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Grace & Perfectionism

Taste and see that the Lord is GOOD.

I had a bit of a meltdown last night. After some really crazy, tough situations coming in rapid succession in the past several years, my emotional thermometer has been a little wonky and I end up bursting into tears when I make a lot of mental connections at once. Last night, the impact of perfectionism in my life hit me like a freight train barreling down a mountain pass.

My beloved friends Amy and Jordan got married this weekend, and I had the honor to stand up with them as they said their vows in front of the goofiest group of family and friends I’ve ever met. I might add that I enjoyed the bonus adventure of being the bridesmaid who got to walk down the aisle with two groomsmen (four bridesmaids and five groomsmen makes Jillian a lucky lady!)- and we neither tripped nor accidentally set ourselves on fire with the decorative candles along the aisle.

I made some enormous decisions last night to give myself grace and reject perfectionism. I decided throw aside insane high expectations of myself and live a life worth living. I realized, as I scrambled to attempt homework in the midst of a board game melee with the wedding party on the Friday night before the wedding, that my expectations for myself were standing between me and the joy of presence.

When I take communion, I have always found myself remembering the phrase, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” When I hold myself to my own unreasonable standards, I miss out on the good that God has for me- I do not taste or see the goodness.

Taste the sweetness of Finnish cinnamon french toast, eaten for breakfast in the presence of friends old and new

See the tears in the eyes of your dear friend’s soon-to-be-husband as he sees his bride for the first time on their wedding day

Hear the cracking of the best man’s voice as he tears up while speaking of the grace shown by his friend

Smell the pancakes and coffee made for you by the owner of the cabins you’re sleeping in and the parents of the bride

Feel the smoothness of the bridesmaids’ hair on your fingers as you finish styling hair on the morning of the wedding, brimming with excitement as you do well something for which you’ve no formal training and simply a great deal of enjoyment

 

Taste, see, hear, smell and feel that the Lord is good. 

 

~Jillian

 

This weekend, we were served and tended to by some fabulous people in Houghton and Hancock in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My opinions are entirely my own and I have received no compensation for the linking to or advertising of these entities; they will know of my endorsement for the first time if/when they see this blog. It is my pleasure to recommend the following:

We stayed several wonderful nights at Ridge View Resort in Chassell, MI; clean, pleasant accommodations and a fabulously friendly, helpful proprietor in Jason.

Bridal party manicures/pedicures done by Nikki at Maggie’s Massage Spa Resort in Houghton

Hysterically AWESOME time at Respawn Tactical Laser Tag for a combination bachelor/bachelorette party

Delicious day-before-the-wedding breakfast at Suomi Restaurant. I had the cinnamon french toast, and most of my friends had Panakakku; all of it was delicious!

Flexible and enormously helpful folks for last-minutes at our venue, the MUB (Memorial Union Ballroom) at Michigan Tech

The photographer and cake were amazing as well- I’ll update this post with more details once I get them from the mother of the bride.

“What If?”

Despite having done all we could, our patient didn’t make it…while I was able to maintain professional composure at work, I woke up this morning feeling utterly spent.

To be blunt, last night was a tough one. I work as a nursing assistant in a hospital, and on my fourth evening on in a row I lost a patient for the first time in my career. I did my job well, staying out of the way and keeping things as clean and safe as possible with the doctors and nurses running the code and even taking over CPR while two nurses set up a device to do CPR for us. Despite having done all we could, our patient didn’t make it. While I’ve seen two of my grandparents die, they went peacefully on comfort care surrounded by loved ones. Attempting to resuscitate someone is a difficult and brutal process. While I was able to maintain professional composure at work and continue caring for my patients, when I woke up this morning I felt totally and utterly spent both physically and emotionally.

I must confess that I didn’t run yesterday. I was exhausted from working the weekend and I let it get the best of me yesterday morning, dilly-dallying around the house in the morning for several hours instead. This morning, I made it a point to pray, write and read (albeit for class) on one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: communion, or the Eucharist. Theology nerd-ing aside, it’s gotten me thinking about what I believe and how I’ve come to the place I am today. A few years ago, one of my track coaches said something that struck me as insensitive at the time and also got me thinking. My long jump coach said to a group of us, ‘My mom always used to say that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it.’  I pretty much just wanted to punch him at the time- I’m really glad I didn’t. In the days that followed, I found myself wondering two things. One, what if it’s true that I get to choose how I respond? It hadn’t occurred to me before that I get to choose how I steward my emotions. Two, and this was the radical, life-changing question…since suffering is real and valid, what if God is really, truly good and there is more hope for redemption and renewal in this world than I’ve ever dreamed?

I don’t run for me anymore. The part of me that ran purely for pleasure and for fun died with the university investigation of an assault I experienced. Much like in the story of Jesus’ resurrection, after the spiritual death of shame, humiliation and agony I experienced, I am now rising. I often feel uncomfortable talking about my faith; I’ve been hurt and abused by the church and I don’t want to inflict that or bring back memories of it for anyone else. One thing I believe, and hope that everyone who reads this will take away, is that storytelling is a powerful medium of shared human experience and relationality. Running for clean water with Team World Vision is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s not easy, and it’s not glamorous. My Instagram feed doesn’t show you all the times I’ve cried, nearly (or actually) soiled myself mid-run, been sunburned, felt hopeless, been completely drained and shaking, scared out of my mind. At the beginning of a season, we tell our runners, “Don’t do the math.” When you’ve just started running, it’s easy to feel intimidated and doubt the training plan. The same is true of spiritual transformation: don’t do the math about the demons you’ll have to face or the discomforts you expect to endure. All you have to do is the next right thing, one brave and faithful step at a time.

“I did not fail.”

I recently started seeing a new counselor, and I want to share a little bit with you about my experiences with the mental illness that got me there: generalized anxiety disorder. Everyone worries sometimes, or experiences tension under pressure; this is normal. When worry fills your day, impacts your ability to function and maintain relationships and interferes with your everyday life, it is no longer helpful or healthy. When a person worries about multiple things to the point that they disrupt daily life and this goes on for at least 6 months or more, this may be generalized anxiety disorder (GAD, for short).

I was diagnosed with GAD by a child psychiatrist when I was 13 years old (though my pediatrician had suspected it many years prior, making sure to check in with me and my parents at each visit from somewhere around second grade onward).

Some of the traits of the disorder can, in short term, be useful to me. For example, I compulsively plan ahead; I have a desktop calendar laid out each semester containing the due dates of all known assignments compiled from course syllabi. I have a plan of exactly what I will do if/when someone is seriously injured in my immediate vicinity- I even have a plan of what I would do if I witnessed a car accident as I was driving. Some might even go so far as to crown me the queen of planning ahead- I’ve already been dubbed the ‘mom’ of the group many times after producing from my purse/backpack a much-needed tube of lip balm, band-aid, nail clipper, pair of scissors, Tide To Go pen, emergency snack stash or pair of gloves. On the flip side, I also spend an absurd amount of time making lists of things I need to do, for fear that I will forget something important and let someone down.

If you can name it, I have worried about it. Bless my parents for all they’ve done to raise a child with anxiety- the fact that I have always been such a strong, enthusiastic reader meant that, prior to the ubiquity of the internet, I had access to a lot of information. There was a phase in my life where I thought weather was really, really cool until I read up on hurricanes and tornadoes. I grew up in the Upper Midwest, so tornadoes aren’t unheard of. For a period of at least several weeks in elementary school, I insisted on sleeping on the floor of my closet (with all of the blankets and pillows my mom was willing to give me) because I was protected by a load-bearing wall and sound structure. I didn’t know quite what those meant in practical terms for construction, but I knew it meant I was less likely to be harmed by any tornado that spun up in the dead of night as I slept.

Today was the first group run of the season with Team World Vision Twin Cities! Can I get a WOOT WOOT?! There is so much to be happy and hopeful about as this season begins. I ran 2.12 miles in run/walk intervals with my new friends Joe and 8-year-old Liam (who was an EXCELLENT announcer when it came time to switch between running and walking). Unsurprisingly, even though I ate a small breakfast of Fiber One cereal before the run I was quite hungry afterwards. On my way from Minneapolis to my therapy session in New Brighton (about a 20 minute drive) I stopped at McDonald’s for a cup of coffee (which I unashamedly love) and a spur-of-the-moment breakfast sandwich. I had a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit and it tasted REAL GOOD, Y’ALL. Five minutes down the road, anxiety kicked in and racing thoughts filled my head: “This is not good for me…this must have so many calories and lots of fat…is this going to upset my stomach??? I’ve failed at breakfast…”  In the session with my counselor this morning, I worked on practicing a new skill to help me become more aware of the dysfunctional thoughts I have and the unpleasant feelings that go with them. I was able to identify that I felt some anxiety and shame related to my perceived failure at breakfast. While I don’t remember what my counselor said to help me see them, together we identified some alternative thoughts that better reflected the truth of my breakfast sandwich situation: “I fed myself! I had a run! I chose protein! I am not a failure. I succeeded in feeding myself- this IS good for me.” I felt a weight lift from my shoulders, and nearly wept at the sense of relief.

In another exercise this morning, I estimated the time spent in a day on various things by filling in a freehand pie chart. Presently, about 1/4th of my waking time each day is spent on worrying (about what needs to be done, what needs to be done better, etc). This is the impact of generalized anxiety in my adult life: I currently spend about about one-fourth of every.single.day just on worrying. If you know me personally, I am confident that you have seen me become very happy and excited when talking about my kitten, Dora. If you don’t know me personally, know that I have a ‘kitten voice’ and hundreds (if not thousands) of photos of now-6-month-old Dora on my phone. My kitten brings me so much joy. You can see that while my entire personality and being is not made up of worry and anxiety, that worry has a major impact on my life every day. This morning, feeling that weight lift off of my shoulders as I realized in my heart of hearts that I did not fail [at breakfast], I felt hope renewed. Breakfast is a pretty easy subject for me to talk about, emotionally speaking, so I’m feeling so much hope for the healing and serenity in my life. Running with Team World Vision is life-giving not only for the people in Africa who receive clean water, but also for me as I am empowered to hope and welcomed as I come. I am so grateful.

 

Check out the hashtag #50KforH2O on social media to follow my journey as I train for the Twin Cities Marathon and pursue my goal of bringing clean water to 1,000 kids in Africa this year by raising $50,000!

Christian in Crisis: Reflecting on the 2017 National Leaders’ Gathering

As I later told my friend Sinéad, I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up to run with this team.

My sweet mama recently challenged me to dress up as Rosie the Riveter to give clean water to a child. I took that challenge head-on and loved it! I gave myself a great pep-talk that morning, knowing I was sure to attract some attention since I carried all the belongings I needed in a bright pink tool bag and my nursing class was scheduled to take a computerized licensure-exam-prep test. What I had failed to account for in planning my day was the follow-up appointment with a provider at a large, well-attended mental health clinic in the Twin Cities; I walked into to a building full of people psychiatrists, counselors and psychologists in head-to-toe denim with a retro hairdo and pulled my insurance card out at the check-in desk from the aforementioned pink tool bag. I felt like I was back in middle school with everyone staring at me and wondering what kind of crazy I was (psychology people call this the ‘imaginary audience,’ an experience common to young adolescents).

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We Can Do [Therapy]!

I’ve been a pretty anxious person for as long as I can remember, and at the ripe old age of 13 was diagnosed with something called generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD. Along with about 3.1 million other adults in the United States, I experience ‘persistent, excessive and unrealistic’ worry on a daily basis and it doesn’t have any particular cause or trigger. I also have something called ‘Panic Disorder,’ which basically means that I sometimes experience sudden panic attacks which may or may not be related to an identifiable cause. All things considered, I’m sure you can imagine that I was a little nervous about road-tripping to Chicago for the weekend with a bunch of people I’d mostly met only in passing (if at all)! I could feel my heart racing as I pulled into the parking lot to meet up with three vans’ worth of my fellow TWV captains: when I looked down at my FitBit, my heart rate was in the 130’s- even though I’d been sitting for at least half an hour as I drove from home (my resting heart rate is usually somewhere in the 70’s these days). Here’s a few examples of thoughts that ran through my head that morning as we gathered in the mist:

  • What if I get car-sick? I hate throwing up. I hope there’s a bag in the van. What if the bag leaks? That’d be so gross! (I had already taken Dramamine and was well on my way to roadtrip-nap-land by the time we got into the vans to head out).
  • What if I get diarrhea and we have to suddenly get off the highway and I make us late? That would be so embarrassing!
  • What if I get diarrhea, and it really really hurts? I hate that feelings. It always makes me nauseous.
  • What if I say something stupid? I don’t want to be stupid.
  • I hope we don’t get in an accident on the way- I haven’t accrued enough PTO [in my new job as of January 9th] to cover me and keep up my income! How will I pay my bills?

As I later told my friend/our Team World Vision Twin Cities staff lead Sinéad that weekend, I had no idea what I was getting into when I signed up to run with this team for the first time in 2015. Team World Vision is good at many things (and the Twin Cities team per-runner fundraising average is twice the national per-runner average) but what I think we do best is welcome teammates into the family, loving unconditionally and without reservation. Having a pizza party at the Team World Vision national headquarters in Chicago with many of the 300+ leaders from all over the US & Canada was a lot like my first Team World Vision event in the Twin Cities: loud, definitely overwhelming and way more fun for me than I ever anticipated (anxiety, rearing its head again).

Our sessions on Saturday were excellent; I definitely felt a bit like a Justin Bieber fan when Steve Spear, Team World Vision Legend and clean water hero extraordinaire, first spoke in front of the group to welcome us all. What really got me was our closing meditation and prayer on long obedience in the same direction, led by Tim Hoekstra. Tim prayed over us all, preaching from Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia and ending with this reminder: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9 NIV) Leaving NLG, I was feeling more fired up about advocating for the kids we serve than ever before. You might have even gotten a text message from me during our return trip, inviting you to give clean drinking water. God has set a huge fundraising goal on my heart this season, and I was feeling pretty good about that calling on Saturday evening. Fast forward to Thursday afternoon, though, and the scene looks a little different.

I had to leave a clinical rotation today because (for the second week in a row) I was crying and couldn’t get it under control. Last week the tears came at the end of the day- today, they came just before lunch in a routine mid-semester evaluation  with my instructor and wouldn’t stop. My instructor clearly felt sorrowful that I was crying yet again, wondering if it was something they had said. Truthfully, it wasn’t the instructor at all (as I made sure to emphasize in between hiccup-sobs). In attempting to understand and explain the reason for my tears, I realized that my instructor’s reassurances (that I am smart and compassionate) had hit on some of my ancient, most deeply seated insecurities. The most insidious one, perhaps, is the heartfelt struggle to fully accept my humanity and to believe that I am enough. Compassion, empathy and justice for others has been a central facet of my faith journey in my life so far; it is clear to me through reading the narrative story of God’s work in the world as told through the Holy Bible and the longings of my heart that God cares for the forgotten, the outcast, the marginalized, the downtrodden. It is that same compassion and gut-wrenching, heart-shredding love which I am freed and empowered to claim for myself.

Sometimes, my friends, participating in the work of God requires of you and I to do some serious work at taking care of ourselves too. Steve Spear and John Huddle both spoke about to reality of running for Team World Vision: while this is not about me, it WILL change me. I’ve taken to telling people I’m training the third time for my first marathon. When I finally acknowledged the call to return with Team World Vision this season, I noticed that it was different from years past. This year God has again called me not only to run the Twin Cities Marathon, but specifically to train for the marathon. As a seasoned(ish) runner, lifelong athlete and someone living with chronic illness I know that my body can do crazy things when called upon: I ran my first half marathon less than a week after sustaining a concussion (ill-advised, but fun nonetheless) and finished my most recent half after 4 miles of mild, dehydration-induced delirium (side note: If you ever run past a rail yard and find yourself thinking, “Wow, I want to be a train when I grow up. That would be SO COOL!” You are dehydrated). I am entering a season of training my spirit (some would say my heart & head here) as well as my body. It’s going to be a long road to the start line- I am so thankful to never walk alone. Will you join us?

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Twin Cities captains may get older- thankfully, we’ll NEVER grow up!

 

Bold and Audacious Dreams

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My tribe! Team World Vision: Twin Cities captains

I am so excited for the season ahead of training and growing together with Team World Vision. This past weekend I have been surrounded by some of the boldest, most brave and hopeful people I’ve ever known at the TWV National Leaders Gathering in Chicago, IL. 300 family members from around the US and Canada converged on the Congress Plaza Hotel to pray, dream and hope boldly alongside one another. I feel a renewed sense of urgency on behalf of these kiddos and families we serve.

I am more excited, and at the same time more nervous, than I have ever been to advocate for the children we serve this year. For the third time, I’m about to start training for my first marathon and I am terrified. In my first two seasons with Team World Vision, I experienced some major health issues that kept me from getting to the start line of the marathon. This season, I’m armed with the knowledge of what has been causing these issues (more on that later) and amazing people around me to support me and care well for me.

One expression of the need our kids face keeps coming back to me: Dirty water kills more people every year than AIDS and malaria combined. So, for as long as there are children who lack safe access to clean water, along with my team I will continue to say YES! My “YES!” this year is setting a big goal, a goal that scares me even more than training the third time for my first marathon. My goal is to bring clean water to 1,000 people- that’s a $50,000 goal. HUGE. TERRIFYING. AWESOME. I believe with my whole heart that God has called me to be part of the work God is doing in the world- and the God I believe in is bigger, more powerful and stronger than all the dirty water in all of Africa and all of the world. Let’s do this, friends – together. Are you with me?

Follow my journey here on the blog at Hope, Love, Run. Add this page to your favorites or your bookmarks or however you remember the places you want to read often. Once you’ve bookmarked this blog, would you pray for me? I’ve set a God-sized goal, and only God knows how it will be accomplished. If you want to commit to praying for me throughout this journey, please subscribe to the Hope, Love, Run blog- I’ll be posting a specific prayer request with each blog entry. Many thanks for your love and support, y’all. Blessings!

On Rejection

“Embrace the nervousness, and let’s do it anyway ’cause all the good stuff in life happens on the other side of fear. Why are we avoiding these challenges? Let’s just go for it, let’s change lives in the process.” -John Wesley Huddle

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If you’ve ever gone by yourself to totally unfamiliar place, the look on my face in this picture may bring back some memories. I had just sat down at a table with people I didn’t know (yet) in a room full of excitement and smiles, and my skin was crawling with anxiety. Frankly, most of me didn’t want to be there- I was plumb out of hope, a sentiment my cat and my couch understood well.

This is my “What in the world did I get myself into?” and “You people are seriously nuts!” face.

Over the past three years I’ve learned many of the faces that fill the rooms at Team World Vision gatherings, yet I find myself making the same face and thinking the same thought: what did I get myself into? I’m slowly beginning to see the ways in which I’ve been holding myself back, refusing to give all I have to offer and make my heart vulnerable to accept the invitations of my teammates to be in each other’s lives. As much as I want to dissect myself and find past events upon which I can foist the blame for my behavior, I know that at the roots of each story is a common theme: I am living out of the worry that I will be rejected. When I committed to advocate for kids who are without clean, safe water I had no idea that this worry would be challenged and confronted at every turn.

Last season, most of the donations made for clean water through my Team World Vision page came about because of my social media posts and a few emails. I am so thankful for the generosity of these clean water partners! Lately, I can’t stop thinking about all the people who were and are waiting for me to ask them- specifically, personally, directly. Using only social media to invite people to participate in the mission of providing clean water is the easiest way for ME to participate- I can indulge my fear of rejection by cloaking myself in the relative anonymity and distance of digital communication.

This season, there is one word on my heart and mind: RISK. I am taking the risk of committing to training and putting my heart on the line to bring clean water to kids in Africa. Today I saw this awesome video of my TWV Los Angeles teammate, John Wesley Huddle:

Provide clean water for kids in Africa through Team World Vision by clicking here.

In the Beginning

While I’d been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety long beforehand, the experience of losing so many loved dearly beloved people in a short period of time altered my life trajectory in a radical way. I found myself feeling a desperation and grief unlike anything else I’ve ever known- so I called it “The Hole.”

If you had asked me five years ago if I though I would be on the cusp of my third training season with Team World Vision, running to bring clean water to kids and families throughout Africa, I would have laughed in your face. Five years ago, I was about nine months away from a tragedy that would change my life forever. On Christmas Eve 2012, my friend and mentor was shot and killed while working as a police officer; within a month, I lost three more loved ones. While I’d been diagnosed with clinical depression and generalized anxiety long beforehand, the experience of losing so many loved dearly beloved people in a short period of time altered my life trajectory in a radical way. I found myself feeling a desperation and grief unlike anything else I’ve ever known- so I called it “The Hole.” Continue reading “In the Beginning”