finishing what I started: yoga. smoothies. water. reading. Jesus. community. foster care. crafting (lots of pillows). loving my family. loving my friends. loving myself. running. spanish. pizza and alcohol in moderation. write a little more, watch tv a little less. don’t quit school. don’t forget to breathe.

It would be nice to snap a finger and these things come to life, but Jesus doens’t work like that. For some reason, He’s a big fan of process. He takes us through the wilderness and listens to our complaining and even when we are at our most annoying and ungrateful, He promises to finish the work He started. In the meantime: you are enough. Even breathing in love is enough.

With love and hope, friends!
Charlotte

 

Advent Conspiracy & The Petition for Presence

Hey lovely friends!

I know everyone was really just waiting in anticipation for another emotional rant about vulnerability and how much I hate change, but you’re out of luck. ;) I DID want to let you guys know about some really exciting things that are going on though!

Tomorrow is December 1st. Advent has already started! [For those of you who don’t know, Advent is the historical Christian season leading up to Christmas- the birth of Christ.] For those of you who know me, I LOVE the month of December. Like, really really really love it. It’s just one big party from Thanksgiving all the way until New Years that traditionally- for me- involves family, friends, tasty food and beverages, a ton of coffee, reading, and snuggling. Litterally all of my favorite things. Plus I get to watch Elf and Love Actually a million times without anyone judging me!

This year I’ve decided to do this season a little bit differently, & will be participating in Advent Conspiracy and the #justbeherewithme project.

Advent Conspiracy is a movement that believes that Christmas can still change the world. It’s a call for individuals and communities to say that this season is about Worshiping Fully, Spending Less, Giving More, & Loving All. I hope you all read about it and participate with me!

For me it also means that the answer to “What do you want for Christmas and/or your birthday this year?” looks like this:

  • Donate to Catholic Charities, or to another organization helping resettle Syrian refugees in your own community. My church community is also partnering with Luteran Family Services and Medical Teams International and donating welcome kits— I’d love to work on making some of these together with with anyone who wants to help if you’d rather give a physical donation instead of money.
  • Board games or puzzles! I recently had the opportunity to clean up some visitation rooms at DHS and had to throw away most of the board games and puzzles due to missing pieces. Why is it important? These rooms are the places where so much healing happens for broken families. These kids only get a few hours with their parents every week, and it’s important that these spaces are as comfortable and fun as possible.

I’ll also be unplugging from social media for the month of December to participate in the #justbeherewithme project. Again, I KNOW everyone loves watching me post pictures of coffee cups and my super exciting life, but you’ll be okay! The Petition for Presence is a reminder that the best thing you can do for yourself and for the people around you is to just BE.

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I’m going into this season with so much anticipation and thankfulness,  most of all for the advent of Jesus. My faith has taught me so much about what it looks like to love and be in community and I’m so thankful for the ability to experience that on another level this season. I hope that some of you join me. Interwebs, I’ll see you in the new year!

So much love, so much hope,
Charlotte

 

 

to sit in darkness

panic. irrational panic. nothing is okay. i am not okay. i do not want to be here. i do not want to do this anymore.

i can’t cry in public. i cannot lose my shit in public, around all of these people, around these strangers. I just want to get home. And cry. and sleep. I could sleep forever and it would be okay.

I hop on the next bus home with blurried eyes and an equally blurried mind. I wonder what people think. I wonder if anyone can tell I’m not okay, that I might not ever be okay. I wonder how many people hop on busses and think this same thing, i wonder how many people wonder if they’re seen.

i type some letters on the screen and then erase them. several times.
i can’t do
i’m really h
i need hel
I’m really struggling right now. Please pray for me.

I send it to a friend and regret it instantly. I get a text back, but I don’t want to answer any questions because I know I can’t rationalize the way I feel, the way I don’t want to do anything anymore. I make a list in my head of everything that I would say to a friend if the roles were reversed:
It’s okay. You’re okay. You are going to be okay.
Your worth isn’t defined by anything or anyone except Jesus.
Your friends and family love you. You have a lot of people on your side.
You are here for a purpose.

In the moment all of these things sound like bullshit. In my mind I know that these words are true– they are words that I live and breathe by, the words I write in blog posts, the words whispered to my friends and family on their darkest nights. But in my heart they feel fractured, somehow unfitting.

I’m sobbing in my bed when the phone rings. I think to not answer, but I know she will just call again. I  think to pretend I just fell asleep, but I know she knows better. I do not doubt her ability to have someone at my door, herself or another friend or 911, within minutes of not answering. So I pick up the phone.

“What’s going on?”
“I don’t really want to talk about it.”
“Well, you have to talk about it.”

So I talk about it. I talk very shallowly about an email, and how I don’t feel good enough. She’s very patient and practical and all of her advice seems like the same bullshit that the rational me would have told myself.

I get the words out. “I don’t want to do this anymore, any of it. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be anywhere.”

She tells me it’s going to be okay. She asks me what I’m doing the rest of the day.
I tell her that I’m not really doing anything, that I’m supposed to hang out with a friend but I want to cancel.

“Don’t cancel.
Expect to see me tonight.”

The phone rings, it’s my sister. I’ve stopped crying but I’m watching Parks & Rec and I decline the call. The phone rings again– maybe it’s an emergency? Maybe something happened?

I answer. I can tell right away that Jesse called her. It’s the caution in her voice, the “how are you doing?”

“I’m fine. Just a rough day.” We talk for a bit and I laugh a little. I have to go, because the friend I didn’t cancel on is calling.

She knows something’s wrong too. I know this because there’s a way that people talk to you when you’re vulnerable. It’s not bad, just different and noticable. I do it too– slow, calm, cautious words all focused on the other person. I feel embarrassed, because I don’t like feeling weak and I don’t like people to know I’m feeling weak. I feel better and worse at the same time. I regret sending that text but I’m thankful I don’t have to pretend.

*~*~*~*~

That night we went to one of my favorite places for dinner (R.I.P., Savoy). Friends gathered in my living room and laughed and talked and stayed longer than felt comfortable. I ached to be alone in my pain, but these people have worked their way into my life and sit with me in the darkness and promise that dawn will come.

It’s been about a month since this happened. And this story isn’t about a single event that happened, but rather a season that looks like many other seasons in my life, and maybe many seasons in your life, or in the lives of people you know and care about. This story is about the slow spiral. The isolation. The irrational hopelessness.

There were weeks leading up to it that felt dark, that felt heavy. And I didn’t wake up the next day feeling all better, or healed, or excited about life. But dawn keeps coming, as promised.

And God must be a pretty big fan of today, because you keep waking up to it. You have made known your request for a hundred different yesterdays, but the sun keeps rising on this thing that has never been known. Yesterday is dead and over. Wrapped in grace. Those days are grace. You are still alive, and today is the most interesting day. Today is the best place to live.

– Jamie Tworkowski, If You Feel Too Much

I’m saying all of this because I know I’m not alone in these things. I know that my story is not unique. I’m saying all of this because I want you to know that it’s okay to not be okay. I’m saying all of this because I hope you have people, or are that person for someone else. People need other people, not because we know how to fix the brokenness of our friends or even know the right things to say. But to sit in the awkward, uncomfortable, darkness with someone is worth something.

Stick your nose in some flowers today. Breathe deeply. Send a brave text. Eat as much icecream as you want. Whatever you do, please know that you are not alone  & that today is the most interesting day.

So much love, so much hope for you friends.
xoxo

 

 

 

on striving, resting, & identity

This last month has been a whirlwind of chaos and emotions for me and a lot of other people I know. It’s been a season of transition, with the remodel at work, moving out of my old place, balancing midterms, applying for a Social Work program, yada yada. I’m not really good at transition seasons. When it comes down to it, I become all of the versions of myself that I really hate. I get weird, and selfish, and anxious, and forget how to love myself and other people well.

I want to be this put together person, you know?  Every day, Jesus says “I’m strong when you’re weak” and I ignore it. I go out into the world and try to prove myself again and again- to prove that I’m worthy, that I’m a good friend, a good student, that I’m datable, that I’m a good shift supervisor, and that I would make a good social worker.

Some days I’m okay at it, too, probably more so than I would allow myself to believe. But then there are those days where I really mess up. Not just a little bit, but a lot. Some days I make awful, unhealthy decisions that not only affect me, but the people around me. It’s the stuff I don’t post to social media, or write about in my blog to make everyone like me. & in these moments, shame creeps in and my insecurities find a platform to stand on and testify to my unworthiness.

The last year or so has been an awful uphill battle in a fight for my identity. Well honestly, I think from the minute we’re born there’s a darkness out there that wants us to believe lies about who we are and whose we are. Specifically in the last year or so, though, I’ve felt Jesus’ ever-present call to be His– to be and belong in the Kingdom. To rest. To celebrate. To end the glorification of busy. To stop striving. To stop worrying. To simply dance in the light of thankfulness and grace and creation and new mercies every morning.

I’ve been reminded even more of these things lately. Maybe it has something to do with reading Donald Miller’s new book, Scary Close (which has had me in tears- the good kind- since I picked it up) or  listening to Sleeping at Last’s song “You are Enough” (which admittedly also had me in tears). Today my manager and I were both working in the back room and she looked at me and said “Will you write ‘I am imperfect, & I am enough’ on my hand for me?” I laughed out loud because I felt like she was in my head all of the sudden. Long story short, in the end we had a good talk about identity, vulnerability, & how our imperfections don’t affect our intrinsic worth.

Jesus just won’t let it go, this whole thing about my identity being found in Him. So here I am, tired of fighting, exhausted by shame. Here I am, finally ready to stop idolizing all the things I think give me worth. I know I’m not alone in this- and I just want you to hear me: YOU are enough. All stop striving, all start resting.

Happy Wednesday, friends! XOXO

The Space Between the Head and the Heart

10941216_10155121799400128_413676155965516715_nI used to be afraid of admitting my deepest fears, anxieties, and insecurities; but now I want to shout them from the rooftops.

Maybe not rooftops. And probably not shouting. Probably just in living rooms in normal tone of voice.

For one thing, being honest allows you to know that you aren’t alone. For a really long time it was difficult for me to admit that I struggled with what modern Christianity looks like. I felt isolated & was swallowed by shame and self-hatred for not being a perfect evangelical small group leader. Or, even worse, that I didn’t think that I wanted to grow up to be a Conservative!

But when I started admitting these things out loud, I quickly found that there were other people who felt and believed similarly to me. In fact, I learned that some Christians are actually Liberals! And Feminists! Community grew out of that honesty, and still grows as I continue to be honest about what it looks like to follow Jesus. It seems silly that shame kept me away from community for so long.

And then there’s knowing something, and at the same time not knowing it. I always talk about how ones worth isn’t in what they do, or how you should feel completely comfortable in your own skin, or how darkness and depression won’t win in the end. I say these things, and I read them, and I write the words over and over. I know them, but do I actually know them? Because the reality is that sometimes I struggle with my worth, with accepting unconditional love, with loving my body, and fighting darkness. My head knows all of these things, but my heart hasn’t really caught on yet.

A few nights ago I was feeling exceptionally insecure. As I voiced how I was feeling to a few close friends and explained the gap between what my mind knows and my heart feels, I found another powerful reason to keep being honest. In a moment where my heart didn’t want to feel the things I know in my head to be true, my friends reaffirmed these truths. In so many gracious words, I was given permission to love myself– even if I did just emotioally eat all of the icecream.

I know that for a lot of people self-acceptance is hard. This year has been a year of constantly having to remind myself of my worth and extend to myself the same grace that Jesus extends to me. I’m not so good at it yet, but the space between my head and my heart shrinks a little bit each day. Sometimes I have days where that space seems like a chasm that will never close, but on those days I thank God for the people He has placed around me to speak into the darkness and bridge the gap.

I hope that we all learn to be honest, & to say what we’re feeling even if we think our feelings are dumb. I hope you know that you are well loved, that your life means something, that your body is beautiful, that your voice is heard, and that light and love always win.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Here’s to entering into a new season with both confidence and honesty, to loving people more fully, to going outside of my comfort zone, & to my heart one day knowing the fullness of Christ.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

With love and hope,
Charlotte

an invitation to practice thankfulness together

ThanksgivingI want to be honest: there is no shortage of home-sickness today, and the practice of thankfulness has not been as easy for me lately.

But giving thanks is indeed a practice. I view Thanksgiving Day- an American made holiday- as a day to practice thankfulness together. So let us say aloud the many things we give thanks for, and encourage one another to live a life marked by this thankfulness. And if we get to eat delicious food and have a mimosa (or two) in the process, so be it.

I’m thankful for my family- – my mom and dad’s continuous love and support, and answers to all of my questions about insurance– that my dad is coming for Christmas!– Holly’s encouragement as I bounce ideas off of her — Caleb’s listening ear when I’m sobbing or ranting about God-knows-what– and Preston’s joy and compassion in every situation — for my grandparents, for their health & always liking my posts on Facebook when nobody else does. I’m thankful that my five-year plan, operation “convince everyone to move to the Pacific Northwest” is panning out quite nicely.

I’m thankful for friends– for everyone who lets me cry in front of them on an almost daily basis– for roommates who cook me delicious food– well, for pretty much anyone who cooks me delicious food. I’m thankful for nights drinking red wine and watching 30Rock — for trips to the farmers market in the pouring rain– for living room dancing– for long talks on couches about issues of social justice and problems and joys that come with adulting. I’m thankful for friends far away — for long distance phone calls and skype dates — for the way that our friendships haven’t changed even when everything else has. I’m thankful for people who stick around even when it isn’t easy & who work through conflict even when it’s scary. Thank you guys for bringing so much joy and laughter and learning into my life.

I’m thankful for my job. For a supportive boss & kick-ass co-workers who put up with me when I’m both under-caffienated and over-caffienated. I’m thankful for the opportunity for education — for the opportunity to work with foster kiddos and support their families — for doors that open and for strength to kick down doors when necessary. (Love Does, anyone?)

I’m thankful that even though my entire family is sitting around a table 2,000 miles away, that a bunch of other people I’m thankful for will soon be crowded in my living room. I’m thankful for shelter, for food, & for candles that smell like pumpkin-pie.

I’m thankful for learning to view life as a process rather than demanding perfection and I’m even more thankful for the people who rejoice with me when I rejoice and weep with me when I weep.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20