Messy Life (& what I've promised you: me, truthfully.)

While reading, listen to It's Alright by Fractures. 

I’ve been sitting here...with an empty GoogleDoc in front of me, for about fifteen minutes.

The ominous thin black line blinking, where words should be. It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve last shared things with you here...and honestly, I feel out of words. To put it plainly, this month has me feeling tired and hoping for more hours in each day. The task lists have been abounding, meetings unending, and sleep scarce. There have been joyous, deeply fulfilling moments wedged throughout, but overall, I feel a bit beat up. There’s a voice inside that is urging me to tell you something different. It is telling me to start hitting that ‘backspace’ button, and to just write a list because those are easy to write and easy to read. That voice wants to convince me that hard days or messy months mean I’m doing something wrong, and perhaps I’m not spending enough time in my Bible or in prayer. That voice wants me to feel like perfect is the only option.

But here’s the thing: I want to show up here, for you and for me.

I mean really show up. With my whole, honest heart. I want to write some words that may feel or read vulnerable, because maybe they are. I want to actively silence that voice of self-doubt, that fair-weather fan who wants me to only show you my best stuff. I want to show you that writing and creative expression aren’t always neatly packaged, and that even on your worst day, you have something to bring to a blank page. Your hard months, the messy bits of your life, and your feeble attempts to do what you love are all precious to Jesus. He loves you right where you are, and friend, I feel him meeting me here. As I type these words. As I sit here with you. He’s with us.

Author/researcher/TedTalk speaker, Brené Brown has a painting in her home that says, “We can do hard things.” I’m learning to invite some of that belief to strengthen me too. It feels massively privileged to talk about my struggles, and I always assume that if I do, I will let someone down. Weakness and pain aren’t very becoming in a pastor, and especially in someone as blessed as me. What do I have to complain about? Struggle with? It is easy for me to get in line with all the others who would write off my hurt and say, “Tori, enough with the moping, get back to serving people.” I’m a lot better at serving than struggling. I’m a workhorse...give me a task, a mission...and I won’t finish until I’m proud. God made this part of me, but how many of you know that gifts can turn into idols...virtues into vices. Service and stamina are facets of my calling, but they can quickly become distractions from the gritty stuff God wants me to really look at. What I’m thankful for is that the Lord won’t let me get in my own way, and is interested in my growth. He isn’t fooled and he knows that the appearance of something isn’t always the thing itself, and that maybe on the days when I seem okay, I’m really not.

Here’s the short version, before more words flow out: I’ve been going to counseling again.

I am a huge advocate for therapy, even though it is often scary, awkward, and uncomfortable. Christian counseling has been (throughout my young adult life), an avenue for healing. It has been hard, gosh has it been hard. But as Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own puts it, “The hard is what makes it good. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” Lately, counseling has revealed some deep-rooted things I’ve believed about myself for most of my life. These beliefs trace back to childhood and are interwoven into almost every relationship and thing I do. These beliefs are, for the most part, untrue and damaging. I’ve had to say them out loud, explore where they came from, and admit to how they manifest in daily life. I’ve cried in my husband’s arms over them, and have buried the notes from my session in my bedside table drawer. I have sent “I know you understand, please pray for me” texts to friends and have experienced the real, divine comfort only our Father can bring. Every time I leave my counselor’s office, the lies of the Enemy are thrown my way, like darts. They’re never about the issues themselves, but always about my having them in the first place. “Are you really struggling?” “Is that a real issue?” “Do you really think this is necessary?” “You don’t have time to do this. People need you to be okay.” Truly, that is where the real struggle lies with me. Most days, I just won’t give myself permission to be flawed. Wounded. Worn out. Human. It is easier to have a heart of stone, to live efficiently, and to be everyone’s champion. It's a cleaner and neater way to live, but at the end of the day, it isn't real. And here, in authenticity, vulnerability, and my humanity, is where I’ve really found Jesus. I’ve submitted myself to the process, because I know he does not do these things without a purpose. I go to counseling because the people in my life deserve the truest me. Heck, I deserve to know and be the truest me. Who is that woman?

She is someone who lives for the Kingdom without bearing it on her shoulders. She is someone who is okay with being flawed and sometimes saying the wrong thing. She is someone who does not try to fix the broken people in her life. She is a woman, who because she did the digging, only believes what God says about her. She is a woman who believes she can “do hard things” and that vulnerability always outweighs capability.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
— Ezekiel 36:26

Healing is often an undoing before a rebuilding. It is refining, restoring, and all of the things God’s word says it is. Like most messy processes, it removes comfort and teaches you how to trust with abandon. God has been creating since the beginning, and as he puts broken pieces together in me, I hear him whisper, “And it is good.” So when people ask me how I’m doing, I say good, because that is what he calls me. That is what is true.

The one constant in life is change. And boy, is Jesus at work, changing me. Healing me. Making me new. I’m so tired/thankful/filled/stripped/humbled/present/etc. And honestly, all of this has made it a little hard to show up here. I want to impress you, inspire you, and give you great hair tips. I want this blog to be a bright spot in your life, not a burden. But friend, and I consider you one, I want you to know that messy is real for me too. Whatever you are going through, big or small, I am linking arms with you. I am declaring that if God is for us, who can be against us? I am believing that the uncovering of sin or hurt is for our good and for his glory! So whatever limp you’re walking with...whether in a relationship, in your workplace, in loss, in your past, or in your present...I am walking with you. We are limping towards Jesus, and his arms are open wide...ready to give us what we need for the next leg of the journey. Carry on, brave one.

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