Don’t fill the space.

Heart Lessons

Priscilla Shirer refers to it as ‘margin.’ As a less experienced writer, I’ll refer to it as its simpler term; space. Who wouldn’t want that? Time to rest. Mental and physical capacity to manage the unexpected. The glorious freedom to tackle that pile of ‘stuff’ and get going on those ‘things.’ Meditation. I didn’t want that. Me. When I am on, I’m on. Productivity, efficiency, excellence. When I’m off, I’m tuned out. Trash tv, a glass of wine, copious sleep. But where’s the in-between? That time when you ponder things, or make the tough phone call? Yeah, no. Hard pass. But let’s talk about what these last two years have been for me.

I didn’t know I was tired. But after sequential years of losing my father, my husband leaving, and subsequent single motherhood, I hit a wall. And it wasn’t until I was forced into an extended medical leave that I realized just how tired. There were months for which I honestly couldn’t account. I had never been one to equate busyness to productivity. The opposite, actually. A calendar with overlapping obligations was not something to which I aspired. I was very intentional about resting, but I had not made space for healing. My attempts to maintain normalcy for myself in my work life, and for my son in our home life left me with ZERO bandwidth for anything else. So as I floated in my pool on that leave of absence, the dreaded space began to set in. Thoughts of necessary change were percolating. My mind was not consumed with conference calls and meetings and soccer practice. It was just me, and my newfound BFF (you may know him as Jesus).

I’ve elaborated on my leaving my corporate job, joining a nonprofit for no pay, selling my house, moving in with a friend, starting a new business, and moving to a new town in another post. Those changes were most definitely prompted in those moments of space; whether through intentional meditation or more casual conversations in the car. I have learned how to better manage allowing for those sweet times.

What I’m coming to understand only now, several years since this portion of my journey began, is that I have to be okay leaving the space completely empty, for as long as it needs to remain.

So the process is actually two-fold. In the first step, there’s the room you make in your life to allow these thoughtful moments to happen. In the second phase you are left with the fallout of those revelations. So in my case, I found myself without a paying job after 20 years in corporate America. Now what? Or I sold my house and felt uneasy about buying another, so I crashed with a friend. Now what? Or, more recently, I accepted that I needed to stop getting in the way of what God wanted to do in my son’s heart, so I had to let him fully feel all of the pain that I’d been mitigating for 4 years. Now what?

I’m inclined, as I believe are so many of you, to fill the cavernous space with something. Anything. Progress. Therapy. Work. Friends. Planning. Oh, the glorious fragrance of a well-charted plan. In isolation, all of these things are good. But we don’t live lives separate and apart from our actions. If you are filling the void with something of your own making, no matter how good, you are bypassing the ONLY one who knows what lies ahead, and how to get you there. I’ve written before about good versus best, and yes, that applies here as well.

But what I’m really talking about is leaving the desolation alone after He clears the debris.

Don’t try to add landscaping or call in a backhoe to put in a pool. That may well be what He wants for you, but you have to let Him draw up the plans; not you. Logically, any mom would want to protect their kiddo from hurt anywhere, anytime she could. But that may not be what truly shapes him into the man he was created to be. And even when the plans seem to be in full-force, there still needs to be DAILY space made to continue the conversation. What if the business He had me start is not going the direction at all that I’d imagined it would? Just this week, I found myself making small daily plans that would seem perfectly logical for anyone else running a similar business. I paused, checked the plans with the General Contractor, and it was a no-go. What now?

If, through the process of healing and growth, you have found yourself in that in-between place that feels like an abyss, understand that He is the pro at restoring the years you feel have been lost. Don’t try to construct a spaceship to get you back to earth as quickly as possible. Most of us are ill-equipped to man, much less assemble, that ship. He IS working all things together for good, even if you cannot see or fathom it. Leave space for the space.

It was only a candle.

Heart Lessons

And some sugar scrub, and candy, and nail decals, and a sweet note; a thoughtful token left by a generous gift-giver. What followed the unwrapping was unexpected and unpleasant, to say the least. Tears. Many, many, ugly, snotty tears. I was not prepared for the torrent of emotions that were unleashed.

Since I’ve learned to emote, which, in full transparency, has only happened in the last 4 years or so, I’ve come to master what I think is the most important step towards healthy emotional processing; when I am surprised by my emotional response, I ask God ‘where the hell did that come from?’. Those are my words. Verbatim. Sometimes I hear an audible chuckle in response. But usually, I hear ‘sweet girl, ……’ followed by a very short, but usually profound, explanation. This evening, while the tears continued wetting the edge of my t-shirt and the adult libation drained from my beverage glass, three words knocked the wind out of me.

‘You felt noticed.’

No. What? I am noticed! I have friends and family who love me and I am not alone. I just sat in the confusion of it all for a while. Who knows how long. And slowly it sank in. This was just a simple act of kindness for no reason whatsoever. It wasn’t in response to my having done or said anything. It was frivolous and touched on my femininity, which, as a single mom, doesn’t happen often; ever really. And it countered a lie that played on loop for several years after my husband left me.

‘You are discarded and invisible.’

And there it was. For all of my counseling sessions, recovery programs, study of scripture, and time with God, that blasphemous untruth had taken root and settled nicely into my subconscious. I thought it had been dealt with. But sometimes, it takes the antithesis to shine a proverbial light on the fallacy that corrupts the substance of who we are. Proverbs 18 says it best; ‘The tongue has the power of life and death.’ I’d said the words ‘discarded’ and ‘invisible’ enough times that something had died. No amount of positive thinking will undo death. Only time at the feet of my Father will do that; allowing Him to woo me in the way that only He can.

In one fell swoop, He can deconstruct the scaffolding that holds the twisted thinking in its rightful place in your heart.

Let Him. He will leave no trace of the demolition. Try as you may to pull the blueprints back out to remind everyone that you were designed to live a life constructed by pain and suffering, He will counter with a canvas of dreams and promises too beautiful to imagine. But you have to willingly trade one for the other. He will not forcefully remove it.

The human mind is astonishing. My adopted son had a very traumatic start to life, and in my elementary understanding of how the mind and body protects itself, I’ve come to appreciate why there are times that he cannot believe my kind words, or accept my loving touch. To him, love wasn’t always safe. That candle sent a message that opposed what I’d come to believe about myself, and my body responded. Were it not for some understanding of what I needed to do to correct that belief, and a Savior who gladly guided me to the healing I needed, my life would continue on, subscribing to lies. Healthy love might feel uncomfortable and unsafe to me. I might be wary of well-intentioned gifts. I may even begin to behave in a way that warranted attention to counter the belief that I wasn’t noticed, however dysfunctional the attention might be. Knowing myself, I would likely shrink into oblivion, staying safe in the shadows and avoiding love altogether. But I am choosing the riskier, lesser known (to me) route. I am allowing my Father to paint a picture of who I am, and what my future holds.

What has been your candle? What has incited emotional outbursts that were disconcerting? What part(s) of your life are constructed based on lies that you believed? I do want to make sure that you hear my heart on this loud and clear. Trauma inflicted on you at the hands of another is NOT okay. You may have been simply surviving, and there is no shame in that.

But you were not meant to live a life at the mercy of your trauma.

When you are ready, ask this question: Where the hell did that come from? You might need a professional to guide you through the process of unearthing these truths. But if any part of you is unsettled by any of my account and you know that there is something out of alignment, start asking questions. And get ready to turn over the blueprints.