Heartbreak

Sometimes I get hit by a wave of grief so deep and profound that it takes my breath away. Literally. Like I can’t even breathe because if I do–if I take that next breath, the one that my body is in dire need of–I fear the pain and the heartache and the sadness will overtake me and I will drown in it. Mixed metaphors aside, I hurt.

My sweet grandma, the person to whom I owe my kindness, sewing skills, and my hoarding tendencies (my phone autocorrected that to “hosting” tendencies which, I suppose is also true), is gone. She has been gone now for seven months as of last week. And it still doesn’t feel real. I can’t count the number of times I’ve picked up the phone to call her or have taken a photo of something I’ve made so I can email it to her.

I am flying back to California in three days. It will be the first time I’ve been there, I’ve been home, since she’s been gone. I am terrified.

Glennon Doyle Melton, author of one of my all-time favorite books said in a video she recently posted,

most of the magic in my life has happened when my heart has been shattered

And I know that’s true, as hard as that is to swallow. Here’s to some magic when I’m there later this week…

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how else will you grow?

something i’ve been thinking a lot about lately is sadness.  i’ve just been super sad.

tonight at my small group, i was sharing about a situation that my sweet and wonderful friends that i hang with on tuesday nights for BSB (bible study and beveraging) have been praying for over the past year now.  i said something along the lines of, “i’m just so sad and i wish i wasn’t.”

one of the incredibly wise, older women–mary, sweet, sweet mary–cocked her head and looked me straight in the eye and said, “jess, you need to feel that sadness and live in it right now.  how else will you grow?”

how else will you grow?

and it hit me as i sat there on that couch, surrounded by women who have lived good and hard lives that they have grown from every hard step they took.

there are a lot of sad things that have been overwhelming to me.  just stuff that is so ugly and so hard and so very sad.  i haven’t known how to deal with it besides pushing it away and wishing i wasn’t sad.

when my sweet grandma passed away this summer, i did not process it–have not processed it.  how have i grown?  i haven’t.  really, i haven’t yet.  and as i think about moving forward, i know that i won’t, i can’t, until i’m ready to feel sad and live in it.  how else will i grow?

i think i live so deeply in fear of feeling sadness or feeling the feelings that i feel.  what precious truth from my wonderful mary; what a necessary reminder of my stunted growth if i’m not willing to feel.

the deep sadness and grief that i have been feeling for four different people and situations is pervasive and i hate that.  but if i don’t address it and live into it, how else will i grow?  how else will i bloom beyond it?

i’ve been thinking about blooming for the last few days.  i think about the flowers that my mother in law gave us for our thanksgiving dinner…when she first gifted them, they were, while lovely, all closed up.  as they’ve opened and i’ve been able to see the heart of them, more than just the outside, i’ve been amazed at their beauty and intricacy.

they are cut flowers and are on their way to an imminent death; i like to think about the plant my sweet secret sister gave me.  the gerber daisies on this plant are in process of opening, closing, blooming, wilting, dying, regrowing, opening, etc.  and they are connected to their roots, to their plant.  they have a source of growth deep within and it terrifies me to think how often i forget that i do as well.

how else will i grow when i’m closed up and not connected to my source?

i don’t know how to end this; i’m tired and sad and i feel like i just spit my heart and brain out at the keyboard.  but it feels like a first step toward truth and health.  and it feels good.

vulnerability

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Something that keeps coming up, time and time again, within my family and friend circles is vulnerability.  How we can be more honest, be more real with each other.  And I say it.  Man, do I shout that out.  Let’s be vulnerable!  Let’s be real!  Let’s be honest!  Let’s own up to our messiness!

But do I do it?  Rarely.

But how about that one time I posted an incredibly deep and heartfelt blog post about marriage ON THE WRONG BLOG? On the blog that goes to former students, friends, family, fellow book reviewers?

How’s that for forced vulnerability?

Thankfully, the post only emailed (as far as I know) to two people.  (Please don’t tell me if you got it and you’re not Krystal or Eunice.  I don’t want to know.  I’m still too embarrassed.)  It was terrifying to have my messiness out for all to see, even if it was only for a few minutes while I frantically deleted the post.

I texted my dear friend, Krystal to break the ice and let her know that I knew she’d gotten the post via email.  Her response: “even though it was accidentally shared, I am really glad it broke down that wall.  I want an honest, vulnerable friendship.  I’m proud that you wrote it…I’m happy that we’re real life, life-is-messy friends.”

And though I still cringe when I think about it, all twenty three hours later, I’m glad I messed up and posted it.  Because I needed the reminder to be real.  The reminder to admit to people that Eric named the delicious bread he made last weekend “A-Hole Bread” since that’s how I acted while he was making it.  The reminder that we are called, as the church, to be real and be messy and live honest lives.  How often do I pretend that I’ve got it all together and that I don’t need grace?  How often do others feel they can’t be real with me because I’m not real?  That sucks.  I don’t want to live that way.

The pictures I post on instagram are happy.  They’re life at its shiniest.  They include precious Mosey, beautiful mountains in the glorious PNW, delicious food we get to eat, and happy, smiling faces.

my fake life

They’re not real life.  They’re not tears after cranky fights when we both haven’t eaten.  They’re not me at my honest self.

And as I scroll through my feed, all happy and bright with the people I love posting pictures of their dishonest selves, I will try to remember that what we post is not us.  It’s not real, it’s not messy, it’s not truly who we are.

So am I willing to repost the blog?  Nope.  Not going to.  But I will commit to taking steps to be more authentically messy me on this blog.  Happy, tidy, little book reviews no more.  Super deep thoughts–honest, real, ugly ones–coming at you!

Engaging and REAL novel (Invisible – Ginny Yttrup)

When I first received Ginny Yttrup’s latest novel, Invisible in the mail for review, I admit that I judged it harshly (and not by its cover…I actually really liked its cover :)). It looked like the typical Christian fiction novel with no real substance. It looked like it was going to be the typical “find your identity in God and your life will be perfect and you’ll live happy forever.”

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Fast forward a month later to receiving a reminder email to post my review: I forced myself to sit down and start reading. The next thing I knew, I was late for a meeting but I was HOOKED on the story! Ellyn and Sabina, two of the main characters, intrigued me right from the beginning. But Twila, oh my, she got me. I don’t want to give anything away but Twila was the real deal. Yttrup portrays her struggles beautifully and those struggles are honest and real. This is one of the first Christian fiction novels I’ve seen do this and do it masterfully (Christa Allan has it down too. She’s awesome.).

The homesick for California part of me loved Yttrup’s descriptions of Mendocino and the northern coast. The follower of Jesus part of me loved the way God was not a crutch but was a foundation for health. The Celiac and chronic GI pain sufferer part of me loved the health food snippets. All of me would recommend Ginny Yttrup’s latest novel Invisible to a reader looking for some authenticity in their fiction.

Days later and I’m still coming back to the St. Augustine quote and its connection to my own life.  How often do I pass by myself or others without wondering?  Good stuff there, I tell ya.

Thank you, B&H and Handlebar, for the review copy of Invisible! My opinions are my own.

Sad but engaging novel (Moon over Edisto – Beth Webb Hart)

I have loved other books by Beth Webb Hart (Sunrise on the Battery and Love, Charleston) and during the months I read it, enjoyed her contributions to Southern Belle View.  She is a beautiful writer and her latest novel, Moon over Edisto, was no exception.

The Bennett family was torn apart and changed forever on Edisto Island.  Family broken, they all went their separate ways and stayed separate until a new tragedy strikes.

I hated starting this book.  I knew that it would bring up questions of forgiveness and friendship that would be challenging for me.  I read the first six chapters then had to put it down.  My ugly heart, struggling with forgiving a friend in real life, just couldn’t handle  what I knew would come in this book.  But today–weeks after first starting the novel and after momentous growth over the past week toward forgiveness–I was compelled to restart the novel.  I quickly connected to the characters and the heart of the story.

Hart is such a gifted writer.  Her subject matter was difficult but the beauty of her writing helped me to engage with the importance of forgiveness in a fresh way.  Would I have been able to forgive Marney and react the way Julia did?  Or would I have been Meg (Margaret, I mean) and lived in the pain and bitterness?  My heart wishes I would be Julia; I know I would probably be Meg.  I appreciate engaging with these challenges through fiction.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson, for the review copy of Moon over Edisto in exchange for my honest review.  I continue to enjoy Beth Webb Hart’s writing and appreciate you continuing to publish her work!

Light-hearted, funny, quick read (The Trouble with Cowboys – Denise Hunter)

Annie Wilkerson doesn’t trust many people, especially not anyone in a pair of cowboy boots with a propensity for leaving.  She learned from her mother that not many men would stay, but particularly not cowboys.  Dylan is a cowboy and although he makes her heart speed up, he’s out of the question.  But when Annie needs Dylan’s help with her new column for the magazine, she thinks they can at least get along until she figures it out on her own.  Too bad her heart is stronger than she can even imagine.

In Denise Hunter’s latest novel, The Trouble with Cowboys, she completes her Big Sky series (of which I enjoyed the first two novels).  While its character development better than some, I was disappointed with The Trouble with Cowboys for a few reasons.  It’s possible that I’m just frustrated with the genre and with the Christian publishing houses that only seem to publish cheesy and unrealistic fiction but I did think that Hunter’s plot progressed soooo very slowly.  I tried so many times to get into the story but found myself getting distracted easily and losing the story.  It wasn’t that Annie was boring; she certainly wasn’t.  Dylan was a great character and he was a better hero than most.  I just felt like the plot meandered along with frustrating interruptions.

 

I’ve really enjoyed previous novels by Hunter but this one just didn’t do it for me.  I’d give it three out of five stars.  Thank you though, Thomas Nelson, for a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Reminded

How often do I wallow in my own self-pity, losing focus of the incredible ways God has come through for me?  It feels like a daily routine.  Something we’ve been talking a lot about recently is our desire to stop the whining and start remembering.  I was reading the other day in 1 Samuel and came across the following:

“Be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”-1 Samuel 12:24

The last part of this verse seemed especially significant to me that day because of what precedes it in that chapter.  There is a list–a lengthy list–of things that God has done for his people.  Reminders of his acts of faithfulness that occurred even when they doubted and struggled.  Reminders of how he took care of them and did not ever leave them on their own.

And I was struck when I realized how often I lose sight of what God has done in my life, in my friends’ lives, in my family’s lives, in the world around me.  It’s like my selective memory turns itself on and next thing I know, I’m remembering only the hard times.  I forget about the beautiful ways God redeemed my life, my family, my marriage, my hopes and dreams.  He has taken care of me in the most incredible and personal ways.

 

Just last week, right before I was to start my new job (!), I had a freak out.  Total panic.  I didn’t have any professional work clothes.  I had a few outfits but the rest is still stored somewhere deep inside the trailer.  I was panicking.  “I don’t think I should have taken the job…we don’t have extra money for me to go buy new clothes…I don’t have a natural sense of style like Eric or my sister in law…I can’t match clothes to save my life.”  I had a terrible attitude and was really ugly to Eric.

TWO HOURS LATER.

Seriously, two hours later, God reminded me how he always goes before me and takes care of me, no matter how silly it seems.

Hey, Jess, I have some clothes for you in the car, if you want them. -sister in law with incredible style and class

That night, two overflowing bags of clothes later, I sat on the bed and was silent.  My ugly heart had been shown incredible beauty in the intimate and personal ways God took care of me.  He went before me and did great things for me.  More than anything though, he reminded me that I need to remind myself and ask him to remind me to remember his faithfulness.

 

So with that, I leave a quick list of some ways he’s been faithful to me:

–clothes–job–family–new client with a big smile–lead–working calendar–thank you notes and thank yous for doing them–Nick and Christina’s wedding–Amy–unexpected friends–Erin–good talks–mint tea–barfless day for the cats–podcasts–smiles from Becky–confidence–delicious dinner–resolution of conflict–health insurance–oranges–instant hot water–mom–sewing machine–messenger bags sold–mums–game night–good cookies–potato/sweet potato/apple mashed deliciousness–kind Fred Meyer checker–vision–physical therapy–warm clothes–brothers–roof–space heater–friendly faces–sour patch watermelon–dad–synced iPad to work calendar–affirmations–friends–milk duds–my sweet husband–supportive family–grandma–figuring out the cross stitch thing–peace about new job–learning new things–renewed excitement–pretzels on sale–good night’s rest last night–comfy bed–changing leaves–fog in the morning–clouds–learning my way around–long list of things I’m thankful for!

Not a great book but a good reminder of God’s faithfulness (My Life and Lesser Catastrophes – Christina Schofield)

It’s not often that I read a memoir but when I do, I usually enjoy them. I was surprised at how little I enjoyed Christina Schofield’s memoir, My Life and Lesser Catastrophes.

Although I felt like the majority of her story was whiny and dramatic, I could definitely see the ways God was and has been faithful to Christina, Allen, and Lily. They went through and will continue going through some very difficult times; I do not mean to diminish the struggles and pain in her life. The self-deprecating humor was extensive and the humor was maybe just not in line with my sense of it. I wanted to enjoy this memoir but I struggled to do so.

I am thankful for Schofield’s honesty and her ability to see God’s hand in their lives but I don’t think that their story translated too well to memoir the way it was formatted.

Thank you, Bethany House for the opportunity to read My Life and Lesser Catastrophes in the form of a review copy; these are my honest opinions.