My tears will water her garden

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“My therapist says if I keep this up I’m going to kill myself.”

When I dug through my stack of journals and opened that one up, I wasn’t expecting it. The confusion. The fear. And I sure wasn’t expecting to return there.

I was just hired as a staff member at a women’s rehabilitation center this week and thought it would be a good idea to look back on the darkest days of my life. It was a bad decision. As I skimmed the pages that walked a nineteen year old me from euphoric to confused to terrorized and harassed, I became irrevocably saddened.

How could I have allowed myself to be treated that way? He said what? He threw what? You’re kidding me.

On Valentine’s week this year as I was driving to church, I considered posting my blog post, “Relationships are hard, but not that hard,” on Facebook and writing about what relationships are—and are not. As I considered it and dismissed it, God asked me when I was going to use my testimony to help others. I had always said I would. But when?

When I got to church that night I sat by friends who were having a conversation about the women’s rehab they both work at. One looked at me and said, “Jamey would be perfect!” They both cooed over the idea of me working at the rehab and God asked me, “Now?”

So, yeah. Now. The crap I put myself through is going to finally be used as fertilizer on someone else’s garden so they can grow and heal. Those countless nights crying myself to sleep are going to water gardens that will soon thrive again with love and attention and truth.

Because the truth is this: You are worthy. You are beautiful. And you are loved.

An Unexpected Family

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This is a crazy story, and one I always enjoy telling.

In the spring of 2015, a friend of my father (we’ll call him Fred) needed help finding a new church family. As we don’t live in the same town, my dad employed a friend from an even farther away town to ask a coworker who lived in the same town as Fred where a good church was.

The coworker’s name was Chad and he said to go to his church, Dayspring.

So my family visited this church with Fred one Sunday. It wasn’t his cup of tea … but it was mine.

***

Now it’s getting close to two years since I’ve been attending—and I’m getting teared up … that was random, I’m sorry … Now it’s getting close to two years since I’ve been attending and I cannot properly express how overjoyed I am about it. I’m so thrilled, in fact,  that I am most likely going to become a formal member next month. Which is a big deal for me.

Although I had a church family growing up, when I moved away to finish my bachelor’s in 2010 that all changed. I didn’t attend a church my first year in college, and the members of the baptist church I attended during my senior year probably didn’t notice my absence when I moved back home. Even if they noticed that my spot in the middle right pew was empty, they didn’t know my name, let alone how to contact me.

When I came home I found that a rift in the church over doctrine caused the church to split, my friends had left, and I was left with people who had watched me grow up, but to whom I had no connection.

My first time visiting Dayspring was incredible. After floating around churches on a cynical cloud, I was met with enthusiasm, attention, and love. I felt adopted. I had found community in the most unlikely of places. Not in some big city or somewhere cooler that actually recycles, but here.

It’s what I’ve always wanted. And what I intend to keep for as long as God allows me.

Wrestling with God

24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket.
26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”
But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 “What is your name?” the man asked. He replied, “Jacob.”
28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”
29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.
“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.
30 Jacob named the place Peniel (which means “face of God”), for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.” 31 The sun was rising as Jacob left Peniel, and he was limping because of the injury to his hip.

Last year I instigated a fight with God. I wanted x, y, and z, and He wasn’t really having it. So He took me down because He knew I would do it with or without Him. But I’m a fighter. So God pointed something out to me—my hip needed fixed and I would have to stay.

I kept wrestling there for awhile, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that He has blessed me immensely. Even if I have a limp.

Grateful for my year from hell

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It was a bad year. A sucky year. A “What the heck happened?” year. A “Take one step forward, three steps back” year.

And I’m grateful.

I’m grateful God warned me at the beginning that it would be rough. Grateful I have such amazing parents, family, and friends. Grateful for how much more confident and mature I am from facing constant struggles.

This year I found out that I have dysplasia. And I watched as my health deteriorated. This year the running shoes I bought for all of the 5ks I had planned turned into “the shoes that don’t make my hip hurt.” This year I spent endless hours on the phone trying to buy health insurance that would cover my surgeon in St. Louis, or just trying to get an appointment to see him. This year I bought a car. And got laid off from work. Twice.

This year God told me He wouldn’t miraculously heal my hip, but that He would be there with me, and there is a reason He has let me be temporarily crippled. (Apparently I’m really hard to pin down.)

This year I started freelance copyediting. What was once a daydream and bucket list item, I can now see in my bank account. This year I visited Canada with two other incredible, thriving single ladies. This year I joined a choir. And my church praise band. And this year I began to consider my goals and aspirations and weigh them to measure their worth to me.

I’ve learned that my circumstances don’t have to dictate my attitude or actions. And you know what? Believe it or not, I am oh, so very happy.

So, as this year draws to a close and I want to shake my fist at 2016 as the ball drops, I am choosing to wave goodbye with poise and dignity. Because I’m grateful for all of the little things. And all of those little things add up.

Losing My Ambition

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When I was fifteen I decided I would be a fashion designer. I would do it my whole life and die a happy fashion designer.

When I was seventeen, I started college as an English Education major. I was going to teach high schoolers how to write and I would die a happy English teacher.

When I was nineteen, I graduated with my degree in philosophy, ready for law school. I was going to be a child’s advocate and would die happy serving them.

When I was twenty-one, I quit my well-paying career as a college advisor to travel the world and be a vagabond. It was then my ambition started to slip through my fingers…

And I began to take hold of my own life.

Through my many adventures which took me to Vegas, Iceland, and heavens-knows-where, I realized that being a “lifer” in one profession is not the end-all of life on earth. Although I admire those who have decades of experience in their field — they are brilliant — I do not associate with my society’s obsession of longevity in the workplace.

I understand, historically, that it was normal and expected to have one skill set in one trade and live in the same location for one’s whole life. But at what point did modern, Western society evolve from honoring those who devote their lives to their work to judgmentally demanding everyone choose what they want to do for the rest of their lives right out of high school and stick with it until retirement, lest ye be shunned and ostracized from genteel associations?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Why is that answer always doctor, lawyer, actress, plumber, and not kind, volunteer, a member of a family, dog-lover, a great cook, a good Christian, Muslim, Taoist, etc.? Why are we training our children to believe our identity hinges on how we make money rather than who we are as a person? 

When I let go of society’s demand of my ambition for a career, I realized how misdirected that ambition really was. There are many aspects of my life and how I earn money is only one. 

My newest, scariest adventure: Hip dysplasia

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August 2015: I’m one turn away from the finish line. My shorts are mostly dry at this point; the bike ride had aired them out pretty well. I’m out of breath so I’m walking. People run by me, but I don’t care. A lady runs up beside me.

“We’ve been passing each other for miles. Let’s do this. You’re not walking across the finish line.”

And thusly I run. When we get to the main drag, I tell her to kick it. She runs ahead so she can get her solo photos as she crosses the finish line and I keep running. My limp is pretty bad at this point, but I’m used to it…

I’ve been told since childhood that my joints are hyper mobile and my hips are misaligned. So the limp and the way my hips pop? That was just normal.

March 2015: By this point I had been training for my first triathlon for a couple of months. I had also started taking a self-defense class. While kneeing a pad one night, I felt a muscle on the right side of my pelvis pull.

June 20, 2016: The muscle in my lower back had never seemed to heal, even though I had let it rest through the winter. I finally decided to go to an Orthopaedic doctor in town, thinking I must have torn it.

The doctor came in and tossed my x-ray onto the exam table. He shook my hand and plopped down in the chair across from me. “Do your hips pop?” Thinking he was psychic, I responded, “Yes?”

“Reading your file, I was expecting this to be a case of [insert technical term meaning something wrong with the back muscle], but then I noticed your hip joint.”

Long story short: I have hip dysplasia. In vernacular, my right hip socket is too shallow, which is putting undue stress on the cartilage around my femoral joint, which is basically preventing dislocation at this point. The back pain was because it’s one of the muscles that keeps my hip together. If I don’t fix it, the cartilage will wear out and I’ll have arthritis and need a new hip by the time I’m 40.

Luckily for me, the best in the field of young adult preventative hip surgery is only a few hours away at Washington University in St. Louis. I’ll go there soon and get a second opinion and/or surgery. The procedure will include cutting out my hip socket and rotating it to cover my femoral joint like it is supposed to.

Short-term, this means no more running, breast stroke (which is what I compete with), rock climbing, or anything particularly taxing on my hips. Like triathlons. I started physical therapy immediately and will continue for eight weeks.

Long-term sees potential surgery and being out of the game for awhile for recovery. As I was supposed to get more experience in theatre to improve my chances of getting into grad school next fall, this may ruin everything. If I have surgery soon, I may be able to work in theatre after the holidays. We’ll just have to see.

As it is, I am so grateful and blessed to learn about it now while I’m living with family and near such an amazing orthopaedic clinic. If I had gotten into a summer stock gig, I may have not found out about my hip until it was too late to prevent a hip replacement.

So here’s to my newest and scariest adventure. The future isn’t looking very fun, but I will rise up and run again.

Have a Jesus Day? What?

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While getting off of the phone with a lady the other day, she responded to my farewell with, “Have a Jesus day!” The phrase startled me. Not only was it odd, but it was concerning. What were the implications of having a “Jesus day?”

It could be a great thing, having a Jesus day. I could feed thousands of people or heal the sick and hurting. I could have hundreds of followers and a really tight group of twelve friends.

I could also be ostracized in my own community, have one of my best friends turn me in to the police for a bribe, or be tortured for a crime I didn’t commit.

Do I really want to have a Jesus day?

Jesus had a very hard life. He was doomed to be born into a world that didn’t understand him. He was forced to reckon with sin — His very antithesis. Imagine always being around your antagonist. Draining, much?

Maybe I’m looking at this wrong. Perhaps the lady meant for me to have a “Jesus’ attitude day.” Jesus was never mean or spiteful. Jesus was never negative or rude. He exuded joy and love and confidence regardless of what was happening in the world around Him. His day-to-day life did not affect Him; He affected it.

This world is not our home. Jesus told us it would be against us. But when life gets us down, we can make a choice. We can either react and make carnal decisions or we can follow the example of Jesus.

So if that lady ever tells me to have a Jesus day again, I think I’ll tell her, “Thanks, I will.”