Dare to seize the. . .disaster?

This is the thing: all those motivational quotes? Over Pinterest and Facebook and what have you? They like to pretend that life has no consequences, and that there will be no waking up tomorrow morning to deal with the aftermath.

Be Fearless! they say. Well, you know what? Most people aren’t afraid for no good reason. Most people are afraid because of the consequences. Most people are afraid because doing stupid things results in messed up situations.

Live With No Regrets! Do What You Really Want!! Yes, honey, I would love to do what I really want. That requires hiring a full-time gardener and cook/housecleaner. Until you can tell me how that’s feasible, I still really can’t do what I want. Do people really not understand that? Things come with a price. Who says you can really pay them? We’re finite beings.

We’re afraid of touching hot stoves, because, guess what? It HURTS to touch hot stoves!! DUH!!! And then they say, Do things that will hurt you! You Coward!

I think the reason why it makes me so very frustrated is because I want those pithy little sayings to be true. I want to be all, “I got this crap!” But, um, yeah. . .NO. I do not have this crap. And I’m not enough of a mental patient (yet) to pretend I do.

I think I’m a pretty seize-the-day kinda person. I do things that I’ve always wanted to do, even without making a bucket list and posting it on Facebook. I’ve tackled some scary things. . .learning to swim. Singing, even in front of other people. The stuff of phobias.

Do I have dreams?

Sure.

I’m going to marry a celloist, and drive around the nation with our 5 kids and a pop-up camper. I’m going to be a modern day gypsy, and we’re going to sell homemade ice cream on the side of the road. That’s just in the summers. In the winter, we’re going to third-world countries, where we’ll love people and work with them, and be part of the rising of of countries instead of their crumbling decline.

In case you did not notice, the first important part of this plan is “Marry a celloist.” And, if you try hard to think of all the celloists you’ve ever known (not very many, I’m sure), you’re probably realizing that most of them wouldn’t be up for the rest of that paragraph. Even if I somehow managed to find a celloist who’s on the same page as me, I’m still kind of stumped: just how, exactly, are we supposed to fund ourselves, our five children, and the third world nations on road-side homemade ice cream?

That would sure as heck be life with no regrets, but nuts-and-bolts, people–how does it happen? Sure–I have a long list of things that I would do if money were no option, if having fun didn’t mean paying the consequences of not being responsible, if I had the power to do the things that I wanted to do. I’m never going to be the lithe, gymnast-mountain-climbing-ninja-girl who sings like an angel. On my bucket list? Yes. Feasible? Don’t be stupid. We’re talking about needing to alter my basic physiology that I was born with. Puberty did it’s own thing on top of that, but “lithe” never entered the equation anywhere along the way.

I get that some people need motivation. I get that it’s easier to come up with excuses than with solutions. But some of us want to live our dreams, and we’re desperate to find a way–a way that doesn’t involve “sell your soul to the devil” or “change your dreams.” I’m trying to live an exuberant life, but who pays the bills? Because exuberance comes with a price.

This isn’t really a rant, because I really want an answer. People say if you really want something, you’ll make a way. That’s not true. Some things aren’t up to you, like whether or not you get accepted into a certain school, get a job that you want. . .whether or not your car gets wrecked or your dog dies.

People say to dare to take what you really want. . .but if taking what I want now (the school I want) saddles me with so much debt I can’t have any of the other things I want later on. . .did I really win?

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Merry Chirstmas!

I’m enjoying saying that this year. I’m just enjoying having holiday. I’m enjoying the snow, and the starlight, and the Christmas cards I’m sending out way too late.

I enjoyed the bath I took this morning. Who takes baths any more? I think we still should take baths; they’re better than showers.

I enjoyed watching Handel’s Messiah being performed.

I enjoy feeding ducks out of my hands

I enjoyed spending the whole afternoon doing nothing but hanging out and talking with my friend.

And I am even enjoying this pause as the new year and the old year hang in balance, and I realize that all I am waiting for is to find more things to wonder at. Wonder is  a lovely thing; sometimes it visits winter-land, in all it’s glory. God is good.

Sometimes, I scare myself

Sometimes, I’m just scared of myself. Of who I am. Of who I’m not. These little glimpses of myself, when I see what I’m doing my best to hide from everyone, especially myself.

Because sometimes, you tell yourself stories about what life should be like, if only. . .and while you’re busy painting that picture, sometimes a sneaking little suspicion sneaks in that it wouldn’t matter, if only, because, even if only, I’d still be there. And maybe, it’s not the if only . . . maybe the fly in the ointment is me, and I’m wherever I go, even in the if only’s. If I am not a dream, how can I live a dream? And I’m not a dream.

The most poignant Christmas post I’ve read this year was one that pointed out, very effectively, that God didn’t wait to come until we thought things were ready. He didn’t wait until there was room in the inn, didn’t wait until there were proper birthing arrangements, didn’t wait until the place was cleaned up enough it was fit for human life. He came in the middle of the mess.

Well.

I found the mess. Or some of it anyway.

Now I just need Him to show up.

Really Uncomfortable

I am really, seriously uncomfortable with some of the “fitness” stuff going around Facebook–“exposed ribs!” “Legs don’t touch!”

I’m sad–no, I’m horrified. I really am. Being able to count someones bones is properly a sign of malnourishment. Legs that don’t touch is a sign of being underweight. People are describing someone who is gaunt, starved, and in a very frail and unhealthy state–and calling it fitness.

I know there’s a skinny culture; I know there’s eating disorders; I’ve seen the terrifying models that look like abuse victims. But I guess it’s just recently that I’ve been seeing this marketed to the Jane Doe girl as healthy.

The heck it is.

It makes me angry, because it’s bad enough when you have these twisted, unrealistic ideas of what a person is supposed to look like–but when you start marketing something that’s literally an unhealthy destruction of the body–well, I’m okay with saying that should be a crime. It’s public endangerment.

We make up all these rules about how large a soda can be sold and where you can smoke–impingement on freedom in the name of health. But it’s perfectly okay to market self-destruction in the name of health?

We’re not measuring health on how much physical labor someone can do in a day. We’re not measuring health by the functioning of their internal organs. We’re not measuring health on strength, on speed, on agility, on endurance, on an ability to rejuvenate. No, health is being measured in numbers and in appearance. And what is the yard stick by which healthy appearance is measured?

Cancer patients, war prisoners, and drug addicts, apparently.

So Guess What?

My New Year’s resolution is to Look UnHealthy.

I want my legs to touch. I don’t want you to be able to count my bones. I don’t want to fit in a size “hiccup”, and I don’t have a magic number for the scale.

If you want a magic word for healthy and beautiful, try this one on for size: VIVACIOUS.

It’s very attractive.

(But it won’t catch on, because counting ribs is marketable and being ALIVE is not.)

We really aren’t that special

I have been reading “Grace for the good girl” by Emily Freeman. I normally flee from titles like that, but I’d been reading Emily’s blog, and she kept hitting tender places I didn’t know were tender. So I broke down and bought two of her books, even though their covers made me shy away.

Well, it’s been peculiar. She’s describing me more thoroughly than most of my friends can. And every time I think, well, no, that’s not really quite like me–she shifts focus ever so slightly, and everything is looking at me again. The chapter I just finished was on responsibility and weakness. I’ve always blamed my attitudes toward responsibility and weakness to being an older sister/daughter and having a lot of brothers, respectively. But Emily didn’t have the kind of family growing up that I did, so I guess, “Nothing has come upon you except what is common to man.”

I wasn’t really getting into her “responsibility” section, until she started talking about “the purse” mentality. Taking it upon yourself to stock your purse so that no matter who needs what, you’ve got it. Physically, and intangibly. Yes, and yes. The whole purse section hit home like she’d been watching my life played out like a movie. And then she says,

For all the times that I rush around, both physically and mentally, trying to fix and influence the people and circumstances around me, I simultaneously feel resentful that I am the one to manage it all. Why doesn’t anyone else fix this? Why do I have to be the one? Even though I was the one who wrote the job description and hired myself to fill the role, I want to both quit and fire myself.

Amen, sista.

I thought, from the cover, this was going to be a feel-good, every-thing’s-okay, light and fluffy kind of book. It’s actually kind of uncomfortable to be reading a book written, apparently, by someone sitting inside my head. I wasn’t really ready for it.  I wasn’t really ready for someone to nail every. single. weakness. I have.

Oh, and that’s another thing. “Weak,” she says, “Is not a four-letter bad word.” Honey, I have more brothers than you can probably count, and they’re like dogs that way. You don’t let them smell blood, or fear. “Hiding behind a mask of strength and responsibility is a lonely place to live,” she says. Ow. Yeah, it is, actually. I try so stupidly, ridiculously hard to pretend I’m strong and responsible,  and I’m disappointed when they fall for it. To turn her own words back on her–sure, I believe that “weak” is not a four-letter bad word. For you.

She’s making me think, and honestly? I didn’t expect that either. (Arrogance, much? Yes.) One of the things that she keeps turning over is that we really aren’t going to discover anything new about ourselves; we’re only ever going to really re-discover old things about ourselves. Things that we accidentally or on-purpose buried as we grew up, but are really still US, deep down inside.

It jarred loose something I hadn’t thought on for a while, but I realize is (still) true. I hate everyone looking at me. I hate being the center of attention. I hate people looking at me. Why? I’m not sure. I’m still trying to figure it out.

But I remember my horror and mortification at loosing a baby tooth during a social gathering, utterly convinced that now everyone would be staring at me, and I just could bare that. People did wind up staring, since I was dying six kinds of deaths of complete embarrassment, but no one had the foggiest idea why I was upset.

I want to be hidden. I want to hide. I don’t want you to see me or notice me. When I find out you were watching and I didn’t know, I feel this odd sense of disquiet settle over me. I thought I was invisible. Even though I was talking animatedly and laughing.

I don’t want to wear bright colors, or flashy clothing, because that might attract your eye. I don’t want to tell you about any of the ways I might be different, because then you might see me. I’ve hidden my grades from my classmates for so long, I do it now without thinking about it. I referred to my solid, strong A for a final grade as “acceptable” to one of my professors, and he suggested that I at least meant “Acceptable.” I felt a big caught off balance. What did I mean by acceptable? I meant, I guess, that I was happy with my grade, but I wasn’t going to say how happy, because that would be drawing attention to myself. Sitting at the place of honor at a feast would be horrible, because then everyone would be looking at you. Stop looking at me!

Why? I don’t understand that part of it.

Everyone loses baby teeth, I get that. What’s the big deal? People wear bright clothing in the street all the time, and they aren’t followed by small mobs of people, just staring at them. Some people can confidently get good grades without being obnoxious about it.

I can’t say it’s because I want to fit in, because I like being different. I can’t say that–well, I guess  do want everyone to just like me, but what does that have to do with bright colors and baby teeth?

If I have consistently striven for any one thing over the years, it is to be quietly invaluable. I want to be that hidden gem, that maybe few know about–but, oh! What a gem. Those clever few can see what an incomparable, incredible human I am. But, only, you can’t tell me, because I wouldn’t believe you, but just make me feel very valuable.

What?

I confuse even myself. This doesn’t make any sense at all. Yet when I look back over the patterns in my life, I see the same things played out over and over. Do I want praise and recognition? Yes, of course. Kind of. After a fashion. I’ve repeatedly dodged recognition, down-played my accomplishments, sneakily helped people out, and generally felt barren, alone, and undervalued.

I do this even in my writing. One time I reviewed something on my Mom’s blog, as a guest post, and it kind of got spread around. I nearly died. I was so abashed and self-conscious. I don’t think it’s supposed to work that way, but it does for me. Um, hello? What’s the point of writing stuff you’d like anyone to be able to read and enjoy if you’re just going to turn into a self-conscious freak the minute you start showing any signs of success?

I don’t know. Maybe by the time I get to the end of her book, I’ll stumble on some other insight as to what has been making me tick. I thought it was just because I was weird, but if I was that different, how could she be writing a book about me?

Whatever is Not of Faith

so speak it plain, or leave it out
I see it plain, love drawn with doubt. . .

I have no words and I have no face)
‘Till you speak it plain, speak it plain

It looked like everything was finally, at the last minute, coming together. Then I found out that a class I thought was going to be $500 was actually going to be almost $3,000, the most expensive class I’ve ever heard of, and far, far beyond any of my means.

Did I fall back into the depths of anxiety? No. I did get upset, though. If I was living on my own, I would have washed dishes and swept the floor while talking and yelling and crying. But I don’t live alone, so I crawled into bed and pulled the covers over my head and very quietly whispered and wept and eventually fell asleep, although I didn’t mean to–unshowered, teeth unbrushed, fully dressed and the lights still on.

I wanna know this love without a doubt
I wanna know this love will find me out
I wanna know the wrong will be made right
I wanna know some peace tonight
And in the dark and holy places
I just come undone

I know what I would have done, had I been living alone, because I did the same thing when I was house-sitting, and found out definitively that I would NOT be able to continue working at my favored place of employment once I graduated. I had been counting on that for almost two years, and I wanted to work there. My support system was there. I told God I thought He loved me. I said I knew He could make it happen. I wanted to know why He was just brushing me aside, like I didn’t matter. All that, and He wouldn’t even see it through?

Now I bet you think I’m going to say, “But God knew better, and everything was more wonderful than I could imagine.” Of course He knew better. He promptly placed me (after graduation) in a job with my ideal patient population, who I loved, and I grew in more ways than I could imagine. But I don’t want to brush aside my existence, either. It did hurt. It still hurts. Those people were my support system, and I missed them a lot and still miss them. God had good plans in store for me, but that doesn’t magically make the hurt go away. And it doesn’t now, either.

You whisper in some other language
Gospel songs and hidden things
And when I call you in the midnight
I cannot find a phone that rings

One of the things that I complained to God about last night was that I thought I was supposed to be able to hear Him. Didn’t He say His sheep hear His voice? Didn’t He say we were no longer servants who don’t know what the master is doing, but rather His brothers and sisters? He must love me, because to deny His love is to deny who He says He is. . .but if this is love, why am I so incapable of understanding love? Why love me in a why I can’t comprehend, can’t receive, can’t tell that’s what it is?

It wasn’t about the money. In the grand scheme of the universe, what is money, anyhow? It’s because I wanted to know He loved me. I wanted to know He cared for me. I wanted to know He would provide for me. I wanted Him to come down from heaven in a miracle, just to tell me and the world that I was His. I wanted to know that He was close, that He was for me, and that I was walking in the path that He had laid out for me, and that He approved.

You show to one your kindest favor
And make one go numb…

I didn’t want this, which felt like a slap in the face and a total disregard for me. I wasn’t important. I wasn’t cared for. I wasn’t delighted in. I was just Another.

I have heard some people say that to God, greater difficulties are just opportunities for Him to show more thoroughly His power and love. So I guess I’m supposed to feel excited that God has just raised the bar for His own intervention. But I don’t. I hurt, and I’m not at all sure that hurt will go away, even as He reveals His plans. I fell asleep wandering in that darkness, and woke up the next morning still stumbling around in it.

You take my troubles like a river
You drain them slow down to the dregs
I throw myself down thru the floorboards
And see my image in the glass
In myth and reason we uncover
What effort could not win

If nothing else, I needed answers. Hurt feelings aside, what did this mean about what came next? What was I supposed to do in light of this information?

Keep moving forward.

All silence unless I asked that, and only that answer, more than once. It made me angry. Keep moving forward? What kind of an answer is that? How am I supposed to keep moving forward when I don’t have any money? HOW am I supposed to keep moving forward?

Day by day. . .what do you need today?

That takes a lot of the wind out of your sails, do you know that? What do I need today? Nothing, I guess. How do I keep moving forward today? Finish that lab report. Work on the answers the college wants for their article on their scholarship winner. Maybe study a little for my physics final tomorrow. Take a jog in the winter night.

I don’t know the reason. I don’t know the how. People can argue it till they’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t matter; logic and reason will always fail in the end. What matters is that whatever is not of faith is not for me. I have to move forward now, because I can’t not move forward.

Maybe God will still intervene in a miraculous way at the very, very last second. Maybe He won’t do what I’m asking, and I will still feel that hurt of a refusal. I will still keep coming back to Him, even it means then I am asking Him to free me from the thousands of dollars of debt. I am angry and sad and disappointed that we can’t do this my way. . .but what I am still looking for the most is not to have things done my way but to be able to understand His expression of love.

So speak it plain, or leave it out
I see it plain, love drawn with doubt
I’m made to serve my own device
Until we come to set things right
I have no words, I have no face
Until you come to speak it plain
I have no words
And I have no face

All quotations from Sandra McCracken’s Doubt, from the album Gravity|Love.

Jane Eyre and the Truth

So I was talking to a friend the other day (and I realize I have a bad habit of starting random sentences with the word ‘so’, as though the topic needs justification) . . . (and now I’ve derailed my thought.)

(Let me try again.)

I was talking to a friend the other day on the topic of love, and was suddenly inspired to explain myself from Jane Eyre. I was telling her she would need to be like Jane, who loved without letting those whom she loved define what her love should be. To truly care about someone is not to be molded by their “If you really loved me, you’d. . .” To love someone is not to give them what they want over regard for what is right. To love someone is not to agree to be conformed to their preconceived images of who you should be. To love someone is to hold to yourself–what you believe is right and what you believe is true. Because otherwise, you aren’t truly giving them your love; you’re giving them a lie, something you don’t really believe in, something that isn’t really you and isn’t really from you. The only way to really love is in truth.

Jane Eyre, as the unrealistic portraiture of piety, nonetheless illustrated the grievous struggle of loving someone, and yet not pleasing them. Of caring profoundly and deeply for them, and yet not doing as was asked–pressured–guilted–bullied– of her to do. It hurt. And when we read it, we hurt, because we know what it’s like to have to make that choice. And when Jane stands firm, we feel such a wash of relief–because, in our hearts of hearts, we know that those kinds of lies can’t lead to happiness. As much as it is a torment, especially in the moment of sudden vulnerability, to say “no” to those we really do care about. . .we really do know how that story ends. And we really don’t want that for Jane. Or for ourselves, even though we’re scared to death that we don’t have the guts to be so resolute. . .or maybe even because we’ve already been there, and failed, and regretted it, and don’t want to see that replayed in ourselves or anyone else.

***

What makes writing worthwhile? Is it “being realistic”? Does it only count if it’s non-fiction, and really-true? Is it only okay if it’s fiction if it’s Inspirational (in your best announcer’s voice)? Does it have to be something you agree with? Is it supposed to be shocking and controversial, in order to be worth anything?

I write. . .sometimes fiction, sometimes non-fiction. Sometimes bluntly, sometimes more obliquely. I want to write well. What does this mean?

In my experience, it means writing the truth.

What does that mean?

My sister paints, and although her talent is already high, you can see her skill improving. The realism she is able to achieve keeps growing. Yet we both sit around and complain about these art instructional books, these books made not by artists but by technicians. Technically, their realism is awesome, but their pictures are dead. There’s no life to them and  no reason to look at them. They’re void of the truth that echos within us all.

My sister–she seems to understand mood. I don’t mean she’s moody (that’s me), I mean that her paintings–even the ones that frustrate her because she got the perspective wrong here and the shape was off over there–compel you from the inside because they grasp ‘the way it makes you feel.’ When you see her skaters on the frozen pond, let’s face it–the painting is too small, the figures indistinct. There isn’t a whole heck of a lot to actually look at.

But it tells the truth.

When you look at it, you know, you remember, you recognize inside of you what it is like on those winter afternoons rapidly fading to evening. You know the feeling of cold air inside of your nose. You know the camaraderie of playing outside with others. You know how exhausting it is to fight the snow and the layers of clothing, but how exhilarating to  actually be outside and alive, and moving.

I don’t know how she does it. With the colors, I guess. (Well, obviously; she’s painting, all she has is color.) With the lighting. I don’t know. It’s this intangible thing that makes everyone say, “Wow!” even while she says “It didn’t come out the way I wanted it too.” And as she explains the flaws she thinks she sees–well, she’s right. She’s not technically perfect. It’s not exactly realistic.  But she captured a piece of the truth, and shares it with you, the viewer. Our ears prick up, because we can hear it resonating within the part of us that can’t be measured.

When I have found good writing, I find the same thing. You don’t look for perfect realism. You don’t insist it can’t be made-up out of someone’s head. What you look for is the truth, the thing that says–“I don’t know how you did this. With words, I guess. Obviously; that was all that you were using. But somehow, you captured something that I thought only I knew. And if we’re finding the same thing, independent of each other, it’s a piece of the truth.”

When I write, I want to write like Jane Eyre was written. No–not a Gothic, Victorian love story. Not a society-challenging critique. Nothing so brave and daring as all of that. Although–actually, maybe more brave and daring than all that. Because, essentially, in order to tell the truth, you have to stop hiding yourself. You can’t proclaim something that will send shivers down the spines of those that hear it and still stay safe inside of your own little shell, where you keep cloistered away who you really are.

You have to have a lot of courage to stand up and firmly say, “This is who I am.” But until then, you really don’t have anything of value to offer. Scraps and facades and pretensions and trying to figure out what people want and how to give it to them. . .it’s bad writing. It’s bad living.

Jane Eyre has helped me explain part of the truth. If any of my writing is ever to be so valuable, I have to learn not to hide. I have to learn to not chicken out and pull back. I have to not listen to the St. John’s and the Mr. Rochesters that would tell me what they want, what I should do. I have to insist on who I am, and not flinch away. It’s the only way that anyone will ever read anything I’ve written–fact or fiction, stark or flowery–and say, “Oh, . . .I don’t know how you did that.”

More Grace

Today, I just wanted to let the world know I was happy that I was less anxious.

At the beginning of this semester I was having what for me were wild and disturbing symptoms of stress–shaking and trembling, crazy low blood pressure, weird feelings in my chest. When put under the pressure of a timed quiz, I feel apart. The panic was stupid and insane, all at once, and I couldn’t figure out why.

My physics professor agreed to let me test in a different location, at the testing center. This was enough to drop away the sense of pressure, and I brought home scores like 96 on my exams. I’ve been gradually feeling better, so for this last exam, I decided to try to take it in class.

I got the lowest exam grade I’ve gotten all semester (91), but did not panic. Nervous? Sure. That’s my normal. More nervous than if I was in the testing center? Yeah. But my normal. I’m back to testing among my peers, instead of with special accommodations, and instead of shaking and trembling on the stairs, I’m running across campus and dashing up the stairs (with my fully loaded 30+ lb knapsack), in a rush from tutoring someone else to getting to my class.

I will gladly take the 5 point drop in my grade to be back to “normal.” And I’m very grateful my physics instructor was willing to work with me, instead of telling me to suck it up and deal with it. I have no cure to offer anyone else struggle with something similar; just a grateful recognition that a cure has been granted to me.  Gloria in excelsis Deo.

An Open Letter

[This originally started out as a letter to a friend, and half-way through I realized it was supposed to be read by more than one. So I put it on my readerless blog. Ha! The text is about a week old, because of lap top troubles–in itself an answered prayer, as I desperately begged to be able to repair and continue using this one. He seems to have been willing to answer that one in the affirmative.

I want some how to preface this all with some sort of explanation or defense–I can’t,  of course, without defeating the purpose entirely. I guess that is all just to say that, as echoing as this room seems, I still feel very vulnerable. Even in the empty silence, I cringe at putting something so honest into words. It seems so much safer to remain silent, yet I know that it is so much better to learn to speak. Maybe some of us just have to practice speaking into the silence before we can learn to speak into the fray. It’s hard work, did you know?]

So today I found out that I was awarded a $1,000 scholarship! Woo-hoo! It was through Phi Theta Kappa, an honors society that I joined for something like $42 on the off-hand chance it might get me a scholarship when I most needed it.

But really, this is just a small part of a much bigger, much more complicated picture. You probably remember me talking about how I just didn’t feel right applying for the whole financial aid thing.  What has always frustrated me about this is that I really don’t have anything more to go on than “Whatever is not of faith is sin.” No logic, no reason, no explanations. . .and sometimes, that makes it really hard to know how to take things. When do you steadfastly hold to convictions, even when they seem stupid? When do you change your stance because the same God who told you stay is now telling you go? How do you know when you are hearing the voice of God, and when you are trying to make something God’s will?

I remember when I first started contemplating going to [community college] for the first time, I started grappling with the idea of financial aid. It seemed to me like a really big grey area. What about working for what you eat? What about entitlement and free-loading? What about God being able to provide? What about faith?

All I could say was that the whole idea of going seemed so entirely far-fetched in so many ways that money was not the most far-fetched part of it all. I felt certain that if God really wanted me to do this, He would move mountains to get me there. He did. (In many, many ways, although today I’m mostly going on about money.)

I got through my first two semesters okay, but I’d nearly drained my account. I started worrying about how I would pay for the fall semester. I still felt ashamed thinking of taking on government aid, but I started looking into scholarships of all kinds, trying to see how I could make it work. God doesn’t seem to speak in words, but there have been several times when I was suddenly certain of something beyond reason and abruptly have no more desire to even consider the matter further, as the matter has been Decided and there is nothing left to do but accept.

I remember very clearly, sitting on the bench in the lobby [at school], scrolling through the internet on this same laptop, fretting over scholarships, and suddenly feeling with absolute conviction that I should not be looking. God was going to provide; it wasn’t my job to be looking. I closed down the internet and shut my laptop with a good deal of peace, and put the matter out of my mind. God would figure it out.

When you don’t hear words, sometimes it’s a little peculiar trying to figure out the exact meaning. I took “no scholarships” but a few scant months later, the application was literally shoved into my hands, even after I had professed to not being interested. I took the hint. I wasn’t to look for scholarships, because He had one picked out already. I kind of knew I was going to get it before I even filled it out, and although I was very happy to get it, I couldn’t honestly say I was surprised when they called me to tell me I was the one who had been selected. It covered the lack; I graduated entirely free of debt.

Then I started doing online school while I worked, and since I was working, I was paying for it out of my paycheck. I still did not even look into aid, even though my mom basically told me I was stupid. I just felt it was wrong for me at that time, and I couldn’t do anything different about it if I wanted to. But. . .I did keep trying, at odd intervals, to figure out how I could make it work. How long would I have to work to save up enough money to go to the cheapest school for PT? I scrimped and I pinched, and I spent a lot of money on school.

I hated doing school.

I wanted it to be over so badly. I kept trying to figure out how I could speed the process up. Maybe take more classes at a time? Something. Anything.

Nothing.

When things changed, they changed suddenly. When I felt like it was time for me to return to school full time, I felt compelled to go back to school full time. There was no doubt. It was as much a fact as gravity. If anything, there was this pressure to hurry, hurry, hurry where before there had been the pressure to wait and wait and wait.

I felt like the Israelites being told not go, and then being told to go (or was it the other way around?). But I still couldn’t let go of that money thing. How would I pay for those two semesters of school, if I wasn’t working? Conveniently trying very hard not to think about the elephant in the room, namely, tuition of graduate school, and fixating instead on the bachelor’s degree.

There I was, working and re-working the numbers in a spiral bound notebook, trying to figure out how many weeks I would have to work in order to get the bills covered—and then the same sudden feeling that I was out of place. Not my job. Close the notebook. I did. I quit my job knowing full well it wouldn’t leave me with enough money for tuition and that I still could not conscious financial aid.

I wrestled with this a lot, once school started. I had enough money for the first semester, I knew that. I did not have enough money for the second semester, I knew that. In between was this monster of faith and doubt, fear and certainty, that I could not tame. I was here because I was sent here, I knew that, but I could not find that same certainty that the money would just show up—even though I wanted to be able to believe that.

I wanted to be serene. I wanted to say, “He’s been faithful before and He’ll be faithful again,” and live without a care in the world. I couldn’t. And I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, because it felt like no one would understand. One camp would think I was stupid for not applying for aid, and the other camp would think I was stupid for quitting my job without actually having a plan on what I was going to do.

And in between that was the growing realization that I was getting personally stuck on this, too—there was a lot of pride involved with being able to say, “I paid my way through school. The only help I had was merit scholarships. No charity, no loans.” On the other hand was the fact that, feeling compelled to go on, I was desperate to find funding and very aware that it was going to be very easy to “decide” that it was okay to apply for aid, just to get things settled and know how things were going to be funded. After all, even if some incredible, impossible thing happened to pay for my BS—I was still going to have to accept aid for graduate school, right? And trying so hard to believe that God could pay even for graduate school however He wanted, too.

There was only a gradual shift in how I felt toward applying for aid, and I didn’t trust it. It seemed very convenient. I mean, I stopped having the feeling that I would have to give an answer before the throne of God if I went and did it. And I kind of started feeling more and more like I was resisting on principle (I’ve come this far, I’ll go the rest of the way too!), rather than on conviction. But I wasn’t really at rest, either.

I finally drove myself to a melt-down I still really don’t understand. I don’t know what fueled it or when it started or how it happened. I only know that scared me pretty bad when I was utterly exhausted and couldn’t sleep. Insomnia I found to be frightening. When you can no longer even do the things you’ve taken for granted, like eating and sleeping, you’ve kind of hit bottom. Or a bottom. Or at least a sharp, jarring, wake-up call.

I guess.

I dunno.

Because I still don’t understand how I came OUT of a complete melt-down. Only that when all the dust settled, I had peace again, and I knew that God was going to provide somehow. I just knew it, deep inside of me, even though it still looked just as impossible. And I was pretty certain it was time to give up on my stubborn pride regarding financial aid.

So how could I be surprised when I got a phone call regarding the scholarship application I’d forgotten I’d filled out? I mean, I was happy—but how could I be surprised? And the scholarship application had asked if I’d filled out a FASFA, and I had put down No. And the answer is supposed to be Yes. And they were calling to tell me to fix that, so that they could (though they couldn’t put it quite so very bluntly) give me the scholarship.

So I filled out the FASFA. And now I needed to fill out the [online] College Financial Aid Worksheet. Like God leading the way with a breadcrumb trail. I filled out that work sheet, and became confused and muddled and couldn’t figure out how to finish it, and wound up calling my advisor who helped me through half of it and then transferred me to the Financial Aid office, where, after asking more questions, I was transferred again.

Here I was finally told that I was actually eligible for the full time TAP award (despite being told previously that I wouldn’t be). That was yesterday. Today I got the scholarship. Tomorrow I need to finish submitting the TAP. 3 guesses as to whether or not I will wind up with sufficient funding for the next semester? [ed. Note: since this was written, it appears TAP may or may not be falling through, but that’s okay. I still have that indefinable peace.]

It’s incredible, and it’s beautiful, and it’s confusing and frustrating. Why wasn’t it okay to apply for aid before? Was it stupid? Was I confused about what He meant? Does it matter? I hate that it doesn’t make any sense to me. I hate that I don’t have reasons and logic. I’m kind of resentful that I’ve spent so many years scrimping and pinching. I don’t want to scrimp and pinch. I want to give bountiful and generous gifts. Am I supposed to give abundant gifts anyway, and have the faith that I can even though it doesn’t look like I can?

I’m very grateful for His provision, but I’m so frustrated I can’t make any sense out of it, or out of Him. I’m frustrated when I can’t have the faith I want to have. I’m frustrated that I hesitate over everything, and don’t live the carefree life I think I’m supposed to be. I’m mad I can’t buy ridiculous gifts just because I want to, because they’re too expensive.

I’m disappointed in myself for not having the courage to talk to people about this. I wanted to have the faith to be confident in the face of overwhelming doubt, to stand firm even while people hurled questions and mocking at me. Instead, I found that I had barely enough faith to stand on myself, and resolved to keep it a secret how close to disaster I was coming, until He’d already shown up. Even now, I don’t have the guts to say God is good. I feel like I can’t tell people how beautiful it that He is opening doors without the questions of why the heck didn’t you apply for aid sooner, or the accusations of how convenient of you to change your mind now when you have the greatest need.

I know in my heart I did not conveniently change my mind. I know it. I wrestled and wrestled and fought with that, refusing to go around applying for help out of fear, even when everything looked like a complete train wreck. The applying I’m doing now is out of the certainty that this is how God has chosen to provide for me now, and what He now wants me to do. But how can it look like anything but convenient morals? And how can people understand the depths of “God is faithful” when I never allowed them to see the depths of my struggle and fear?

I never really told people flat out the full cold truth. The truth that there would not be enough money for it all, and I knew it when I quit work. The truth that I would only be able to pay for half of my tuition, tops, for this coming semester and that would be with utterly draining every single cent from my bank accounts. That I was desperate not to borrow money, and equally—or more so—desperate to not offend conscience, to not do something I had no faith behind.

I want to be in control, and I cannot be in control. I want to have all the answers, and I cannot have all the answers. I want to be able to explain myself, and I cannot explain myself. I want to be bold and fearless, and I can’t do that, either. I want to be carefree and serene, and I’m not. I feel like I don’t have any right to be anything but, yet I cannot stop the wells of panic inside of me, even while telling myself they’re not justified. They aren’t—and they’re there anyway.

The truth is, God is good. And this is His party, and I am just along for the ride. But there are days when those words don’t mean anything to me, and there are days when those words are so inexplicably true and certain to me that I have no interest in discussing it because it just is.

It seems so shallow and petty and untrusting. The sun comes up every day and just is; we don’t get into any silly discussions about if it’s really there. And then the sun goes down and we still assert confidently that the sun continues to exist, even though we have nothing to prove that to us at the moment. With nearly the same regularity (thankfully, it is not normally ever 24 hours for me), God can seem so certain and real, and then so abstract and distant. Yet despite the regular return to shockingly real, as soon as He seems to dip beyond the horizon, I seem to instantly find every reason and occasion for doubt and fear. He comes back—He always does—but in between is this horrible mess of wanting to believe what I have seen and heard and felt and known, and doubting it all anyway it whirlwinds of anxiety and fear and just being scared that everything I thought I had heard was just my imagination and wants, even while knowing that it was not.

A person should not be able to hold so many contradictions. I refuse it. And embody it. And cannot reconcile it.

If I could, I would like to be better at telling the truth. All of it. The fear and the doubt and the worry. The confidence of provision in the midst of it all. The joy of seeing Him come, at long last (and why is it always long last?). The truth that God is bigger than I can understand, and that although I try to follow where He leads, I cannot give anyone an answer for why I do what I do—other than, He leads, and I follow. I know that one, but I need help saying it out loud, and knowing it to be true when the shadows get longer and longer and absorb everything around them.

I’m so relieved and upset all at the same time.  God will not meet me on my terms. But He will meet me.