Wednesday, December 7, 2011

looking outside.

Last night, Jordan and I got a little dressed up and went to a benefit dinner for a local women's shelter.

It's probably one of the best things we'll have done all holiday season long, simply because it caused us to step outside of ourselves. Plus I cried a little (which can, at times, be good for a stopped-up soul), and we bid on a silent auction item... and won!

All in all, it was a great evening.

Then, as the program came to a close, a dear friend of ours from church came up and asked if something was wrong -- I blame the leftover tears. It was a touching program! I cried! -- but right after he asked, I knew: Yes, something was wrong. And it has been wrong for weeks.

November was a hard month. Normally it is celebratory and joy-filled, but this time? It was stressful.

I try not to give away too many personal details on the blog out of respect for my husband and for our church and for our lives, but now that we're putting some things behind us, here's the deal: My husband had a minor health scare last month, and I think it's beginning to wear on me.

Twenty-five year old men don't typically have to do colonoscopies. This past month, Jordan endured two (sort of), which meant two rounds of fasting and prep in less than three weeks. Monday when we walked into the follow-up appointment, the doctor did a double-take. We thought it was because I was there -- nosey wife and all -- but turns out, he was just shocked to see somebody so young in his office. Awesome.

Thankfully, the tests didn't come up with anything too scary. Nothing a slight lifestyle change and more fruits and vegetables won't cure.

But spending the past month worrying and praying and crying? Oh, it has taken its toll.

On top of that, there have been church struggles.

If you regularly attend and -- this is key -- are involved and active in a local body of Christ, you know: It is hard work. And because Christ's body is made up imperfect, redeemed souls, words can get spoken and wounds can be opened, and the fall-out that ensues can be nothing short of painful.

We are enduring a painful time at our church.

I have experienced pain in Christ's body before, in particular, during a few hard months at my Christian college, when I published a "controversial" newspaper article that got me in a bit of hot water and resulted in a couple of tearful meetings in the university president's office. I'll never forget how hard those months were, how as a 21-year-old, I was trying to figure out that fine line between making a difference, taking a stand, and speaking the truth in love. It's a balance I still struggle to find, and as a believer surrounded by other believers I know: I am not alone.

As a college senior, I knew my university was experiencing what I termed "growing pains." My very small school was expanding, attracting new types of students from all walks of life, and it was struggling to know how to adjust.

I think our church is experiencing those same troubles, and that can take a toll on the members who -- for better or worse -- see all the wheels turning and the mechanisms spinning. 

So yes, November was hard, and December has started off in much the same way. 

It is advent, and I am trying so hard to wait, to be patient and quiet and prayerful while the wheels keep on turning. I am trying to think about practical solutions, to reduce the stress and anxiety that can invade our little home without our permission. 

The waiting and the quiet is one solution. I also, though, think there might be another. 

Because last night, as I turned my thoughts from outside myself to someone else, I began to feel better. 

The wounds weren't healed, but I was distracted. I wasn't thinking about me anymore. Instead, my attention turned to the women -- of all ages, races, and economic statuses -- who will be spending this Christmas in a women's refuge shelter. Women who were beautiful and smiling because they felt loved and appreciated. They had found a home, and they had found hope. 

For two hours last night, I didn't think so much about Jordan's health or about our struggles at church. I thought about how we could help this ministry in the coming days.  

And I know this "think outside yourself" idea isn't new. I'm sure you've heard it so many times from Oprah that you think it's not true.

But it is. It really is.

And I wonder if sometimes, the problems that we think are so big would become a lot smaller if we'd just start to think a little more about others and a little less about ourselves.

It doesn't mean the problems would be any less scary. Jordan's appointments still would have stressed me out, and the church emails and meetings still would have been painful. Guess what, though? Worrying over those problems didn't solve them or make them less scary, either. But taking that worry and that trouble and turning it into empowerment and generosity and blessing for someone else?

That filled me with a peace I haven't known in a long, long time.


Julie said...

This is a lovely post! I'm a new reader (coming by way of Pinterest from a cute outfit...). A lovely reminder to focus outward during this holiday season.

Julianne said...

So glad your outing filled you with peace, and praying it will last. Always praying for you and Jordan! We love you both!

Anonymous said...

I haven't been online lately, but I decided to sign in today and I'm certainly glad I did.

I'm happy to read this, Annie. Not happy that you are enduring this time, but happy that you are able to see beyond yourself. So many people don't.

This past year has been difficult for our family and I could echo so many of the feelings and emotions you shared. Medical issues with the girls and leaving our home church, family dysfunction and painful relationship changes have left me with a sour taste in my mouth, for 2012.

Especially after leaving our church, we were so hurt. I let the pain dig in deep and take root and it festered each and every day. I let in the darkness, the pain and the frustration of years of hurt. I felt so wounded and small. I felt forgotten and sad. Yes, darkness took root.

But, the best possible thing that could happen to us was being in the childrens wing of the hospital, with Frankie, in November. Yes. It was.

Seeing the wounded and diseased children and the pain, hurt and distress that their families must endure, put things in perspective. My child is healthy and fine now. we were in and out, but these children have a lifetime of pain and hospitals, waiting for them. My heart wept for them.

Suddenly, my pain dissolved by 95%. No longer did all of the "wrongs" matter to me.

Praise the Lord that He gives us moments where we are able to step outside our own issues and observe others. For almost always it is much worse.

That being said, I will be praying for your family and your heart. These seasons are hard and can last for awhile, but the Lord is there and He has a purpose.

My love, Annie.

Denise said...

i needed this post.
thank you for your authenticity. i too have been "stopped up" in my soul. i'm trying to praise, to fix my eyes on him instead of me, me, me.

Kristen said...

I too am experiencing troubles with my church. I cannot help but feel that these periods are meant to strengthen us, the body of Christ, to refocus our hearts on being authentic and real. It makes all of the "I'm fine" answers turn more into "well this is what's going on", because I think that's what a church is meant to be -- real problems from real people.

Kristin @ The Chronicles of Kristin said...

I love your blog. I don't comment here enough, but I so enjoy reading your insights and honest words. Thank you for sharing your heart! Loved this post. I know exactly what you mean. I participated in an adopt-a-family program this year to shop for a family who wouldn't have presents for Christmas... and it was such a blessing to *me* to get to go pick out things they needed and things that would be fun for them to have. :) May the peace of God guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus, my dear. <3

Kelly Sauer said...

You're speaking into something that occurred to me today while I was reading someone else - The only things that we will hold at the end of the mess of our lives are the things we have given for others. I live in an almost-constant state of stress, but the things I hear back about aren't the stressors - it is the way others have been encouraged by something I have said or done - that I didn't even mean to do, half the time!

It's not all making total sense yet, but this post is speaking into it. I'm going to be thinking on this some more...