My September Liturgy

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Since 2014, every September feels almost liturgical to me. Some of this is simply from my mind remembering and reflecting—I am an expert at reflecting—and part of this is from memories that pop up on my Facebook news feed. Trying to explain why I mentally go through this ritual might seem dark or strange to some because I am remembering the night I confronted my (now ex) husband, but for me it is a remembrance of who I was, how I’ve grown, and where I am today—that night, although emotionally catastrophic, was a catalyst for positive change. I don’t simply remember September 19th, I remember the time leading up to that date and the time after it; I remember the year of the confrontation (2013), as well as the previous and following years.

An example that came up recently was a family visit to Butterfly Wonderland on September 15, 2013—just four days before that *poop*-storm rocked my world. It’s ironic that we were among the butterflies because the butterfly is a symbol I had deeply connected to, so much so that I had gotten one tattooed on my lower back just three months prior (see cover photo).  Seeing that Facebook memory of the visit to Butterfly Wonderland reminds me of who I was at that point in time: living with mostly-suppressed emotional turmoil, unwittingly choosing to believe lies, enabling, and battling severe anxiety (which was mild PTSD). I also didn’t know how to bring my heart and my brokenness to God…but I was about to learn.

butterfly wonderland 9.15.13

In my September liturgy, I notice Bible verses and quotes I posted prior to that night in 2013, and I see those in the context of who I was. Then I think back to her, the me I was right before that time and say, “Girl, all that theology is about to get real. What’s left is what you really believe (because everything else is just what you say you believe).”

I look back to the days, weeks, and months after, and I see pictures of myself—no one knew, except my pastor, that I was barely keeping it together; I was like a volcano about to erupt from the pressure of holding so much inside. Everything felt dark, sad, and too heavy to bear. I didn’t know how I would survive and just wanted God to take my life…but then I thought of my daughter—she needed me.

God was faithful and helped me through that time, slowly and gently. I was happily busy in Young Life as a leader; my fellow leaders were like my family, and I needed all of the support I could get. By the time September 2014 rolled around, God had provided good for me. (In fact, I had a happy distraction every year from 2014-2017 on September 19th, and I didn’t work a normal day—or at all on that day—until 2018.) Young Life had a leader retreat around this time. I sobbed while journaling, processing my life up until that point. It was also in a forest, and I love forests. Not long after that, my daughter and I went to Louisiana for my dad and stepmom’s wedding on September 20th, with a light and lively rehearsal on September 19th, complete with a Nerf War set to James Bond music after we practiced the ceremony; I also gained four more step-siblings, which added to my joy (The bags in the picture contain our surprise Nerf guns and ammo, a gift from the soon-to-be bride and groom).

In September 2015, I attended two weddings. The first wedding was for a former student set in another forest. It was beautiful and early. The second wedding, on the 19th, was for a former Young Life student.  This became a group road trip to Southern California, and we stayed in a nice hotel—the wedding was right on the beach!

Each September has been an upward spiral of increasing emotional and spiritual health. God has scaffolded His intense closeness with me: when I was at my lowest, I most vividly sensed His presence and frequently saw His messages of encouragement to me. As I got healthier, there were fewer events, trips, and obvious little notes from God. I went through counseling during this time (fall 2014 through late winter 2016), and a few months after I finished counseling, I enrolled in Sustainable Faith’s School of Spiritual Direction.

On September 19, 2016 I technically worked, but I went on a field trip with my freshmen students to a university in the forest. It was like a little trip for me, and the forest always relaxes me. Then, a few days after that, I attended my first Sustainable Faith year-one module; it was the first time I shared my story in person with strangers. I felt terrified, loved, and heard.

In September 2017, I felt a bit more on edge. My dad had successful heart surgery, but I was nervous for him nonetheless. I took off on the 19th to be with him and my stepmom; I was grateful to be able to spend that time with them, even if it was in a hospital. Shortly after that, I had my first, year-two module for Sustainable Faith. Compared to who I was the year before, I felt significantly more at peace inside. I was blessed to have a cohort of friends with whom I had bonded and grown in Christ.

Today is September 19, 2018. I was reflecting on finishing this post today, and the reminder of this day’s personal significance felt so much more intense that I even accidentally wrote “2013” when I wrote the date on my board before school this morning; one of my students pointed it out in second hour. For some reason, this year has been more emotional as I have reflected on my annual September journey. Perhaps I’ve been more emotional this year because I have fruitlessly gotten my hopes up a few times in the last few years; I am still waiting on God to fulfill His promise to me that He made some time in September 2013, after that fateful night. I thought His promise was going to be fulfilled in specific ways over the years, and I have been wrong each time. In spite of that heartache, I am in the best place I have ever been. I am thankful for how God has continued to heal and grow me from September to September, and I can truly echo the hymn, “It is well with my soul” as I conclude this September liturgy.

September

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I’m Buying A House

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Right now I’m in the process of buying a home. It’s not the first time I’ve bought a home, but it’s the first time I’ve done this as a single woman, which has been exciting and unnerving. It makes me feel very adult in the I’m-18-and-I’m-freaking-out-because-this-high-school-gig-is-up kind of way. I didn’t freak out when I was eighteen, but as a high school teacher I’ve seen some high school kids who start to grasp the whole becoming an adult reality prior to graduation. The exciting aspect of buying this home is to be expected; it’s like a physical manifestation of my new phase in life.  I finally get to live in my own space: get a dog, paint, design my back yard, have a little garden, plant rose bushes, redo cabinets, etc. Most importantly, I want my daughter to feel a sense of permanence, instead of upheaval; her life has been chaotic enough in the last couple of years, and my heart breaks for her.

But the unnerving part of home buying has really revealed my deep insecurities. I desire certainty to an unnatural degree. Yes, I’m newly divorced, my former marriage was emotionally traumatizing, and I’ve moved six times in the last seven years (even when I was married). For those familiar with MBTI, I’m an extroverted feeler (No, that doesn’t make me an extrovert). I can read other people’s emotions (often without even realizing it), and I sometimes feel like a mind reader—but I’m not. Despite that, or because of that, I’m incredibly good at detaching from my own emotions; I can describe my personal experiences like a third person narrator without trying. It takes a lot of effort to connect with how I truly feel because I’ve had a lifetime of not allowing myself to go there. I usually don’t know my own feelings until I feel them in my body or talk them out with a friend, and right now my shoulders are stiff like steel. I’ve had daily headaches for over a week, but thankfully today has just been tension, rather than pain. My anxiety has also been my ever-present shadow. Thankfully, I haven’t had any anxiety attacks recently, but my anxiety has another physical side, dizziness. My counselor and naturopath have separately observed that I exhibit symptoms of mild PTSD, which is connected to this dizziness.

In all of this home buying, I desperately want to do the right thing. I want to provide the best environment for my daughter, and I want to make wise financial decisions.  I’ve prayed a lot before and during this process, I’ve had other people pray too, and I’ve seen some answers to prayer. I know that I’m doing the right thing, but as in every experience in my life, I’m scared. What do I do when I’m scared? I pray a lot, although never enough. I read my Bible, but not because I have to—I want to. One fear I have gotten over is the fear that God is ready to hit me or punish me if I screw up. I grasp His love so much more than I used to; I know He’s not ready to punish me because I’m His. He just wants me to know Him and to let Him know me. Talking with Him and remembering His character and promises calms me down. I still have a long way to go though.

~Christine