Some ramblings, reflections & possibly a farewell

I’ve come to the realization lately that this blog will probably be collecting dust very soon and that perhaps I should just bid it farewell. And I think perhaps it’s just as well.

I am moving into a new season of my life, and while I by no means consider myself completely out of my “valley of Achor” just yet, I am in a much different place now than I was when I started this blog, and even if I somehow find time to continue to blog in the future, I’ll probably start another blog rather than contribute to this one. So this may very well be my last post on “Valley of Achor.”

So much has happened over the last few months that I won’t even attempt to go into a detailed narrative, but let’s just say that I’ve faced the biggest demons in my life, I’ve confronted my deepest source of pain, I’ve made some earth-shattering revelations to certain people, my faith has all but crumbled into the dust, and all this has happened in the midst of preparing for my transition to university this fall. I’ve been on a roller-coaster ride emotionally, some days hopeful and exuberant, other days despairing of life itself, and some days so stressed out and overwhelmed I’ve just wanted to curl up in my bed and avoid the challenges and mile-long-to-do-list facing me.

But I’ve survived, I’m still here, and by next month I’ll be living in a new city, with people I barely know, and facing two years of intense study at a prestigious university. I have a feeling the next two years will either make me or break me. I am simultaneously super excited and absolutely terrified. But I know I’m doing the right thing, no matter the outcome. I didn’t make it this far only to allow fear to dissuade me from my dreams.

So, as I step out on this next new phase of my life, into uncharted territory, I think I’ll bid this little blog, and the young woman I once was, farewell. I will never forget the dark places I have been in, and the pain I have endured, but I want to move on.

Although, I have come to realize, I shall probably carry my scars for the rest of my life. There will be no true and complete healing for me in this life. Some pain is never truly forgotten or overcome. Despite what all the health and wealth and prosperity people preach. I’ve been made even more keenly aware of my fragility due to a sudden and unexpected flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis recently. I’ve been mostly in remission in recent years, so the flare-up really caught me off guard, but it also reminded me that pain will always be my friend, in one shape or another. I will never be able to escape pain. But physical pain I can handle. Even on days like last week where I was so stiff and in so much pain I could barely move. It’s emotional pain, it’s mental pain, it’s memories that can’t be erased, that hurt far worse. Those are the sources of pain that sear one’s soul, that leave an indelible mark on one’s spirit. And it’s those sources of pain that will always haunt me, and that I will always carry with me, no matter where I go or what I do in this life of mine.

But however challenging the next steps of my life may be, I’m determined to go forward. I cannot, will not, ever, ever go back to the dark places I’ve been in. I would rather be dead. My life, however fragile and bruised and battered, must make its mark in this world. I must make it mean something. So that none of my pain will be for naught.

Last night I felt my life meant something. I’ve been volunteering again this summer at a local church teaching an ESL class, and last night was my last class. I went to class expecting it to be the normal affair it usually is, although I regretted I couldn’t think of a way to reward or celebrate my students’ participation in the class. However, the students flipped the tables on me and totally surprised me by celebrating me as their teacher. Apparently they conspired to throw me a party. I knew something was up when I saw them bringing assorted items into class, like drinks and pizza boxes. But it wasn’t just the little party. There were also flowers, a sweet thank you card signed by all the students, a $25 gift card to Panera, and hugs and words of appreciation and “I’ll miss you, teacher”s from all the students. I could have cried. It was so touching, and reminded me that my life can be valuable, despite the pain, if I only use it to bless others.

So this is why I’m still here. Why I’m still fighting. Why, despite everything I’ve been through, and probably have yet to go through, I will do my best to persevere. To not give up. To keep staring down my darkest demons and my deepest fears. Come what may, I must go on. Because my life must not be lived in vain.

So, this may be farewell. Farewell to the Valley of Achor. I’m moving on. Both literally and figuratively. Perhaps a new blog will come along at some point, but for the foreseeable future, I’ll be too immersed in real life to wander the halls of the blogosphere.

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Letter to a hurting little girl…(and to any hurting little girls)

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Dear child,

I know the pain you’re enduring. I weep for you. I weep for how isolated and unloveable this pain makes you feel. I weep for how this pain will adversely affect the rest of your life. I weep for all the dark times ahead that you will have to endure. I weep for how broken your life will feel. How broken you will feel.

But I want you to know something: this pain is not your fault. You are not to blame. You are not to blame for the scorn of others. For the taunts of others. For the callous remarks of others. For the rejection of those who simply, in their own brokenness, didn’t know how to love you. You are so, so special, my child. You have a beautiful imagination, a keen intelligence, a sweet spirit, and a wonderfully sensitive soul. Your circumstances and trials do not define you. You are, beneath your humble exterior, a little princess. Like Sara, in one of your favorite novels, A Little Princess. She chose not to let her circumstances and the way others treated her define who she was. She held her dark, little head high, remembering that true princesses are not princesses merely on the outside, but princesses on the inside. And that is what you are as well, dear one. Remember that.

So hold on, sweet little girl. Your life will not be an easy one, and you will probably always feel a bit different from others because of the things you’ve had to endure, but never, ever let that uniqueness pull you down. Instead, embrace it, remembering your uniqueness is what uniquely qualifies you for the tasks and plans ahead. Remember that uniqueness when, one day in the future, you meet other boys and girls–and even adults–who, like you, have known tremendous pain. Your own suffering will enable you to have a greater empathy and compassion for others who suffer.

Lastly, dear child, know that you are loved. You may not feel loved, and you may feel God has abandoned you, but the truth is that His tender hands are what hold you, and for His own mysterious purposes that you currently don’t understand, and perhaps may never understand, He has allowed this pain in your life. If nothing else, He will use this pain to draw you to Himself, the only source of unfailing love, which, even if you don’t feel it, is always, always there. Hold onto Him, even when doubt and anger cloud your vision. He is holding onto you, and He loves you so, so much. One day in the future, when you hold a dirty, bedraggled little street girl in your arms, you will experience a taste of the love your Heavenly Father has for you–the kind of love that will hold you close even when you feel dirty and bedraggled. He isn’t the legalistic, perpetually angry God you’ve been exposed to since birth. I promise you. He isn’t.

One day, child, you’ll make it through all this. Don’t lose heart, though many dark days lie ahead. I know the tears you shed, and the pain you feel, for they are the same tears I shed today, and the same pain I feel today, but I know now that, though the journey through the valley of the shadow may seem endless, I do not walk it alone. You aren’t alone, dear one. He is there. And He weeps with you. He knows. He sees. And He holds you close.

So remember: no matter how others treat you, no matter how gut-wrenching your pain, you are, and always will be, a beautiful little princess. And may that enable you to hold your head just a little bit higher.

Most affectionately,

Your future self

Feeling scared

I’m scared. Scared of what I might be facing in a few months. Scared of whether or not I’ll have to tell certain family members. Scared of whether other people will have to know. I don’t want anyone to know. And yet, there’s a part of me that wants my pain validated. That wants my story told. I don’t want pity. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. But like any normal human being that’s ever suffered–and suffered alone–sometimes I just want someone to weep with me, to agree with me that I’ve endured some pretty excruciating pain.

I bit the bullet and saw a doctor yesterday. And I’m going to have to see more. The word “surgery” was thrown out there as a possibility. I don’t want to have to have surgery. But if it looks like it’s necessary, my life-long secret pain will no longer be secret. I will have to tell some people I don’t want to tell. One person in particular I dread telling, because I blamed this person most of my life for my pain. There are so many traumatizing memories associated with this pain that it’s taken me over thirty years to finally confront it, and over thirty years to truly forgive certain people associated with it.

So, naturally, I’m feeling a bit frightened. I wish I could crawl into a hole somewhere and this nightmare would just disappear. But I can no longer hide from it or imagine or wish it away. I have to face it. I have to face what has been the primary source of pain and brokenness in my life, starting from the time I was a child. I know I’m not alone in one sense, as I’ve expressed on here before. I know now there are other people out there who’ve suffered as I have, and in some ways worse than I have, so that comforts me somewhat. But in my own social circle–which isn’t that big–only two people have any idea of what I’ve been through and continue to go through. No one in my family knows. I’ve kept it a well-guarded secret, because in my family–as much as I love my family–that’s what you do: you bury things. So I’ve buried it quite deep for over thirty years.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the days ahead. My relationship with God is on the rocks right now, so I find turning to Him for comfort and strength very difficult. (I’ve decided I must be a bipolar Christian–it’s always hot or cold, up or down, with me in my walk with God. Right now I’m in a down period.) I have very few people to turn to either. No one but my counselor even knows I’ve seen a doctor. As usual, I’m alone in facing this mountain in front of me. And while there’s a part of me that wants to keep it that way, there’s another part of me that longs for others to come alongside me and, if nothing else, weep with me and pray with me. So often, when I’ve lain weeping in my bed, or hunched over weeping on my bathroom floor, all I’ve wanted is someone else to weep with me and tell me, yeah, you’re dealing with some pretty crummy stuff. Because carrying a burden of pain all alone has been utterly soul-crushing. And sometimes I wish I felt more freedom to tell my story, to release this burden completely, and somehow find a redemptive ending to it.

Maybe someday I will feel more freedom to tell my story. The fact that I’m finally even confronting this excruciating source of pain is a huge step in and of itself. But my story isn’t over yet. And maybe it won’t be till it’s completely over that I’ll feel free to share it. All I can do now is hope for the best. And try hard not to be scared.