When restlessness catches you off guard

Dreams.

I have many. They possess me. I am a dreamer, a visionary.

At no other time do these dreams kick and claw to get out than when I am at my most restless depth, somewhat stuck inside myself.

With dreams come change. With change come seasons of transition. With transition comes growing pains.

The growing pains are not what I am afraid of—though it would have been nice if I had quickly realized what they were when I first began feeling them. They are simply a component of this chaotic season of life.

Yet I have the audacity and misplaced perspective of being upset when the growing pains steadily increase.

I think if I backtrack, I can trace this season’s beginning to a late-night, redirected, luggage-losing flight from Houston to San Diego the day after Christmas. With nothing else to do, I sat in the darkened plane cabin and used my phone light—to prevent waking my sleeping seatmates—to write in my journal. I recapped the ending year. I wrote down every goal I wanted to achieve for the coming year. All of them had a difficulty level of extreme. But my soul was restless. And I knew then 2018 would be difficult, but in the long run it would be beautiful.

The growing pains started immediately. Yet I had a deep sense something big was coming. It was the same feeling I got the first time I rode Xcelerator at Knott’s Berry Farm the first time—heart-pounding nerves at the beginning, pride in myself at the end when the train returned to the station.


Patience, required. Endurance, needed.

Distractions galore. Loneliness abounding.

Discouragement, constant.


But I keep walking, remembering the goals I wrote down months ago, even as these 12 months march toward their collective end and the dominant feeling is one of realization—all those goals may not be crossed off the list by December 31.

And that is OK.

So what can I hold on to? What is going to keep me going? Of course, God is my sustainer. He keeps me breathing, gets me up in the morning, protects me throughout my day, calmly listens to my outcries. He never stops loving me.

I simply always have to ask, How can I face my fears today in a way that will not only strengthen my faith and encourage me, but do the same for someone else?

Simple answer: I will follow God’s leading to write, to encourage, to explore, to find, to discover. This means accepting the challenges to be more visible at work, put my writing out into the world more frequently and consistently, find the encouragement in the discouragement.

I have heard it said that the dreamers in this world are the most restless souls. Always searching for more, always finding something to improve, always picking up and championing this cause or that mission. They are the ones who champion change, or at least the change they want the most.

Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana…all visionaries. All dreamers. All restless. All strove for more than what their discontented hearts wanted and needed.

I guess if I had to be counted in a group, these names are not bad company. The sad reality is they passed too soon, but I believe that does not dimish how fiercely they chased contentment with everything they had while they were here.

So many of us are similar to these souls. I am similar to them. To this day I can’t watch a Princess Diana documentary without tearing up, because I understand what her heart so needed and wanted. It’s what I so need and want.

It can be boiled down to wanting to be understood, wanting to be a fighter but feeling unable, wanting to be an instrument of change but always doubting I can be used.

It is a difficult, even deadly, balance to strike. Too many expire before it is achieved.

Now, why am I saying all of this?

Because I am a dreamer. It’s not a dream state where people have five eyeballs and seventeen limbs. Rainbows don’t make up the whole sky or even one part of the sky. Unicorns don’t frolic. The grass doesn’t smell like cotton candy. I don’t have scary people chasing after me. And the worst, I’m not flying to China without my passport or visa—a real dream I once had.

Because change and improvement are coming, especially on this blog, and I am preparing myself for it.

Because my dreams are going to come true someday.

My dreams are concrete: To be a writer known for conveying the difficult things, for telling the honest stories, for encouraging her readers. To be a relationship master, to lay down at the end of every day able to say I was a good friend to even one person. To be the glue for my family. To be a good leader. To be able to travel someday and make a home closer to my family. To communicate with love and passion about what matters most.


My dreams are going to come true someday.


I want to be out there. I want to be content. I want the restlessness to cease. And the only way through, is through. No shortcuts, no going back, just trusting God to carry me.

If you can relate to any of what I just said, then stay tuned in the next few weeks as I fearlessly explore restlessness, discontentment, loneliness, and a few other topics. For each topic I will be trying a different method of storytelling, and I pray I gain some feedback and you gain some encouragement.

I almost left—heavenly purpose for negative emotions

Revelations seem to happen when we need them most, but at a time when we’ve stopped counting on them.

I walked into the room where the young adult café meets on Sunday mornings at church. I went to the same water fountain to fill my water bottle. I went to the same people to say hi. I went to the same table I had been going to for a few weeks. I sat next to the same friend.

I needed something, but I had stopped counting on that need to be met. I didn’t think it would happen.

The service follows a schedule. For 20 minutes we have connection time at the roundtables. Two questions are discussed. I normally don’t give answers; I listen to everyone else. It’s my way of keeping my guard up. This day was no different.


I normally don’t give answers… It’s my way of keeping my guard up.


I listened and let my eyes roam around the room. The floor to ceiling windows gave me a view of the sky and hills surrounding the church grounds. The lights made the room open and welcoming. The young adults at every table were engaged and conversing. And then there was me.

Waiting for the sermon to start, I impassively listened to the last few minutes of conversation. Then the pastor finally began. And he immediately posed a question that made my guard go up even further. In a sermon called “Why Sorrow Matters,” he began by saying, “Our emotional well-being is not always God’s number-one concern.”

Coming from my own story, those words felt like a slap in the face. I’ve experienced my own sorrow, my own turmoil, my own heartbreaks. The last thing I ever want to hear on any level is that my emotional well-being isn’t God’s number-one priority. It begged this question: If that’s true, then what do we say to victims, to the depressed, to the anxious? How do we assure them and ourselves that God still cares? How do we assure them there is still a purpose behind our sorrow? Behind all our negative emotions, regardless of how long the seasons last?

In the moments after the pastor said those words, I fought the desire to get up and leave. I couldn’t see the value of sitting there when someone was trying to explain something I didn’t agree with.

But I stayed. And I’m thankful I did. A revelation came from it.

There is always a purpose of godly sorrow, and it is found in the hard truths we learn. Hard truths lead to repentance, a change in behavior. A change in behavior looks different for everyone, but each of us can look back through our struggles and find that one part of the story where God stopped everything and yielded a needed change.

After the purpose comes the knowledge of who the source is: the Holy Spirit. My experience with negative emotions is that it makes it far too easy to ignore the Holy Spirit, but I have also experienced His faithfulness. The better I got at ignoring Him, the louder He became in trying to get my attention back. He pursued me like the hound of heaven. I believe God allows us to venture as far away from Him as we want to, and for some perhaps it gets to the point where He stops calling them back and lets them be. By no means does this mean He doesn’t want them back—He does—but He also wants it to be their choice. I’m thankful I never got tired of having Him after me.


The better I got at ignoring Him, the louder He became in trying to get my attention back.


And then there are all the opposites of godly negative emotions. Because while we have and always want to know the heavenly purpose behind negative emotions, we can’t be ignorant to what the world and what the enemy wants us to believe about our negative emotions. Here are two purposes I am sure of even though I’m positive there are more than just two…and I’m sure they become more personal for each of us.

Purpose 1: Godly negative emotions challenge me to be transformed. Worldly negative emotions challenge me to conform.

Purpose 2: Godly negative emotions challenge me to change my character (who I am). Worldly negative emotions challenge me to change my behavior (what I do).

So many of my own negative emotions have led me to discontent. My loneliness makes me feel alone even though I know I’m not. My sorrow had its moment of holding me down so far in myself I never thought I would come up for air. My deep discouragement made me feel as if there would not be another bright day for some time to come. And all these emotions made me ask this question: Can I move through this? How?

There are two methods I have been putting into practice to move through these seasons: Fellowship and Scripture.

That day at church, the day I wanted to give up and leave, the pastor shared two verses from 2 Corinthians 7—“Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted” (verses 9-10). Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to understand their sorrow was for a purpose and God would restore them, and in the meantime they wouldn’t lose fellowship with their fellow believers. He wanted them to believe the truths found in Scripture—that while God cared for their emotional well-being, there were still things higher on the list He cared for more, like their salvation and repentance.

And the very fact Paul was providing these crucial biblical truths for the believers implies he wanted fellowship with them because he knew it would boost them up in their time of need.

I came so close to leaving service that day because my feelings were hurt. I needed to be told that God would always love me, that I could rely on Him and the people He placed in my life, that I could love people as He made me capable to do so. I didn’t want to hear that my emotional well-being wasn’t at the top of His priority list.

Imagine if I had left. I wouldn’t have had the revelation I had—that negative emotions have a heavenly purpose. I wouldn’t have walked away armed with the knowledge that God cares for me on all levels, not just the levels I care about the most. He sees me as a whole person, a growing person, when I can so easily be narrow in how I see myself.


Negative emotions still exist. Discontent still exists. Loneliness still exists.

So does fellowship. So does Scripture. So does repentance and restoration.


So does God’s plan to help each of us grow and see the changes and challenges in the right light, to see our sorrow backlit by its true purpose. And to someday use our godly negative emotions to love someone else through them.

Revelations can take place anywhere. Mine seem to happen in church. They seem to happen outside of the categories a human mind operates in. They happen in high school service even though I’ve been out of high school for years. They happen in the young adult service even when I feel more like a child who wants to be left alone. They happen at home during a small group session. They happen, and I have to hold onto that because sometimes every area of life doesn’t make sense. And that’s OK. Because in the meantime, God has me, has us, in His hands.

And soon, the heavenly purpose behind the negative emotions, the painful seasons, will be revealed.

Why it is OK to have negative emotions—the reason I wrote this series

There is always a moment. Time stops. Something clicks. God reaches in. It all makes sense.

I had this moment earlier this year.


There is always a moment.


I remember feeling unknown and disconnected. I remember feeling alone. I had lost my close dependence on God; I stopped trusting Him for a season. Life felt cheap in those moments. My existence had lost its depth and meaning, yet I was in the depths, treading water, muscles feeling like jelly and didn’t know how to get out.


It seemed I had no other choice than to wait. Wait for God to rescue me, wait for trust to be rebuilt, wait for the words to explain what felt unexplainable.


Time seemed to pass ever so slowly—like molasses going uphill in the winter time. And then the moment came. The click sounded. God reached in and gave me something to hold onto. A friend who needed prayer—and lots of it.

It’s been said that if we ever want to get out of ourselves and be a bit more selfless, all we need to do is pray for someone else. So I prayed hard for this friend. I put every single ounce of faith I could muster into what I was asking for. All of my unanswered prayers and even my mistrust no longer mattered. I knew God was trustworthy. I prayed promises over this friend for days, nonstop.

And God answered. Miraculous.

In the days following this miracle, God was doing something big. It felt like a deep cleaning was happening in my heart. Suddenly I had a reason to swim to the surface. Suddenly I had the energy to look at the negative emotions and ask God about them, lament those moments, grieve my losses and trust that redemption was already in process.

Soon I found myself able to trust God again, able to confide my laments to Him, able to articulate them to other people. He faithfully moved me from redemption to restoration. Every day I have a new reason to be grateful for the struggles I have had because that big something I felt He was up to…it comes a little more into focus.

But I wouldn’t have gotten to this place without allowing myself time to feel all the things I was feeling, to lament, to ask questions and wait for God to meet me in those places. To allow Him to know me.

If we weren’t meant to work on ourselves and process pain and grief, we wouldn’t have an entire book in the Bible called Lamentations; the shortest verse in the Bible wouldn’t be “Jesus wept”; we wouldn’t have all the grievous psalms David wrote when he realized just how much he was screwed up. If we were meant to have everything together and feel great all the time, then all the people in the Bible would be perfect too; they wouldn’t have a single flaw.


If we weren’t meant to…process pain and grief…the shortest verse in the Bible wouldn’t be “Jesus wept.”


But as you know, the Bible is filled with grief and sadness and heartbreak; it’s filled with grieving characters and harsh people who made big mistakes. But it’s also filled with redemption after all the negatives have been processed.

And that is exactly what God was doing through this miracle personalized for a friend.

In the days after this miracle, I was studying the armor of God. This workbook that was written by Priscilla Shirer, a very passionate speaker and teacher, was only meant to last seven weeks…it had been upwards of 12 or 15 weeks since I had started it. But it happened on the right timeline, and this was confirmed by the verses and chapters of this book that ministered the most to me.

One morning I sat on my bed with my coffee cooling on my nightstand beside me. Lottie was curled up near my feet. It was cool outside. I had a good amount of work waiting for me at my desk. But those moments…they belonged to me and God.

I think in the moments when you need Him most He always delivers in a tangible way. I was unaware how much I needed Him on this day. Here I was just sitting on my bed, feeling neutral, my emotions coming slowly coming out of numbness. But God was about to do something big (proving that HE KNOWS ME because I didn’t even know this about myself).

For the portion I was reading from the “Armor of God” study this day, we focused on the helmet of salvation, how so much of our lives can be thrown off simply because our thoughts and minds aren’t focusing on the truth and protecting itself. This truth was cemented by breaking down Psalm 139.

I had read this psalm so many times. I had heard countless sermons spoken about it. It’s the psalm everyone references when a girl is struggling with her identity. It’s the “fearfully and wonderfully made” psalm.

But oh does it have gems in it.

After reading verses 13-17, the book instructed to highlight two portions that spoke to me most, and then it asked why they spoke to me. These are the portions I highlighted:

“My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth…. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (verses 15, 17)

Then I answered why these statements meant the most to me. Here is what I wrote:

“The words ‘skillfully’ and ‘sum.’ Also ‘vast.’ It says I was skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth, and the word ‘wrought’ means tough metals were used to make something. I was skillfully wrought with God’s strength in me. And ‘vast…sum’… Well, who doesn’t want to know that a great and infinite and loving God has a ‘vast’ sum of thoughts for them? I feel very alone sometimes, just completely desperate for the knowledge that someone cares, however, humans can only care so much. God always cares. And I don’t think God’s thoughts for me can ever be numbered, and that’s a comfort.”

In a season when I felt unknowable and was convinced I shouldn’t have been feeling that way, and feeling absolutely discouraged because I didn’t know how to talk about it, this psalm I had heard and read 100 times before comforted me.

God knows me! God understands me! God can be trusted! He KNEW I needed that assurance on that day, at that time of morning, so I could be confident in someday explaining the seemingly unexplainable.

Your redemption is near. Trust God with your laments and your grief. And someday…who know, maybe God will have you in a similar mode as He has me—just trying to use your story to encourage someone else.

Hopelessness—approaching the downed bridge

I do not remember the first time I felt it. I am not convinced it feels the same way every time. Hopelessness feels like being at the end of the rope, end of the line on a long express train that took you from joy and happiness…through brokenness…and settled you on resolution.

Resolution because you have come to terms with the situation and believe it will never change as it cannot ever change. It is no longer something to fight for or fight over.

Imagine being in a long white room with no doors or windows, just you and the air surrounding you, you and the sound of your own breathing. You are unsure if it is a dream or if it is just a feeling. And instead of panicking, you adapt, you get used to the surroundings; you must to survive. You have resolved to accept where you are because nothing can get worse, but it also cannot get better.

You have now arrived at resolution.

It was a normal weekend. It always baffled me how a weekend could begin normal just as every weekend before it, but it could quickly spiral out of control for one small reason or another.

It started out normal, then spiraled.

I was angry at circumstances out of my hands. I had no say in what was being done, how treatment was being dulled out or what words were being said. I was by no means a bystander, I just could not change the situation for myself.

It went downhill at church. I had driven myself that day as I had developed a habit of doing so. On the drive home I would have 20 minutes of uninterrupted time to simply exist. But there was a tug. It was a beautiful day; did I really need to drive home where I would sit on the couch for the rest of the day and not do anything? The fresh air deserved to be breathed in. The clear day deserved to be enjoyed, if only for a few minutes.

Almost as if I was on autopilot, I continued on the freeway past my exit. My phone vibrated in the center consul and the text waiting for me only confirmed that running away for a few moments was the right thing to do.


Clearing my head was the most pressing need.


I drove up and around Moreno Valley and got off the freeway at Pigeon Pass. I could follow that road all the way up into the hills. Box Springs Mountain Reserve Park overlooks the city of Riverside. On a clear day I could see for miles up there. As the cars on the road dwindled in number, I rolled down my window and kept driving. The road rose and rose until I got to a good lookout point.

Parking my 4Runner on the side of the road, I unbuckled my seatbelt and made a point to leave my phone where it was. I walked around the car and leaned against the passenger door, and took my first deep breath of the day.

From my vantage point, I could see every part of Riverside. I could see for miles. I could see all the way to the mountains. I could see the intricate interchanges of the 60, 215 and 91 freeways. I could see the campus of UCR below me. I could see countless baseball and football and soccer fields. I could see every car on the freeways, yet I was far enough away that it was still quiet on my perch.

I would never say it was peaceful. It was simply a feeling of resolution.

It felt as if I had spent the previous seven months on a speeding freight train on tracks that went up and down mountains and around sharp turns and through dark yet short tunnels—like the videos you see when researching tourism spots in Switzerland—just with the destination in mind of “unknown.” And it seemed the destination was finally coming up. But instead of approaching a physical stop on the line, it was just a point where the tracks ceased—a bridge that was out, if you will.

All in all, I still felt as if I had plenty of time. The train would not reach the bridge for some time so I could still enjoy the benefits of being on a nice train. Right? I could enjoy the plush chairs and the view going by. Yes?

Thinking about all of this up on my perch in Box Springs Park brought an image to mind…the sinking scene from “Titanic.” Especially the part where the orchestra decided to keep playing. They were helpless; the least they could do was play their instruments until the end. They knew the end was coming and they just kept playing.

For me, there was nowhere left to go. There was nothing left to give. The downed bridge was coming up and all I could do was prepare myself and enjoy the moments of peace I would have until then. I had become the orchestra on the Titanic, just waiting.

There was no anxiety. There was no uncertainty. Just an arrival at resolution. I was resolved that nothing would change, nothing would get better or worse. I was resolved that the train would eventually crash, but I did not know when.

There was no heat in my chest as there was with sorrow. There was no ultimate sadness as there was with discouragement.

Just resolution.

I climbed back in my car, turned it around and began driving home. I did not feel better. I did not feel worse. Simply felt at the end of my rope, the end of my line. Nothing more, nothing less. The world was a numb place and I had learned to accept it.


The World was a numb place and I had learned to accept it.


As my train approached the no-longer-there bridge, I knew the fall would be frightening, I knew the landing would be painful. But I had to believe the fall would be the right thing, because it would bring the next journey, it would end the numbness by way of intense pain. And I was OK with that.

I was resolved.

The physicality of sorrow—it’s healthy to feel it

A bomb. An anvil. A wounded gazelle. A straw and the camel’s back.

This is what sorrow felt like. It resembled heaviness. In one instant, everything I feared came true.

I had given everything I could give. I had run my race with maximum effort and I was running on steam. The tunnel vision was so bad by the time I gave up, dropped and hit the ground, that I had lost sight of the finish line. I was not even sure I crossed it.

I was in my car. The weight of the world was on my shoulders and it pressed me into my seat. I could no longer move. I was trapped. Stuck.

Present day, I can still feel the full weight of it all. Everything that had pent up over time—all the denial, all the sadness, all the fight—finally gave way.


That day will live in my memory forever.


It was a normal day—normal in that nothing had fully settled. The feeling was one I was well-acquainted with. It was the most normal the chaos had felt. But something was coming. I felt it. And I knew I was helpless to stop it. The night before I had finally begun to take deep breaths again—like I had been under water for too long and my head broke the surface, allowing a taste of fresh oxygen. But it still felt like I would go under again.

The bomb was still ticking down. The anvil had not dropped yet. The gazelle was still moving—limping. The final straw had not been placed on the camel’s back.

I was the bomb yet I holding my own detonator. I was the anvil yet I was holding the rope because I was under the anvil. I was the camel at the mercy of the hand laying the straws down.

I feared the detonation.

I feared the pain of the anvil dropping on me. That is why I had been working so valiantly to hold onto that rope.

Strength was waning, though.

I stood at church. It was a Sunday night. I had my dog Lottie with me, as I always do. A long drive home to San Diego was ahead of me, and I was going to have a big enough jump on time that I would be able to relax for a little while when I got home before going to bed. But as I stood there, I doubted I would make it home in one emotional piece.

I could feel the heat of sorrow and exhaustion as it started to burn in the deepest part of my heart, and then it spread to the rest of my chest cavity and on to the rest of my body.

I tried holding it together as I said goodbye to my parents and a few friends I calmly walked to my car with Lottie in tow. Curious, I wondered how long I would last. A mile later I peeled off the road, screeched diagonally into a gas station parking spot and slammed my car into “P.”

Eyes closed, head leaned all the way back on the headrest, my breaths came fast. I opened my eyes and scanned my surroundings. I was far enough away from all the pumps and the customers with their listening ears.

I leaned my head forward and rested it against the steering wheel, opened my mouth and released a gut-wrenching, blood-curdling scream.

The bomb had detonated. The anvil had dropped. The gazelle was down for the count. The final straw broke the back.


The bomb had detonated. The anvil had dropped. The gazelle was down for the count. The final straw broke the back.


Tears were streaming and I angrily wiped them away. I sadly realized I was catching my own tears. No one was there to catch those tears, offer words of comfort.

I was the bomb. And the only thing that was not decimated was me, as a bomb can never fully destroy itself. Instead, it remains in pieces on the floor, leaving the most sorrowful evidence of what just occurred.

But there was an odd sense of relief. The running was over. Running from the pain, exhaustion, the Holy Spirit and His love. It was done.

The bomb pieces could finally be picked up. The anvil would be removed from the ground. The gazelle and the camel would heal.

I was the wounded child, but God was the caregiver, scooping me up, carrying me to His sanctuary where He would take His time healing me, teaching me to trust again, letting all the wounds heal properly.

The wounds that radiated with pain that day had to have their moment. That screeching stop, that loud scream, that long drive home was their moment. And God lovingly met me there and accompanied me as I dried my tears, got on the road and drove home with my heart pounding.