Brokenness and Longing
I’ve historically appeared to others, and even myself, to be a generally happy person – successful, social, and strong. Blessed in seemingly every way. But those who know me really well know there’s been an empty space, a longing in my heart that I was incessantly trying to fill. Perhaps if I could just get that next coveted possession, position or take that dream vacation?
Decades of my life have been marked with chasing after the elusive “next thing” in a search for peace. Can you relate to any of them? My progression went something like this:
- Chasing the dream: working in a career that was stressful, exhausting, and all-consuming in a quest for success as the world defines it: promotions, power, recognition… and money.
- Finding myself having conversations like “ I need work/life balance” and “there must be more to life than this”.
- Living for the weekend (if I got one), the next party and the next vacation.
- At every turn, chasing self-gratification.
- Beginning to realize the weekends and the vacations weren’t satisfying enough and talking about needing “more singles” rather than “home runs” – each day fulfilling rather than weeks in the dark waiting for the sun to shine.
- But still making decisions to take that next unappealing job because that one would give us the money and security to do life differently. And wondering what level of money, success and power would be enough?
Looking back at these years from my current “holistic health coach” lens, it’s interesting that I was living off junk food and caffeine (nutrition), I was in jobs that I did not enjoy (career), my relationships were strained by my life of sin and selfishness (relationships) and I had no connection to the church or God (spirituality). I worked out, though (physical activity), so I had that going for me!
Enter children. Thank you, Lord, for putting us in charge of little people who help us get our priorities in line. The next handful of years went something like this:
- Ahhh, an excuse to cut work back to 40 hours a week.
- But there still doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to meet the demands of being a Mom, not a good one at least.
- Numbing and propelling through my days on candy and caffeine, so much so that I could barely stomach dinner. And at 8:00 when the kids were in bed, I “rewarded” (sabotaged?) myself with a pint of Chubby Hubby. Every night.
Five years into motherhood, my marriage strained by resentment, the nanny raising our children, and having suffered a nine-month period of sinus infections, bronchitis and strep throat, I left my career (and with it my identity as I knew it). I set out on a quest to put our family back together and get my health in order.
Hope for all. The story of restoration.
As I was winding down my corporate career, I found myself unloading to a man on an airplane (long story in itself). He asked me to “consider God”. I didn’t know what that meant, but I was willing to consider anything at that point in my brokenness. As God would have it, this began my decade long journey with my well-being.
My personal growth journey began. I invested in a personal trainer, I set out to learn to cook and to eat more nutritiously, and I even joined a bible study. I was seeking some purpose that would replace the void leaving my career created. As my passion grew, I knew it was somehow related to health. Over time, there was an unfolding occurring. I was a little lost without my professional identity, but there was more peace at home, and I was feeling physically well for the first time in a long time. But no matter how great the kids were doing, no matter how much I loved my family, my church, my growing volunteer and social activities, my path and even (years later) coming to a calling that I loved and enjoyed dearly…no matter how much financial security we were being blessed with through my husband’s tireless efforts, still a longing. I yearned for simplicity. For ease. For connection. For rest. There were many moments of tremendous happiness and satisfaction, but it always proved to be fleeting.
2017 became a year of redemption, and not through the best of circumstances. It was after I embraced my vision to create a “Soul Gym” for women to come together in community to create healthy lifestyles. After I bought a property to put it in. After a business plan and countless hours of creation.
As I set out on my mission, things went south quickly. The zoning was denied for the Soul Gym, leaving me with a property I couldn’t use and nowhere to put my business. Around the same time, I started to struggle at home, realizing that years of busyness, neglect and chasing self-gratification left my husband and I on parallel but separate paths. I felt disconnected in every way. I had no idea what to do with my new career. I had no idea what to do for my relationship. After all the excitement, all the hope that identifying some purpose would fulfill my longing, I found myself staring down at a situation where both ministries I held most dear (my family and my business) were at a crossroads.
It is amazing what happens when you are deep in despair. I was powerless, and I had no choice but to depend on God like never before. I was starting to get nudgings, lessons in the making. All messages were calling me to greater trust and more letting go. (Me! The ultimate control freak adopted the mantra “release the attachment to the outcome”.) As I began to trust that God works all things for good, and no matter what the outcome, it would be for my best, I found an unexpected gem: that peace I’d been seeking.
The journey picked up steam and at times was quite intense. Life was coming at me like a freight train. I was led into one lesson after another. I was feeling pursued. A mother/son week at a life-changing Christian summer camp, a three month dive into a study of Life’s Healing Choices (an emotionally exhausting bible study promising true transformation and freedom from our hurts, hang-ups and habits), Holy Yoga’s 9 week “immersion” (which included “getting into the garden” ,the place of “I’d rather not” in a mission to recognize and die to the things in our life that are holding us back from true freedom). And these are just the biggies. One struggle, one lesson, one opportunity falling into my lap one after another like dominos.
Brick by brick, He’s been breaking down the walls – removing old patterns, habits and beliefs that did not serve me and all the while building me up to see myself as the heir I am, perfectly loved and supported. And as the walls came down, the more I surrendered. The more I trusted. The more I listened. The more I yearned to walk in obedience. Freedom, ease.
Some of the loads we carry are not part of God’s plan for us. We lug around the guilt that lingers even after confession and also try to function while carrying worry about the future. Then we top if off with a little bitterness and unforgiveness because life has not been fair. I’ve learned that these burdens aren’t from the Lord, and His word tells us to release them. In my journey, I’ve found that walking in obedience and trust is my only pathway to true peace. There’s a beautiful simplicity to walking in obedience and trust and letting go of control. Like many things in holistic health, it’s counterintuitive, but true.
The song “Reckless Love” is a favorite of mine and says it all about how I feel having come through these experiences: “there’s no wall You won’t kick down, no lie You won’t tear down… coming after me.” I was pursued, and caught. Thank God.
Being graciously led to a calling and being prepared for it
I had thought for years that my story was about how I went from eating junkfood to real food and it leading to “purpose”. What I can see now is that my story is about restoration. My personal healing and transformation. And God is good; His gifts always include more than we can ask or imagine. In hindsight, I can see that even in the waiting, the longing, the struggles, the lessons and the work, He was teaching and preparing me bit by bit to serve.
In my several year journey, I battled with disciplining myself to eat healthier only to learn that the experience of consuming nourishing food would easily propel my change. I started with an approach to exercise that was based on measurement and performance, only to be led into one of ease and enjoyment. I battled with melanoma and “hormonal chaos”, gaining an understanding of the nervous system’s enormous impact on our health and learning to manage stress through time management techniques, releasing the need to please people, setting boundaries and YES! even cutting out things I enjoyed. And I battled in the garden, “the place of I’d rather not”, gaining a release of old hurts, habits and beliefs that were not serving me.
Each step a gentle nudging, an unfolding. Experiencing a deep longing to learn and then being nudged toward the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Noticing a deep desire to make a difference and then sensing a nudging toward health coaching. Falling in love with yoga, and then a nudging toward Holy Yoga.
And through every one of these experiences developing coping strategies, practical solutions, routines, rituals, self care practices, boundaries… All things that are and will continue to be invaluable to myself, my family and my health coaching clients. He armed me with not only the heart but also the tools to be better for everyone in my life. Tools that started with things like shortcuts and strategies in the kitchen and progressed to things like brief daily check-ins on my body and my emotions to make sure I am not striving (running ahead of God) or worrying (God did not give us a spirit of fear). Real tools. Gifts in every struggle. He lovingly gave me experiences to grow me and prepare me, and held my hand every step of the way. A holistic integration with Christ.
Only two weeks ago, I was asking myself: “what IS my story?”, only to end up in a Holy Yoga meditation session on Jeremiah 33:3 (MSG): “Call to me and I will answer you. I will tell you of marvelous and wonderous things you could never figure out on your own”. You mean like how Your word comes to life when I actually meditate on it and listen?
And gratitude? Oh my. I am so grateful of the opportunity to be called to work that is nourishing to me so I can be more to others. On a daily basis, I am learning, writing, sharing, practicing, connecting, creating, building community, inspiring, or teaching. All things that I enjoy. All things that feed my soul. Years ago, I wrote a prayer (on a vacation at my happy place). I prayed that I could wake up every day as excited about the day ahead as I was in that place. God is good.
Do I have all the answers? No. Are there easier ways? I’m convinced of it. Can we be more for others and ourselves? Definitely.
They say that you can best serve people who are going through what you’ve already gone through. So my heart particularly goes out to you busy women out there. The women that are trying to be all things to all people. Those who put their needs last. Those who are exhausted and running on empty. Those whose marriages have been put on the back burner. Those who gave up their professional aspirations to raise a family and feel lost as their children grow into adults. Those chasing perfection in hopes of proving their worth. Those struggling with hormonal changes, extra weight or "minor symptoms" like headaches or insomnia. Those who want to live a healthier lifestyle but don’t know how to do it or how to fit it all in. Those who feel disconnected and yearn for a community to learn with, share with and enjoy.
I’m ready to share, to serve. Each little nugget in this story comes with a compelling story of its own. Those can unfold over the years in Holy Yoga classes or health coaching sessions or with friends and family as they seem useful. That’s how God works. I’ve learned that well-being is not a destination. It’s a journey. That journey can be easy or it can be hard. It’s easier with Him.
Do I have it all together? God knows no! Will I backslide at times? Probably. But am I seeing life and people and purpose in a whole new way? Oh yeah. For sure.
What is my story? It’s a story of redemption . A story of restoration. A story of lasting, permanent soul changing transformation. Maybe this isn’t about a “job” at all. Maybe it’s just about loving others, like my precious family. What I do know is that I’m just a very ordinary person blessed in every way, whose life doesn’t look all that different now than where this story started (on the outside and from afar at least), but on the inside I feel completely new -- that deep longing of my soul filled and brimming over.
Oh! and the main stanza of that Reckless Love song…
I didn’t earn it,
I don’t deserve it,
Still you give yourself away.
Oh the overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God.
Thank you for helping me feel whole. May I be a blessing to others.
Author’s note: for those who found this too heavy, my journey also led me to 4 pages worth of funny stories based on my many fails along the way.. I could roast myself for hours! If I left you with an impression that developing these “tools” came easy, oh honey!
I’m a beautiful mess…