Life to the Full

loneliness

Image by Ferran. via Flickr

Over the last few weeks months, I’ve been slipping into a depression.  With all the transitions and trials in my life, I rather expected the ever-looming dark cloud to pop up above my head & drench me in self-pity.  However, I’m quite acquainted with my gloomy shadow, and can usually kick it to the curb before I get too far into the pit of despair.  But, this cloud has lingered, and its shadow has darkened the goals I set for myself during this sabbatical from ministry.

I lived 15 years with a full plate…and now that that plate has been scrubbed clean and stored in a cabinet, I don’t know what to do with myself.

Overall, the transition has been refreshing.  I feel little stress and NO pressures to perform perfectly.  There’s no rushing around from one commitment to the next.  I do what I want, when I want, and how I wantand it feels good!

However, accompanied with these new luxuries of time and freedom comes boredom and loneliness.

I’m not surrounded with the abundance of friendships that used to envelope me weekly.  Phone calls & texts have stopped.  Facebook messages & comments have significantly decreased.  Invitations to dinners, parties, and game nights have ceased.  I know I still mean something to these friends, but it’s difficult to be on the outside.

And, because I’m not invited anywhere or involved in anything, I’ve got nothing to to do.  I’m bored.  Except for the occasional, once-a-month weekend activity, I do nothing but come home from work, get on the computer, cook dinner, get back on the computer, watch a movie, read a little bit, and then go to bed.  It was nice for a while.  But now it’s tedious and making me lazy…and when people only idle about, they become overwhelmed with feelings of uselessness…which leads to depression.

I’m not excusing my depression.  I’m quite aware that it’s unacceptable…and I’m working on it.  I’ve opened up with Josh and a few friends (and now to the world), and am making steps to lift myself back up.  I don’t expect it to be a quick process, but that’s why it’s called a process…it takes time to figure out solutions and implement them.

One of those friends who knows what I’ve been going through, sent me the following poem.  It has been a huge encouragement and is exactly what I needed to hear.  For so long I’ve lived a full life…but it’s time I figure out what it means to “live life to the full.”

For years I lived full.
Full schedule.
Full plate.
Full speed ahead.

I found myself weary, wondering,
“Is this really how it’s supposed to be?”
And then it seemed God asked me to learn to live differently.
To focus on love.
To make time to listen to His voice.
To embrace what He’s called me to do and let all else drop away.
“Isn’t that what I’ve already been doing?” I asked.”Don’t you want me to be busy, to push myself to the limit?”It seemed the heart of heaven smiled and these grace-words drifted into my day. “Daughter, I did not come to give you a full life. I came to give you life to the full.”
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

–by Holley Gerth

New Beginnings

Tomorrow, I will begin several new chapters of my life:

Chapter: Baby Steps Toward Baby Steps

Over the last year I have written openly about the infertility struggles that Josh and I have faced.  In January, we had our first medical procedure and have had follow-ups with the doctor every 3 months.  Last week, we received the results of our 6 month post-surgery tests…(drum roll, please)…the procedure worked and we are now cleared to pursue the next stage in fertility treatment!! I go to the doctor tomorrow to discuss in more detail what exactly our next steps will be.  Prayerfully, we hope to have a baby by this time next year.

Chapter:  Sabbath Year

Since high school, I have been involved in some type of ministry leadership role.  Whether leading bible studies, youth small groups, or doing mission work, I have kept my schedule completely full without much of a break.

I love doing ministry –  the relationships I make, the accountability aspect, the joy in seeing lives changed  – it’s a passion of mine.

But over the last year or so, I’ve felt God telling me to stop it all.  To just lay down my busyness and my need to be “doing”, and just rest in Him.  It’s time for me to reconnect with God, get re-focused, and rediscover the calling HE has for me.  There are several areas of my life that I feel I need to focus on during this year of rest; I’ll share those with you later on.

But, as of today, I no longer have any ministry leadership responsibilities.  NONE. ZIP. ZILCH.  Of course, I’ll still be involved in church and ministry, but only as a participant, not as a leader.

Speaking of church…

Chapter: Looking for a New Home

Today was my last day with the church I’ve been serving with since returning from Ukraine 2 years ago.

Most of the people at the church do not yet know that Josh and I have left (until just now, when they read this post…for my friends who are just learning this, I’m sorry you are hearing it this way.  But know that Josh and I love you, and just because we are leaving the church does not mean that we are leaving behind our friendships).

I cannot and will not go into the details surrounding why we left, but, for personal reasons, Josh and I, together, decided it’s time for us to go.  It’s been a very difficult week of talking to my Bible study women, my mission team, and some of the very close friends I’ve made at the church.  I know our leaving will be met with confusion and questions, and that saddens me…but, above all, I know that God has us all in His hands.

The B/S Chronicles: Coffee

We grew up together; now we blog together. In the B/S Chronicles you’ll get to experience viewpoints from a brother/sister team…who may or may not always see things eye-to-eye.

The B/S Chronicles: Coffee

Robust flavors. Energizing aromas. Revitalizing caffeine kicks. – Coffee stimulates all the senses, resulting in a euphoric state of bliss.

For most of my life I avoided coffee, finding it bitter with a lingering aftertaste that left my breath tasting and smelling like a bag of rotting potatoes.  Occasionally I chose to subject myself to the torture all for the sake of friends because it wasn’t about the coffee…it was about the conversations and friendship.

I didn’t really start drinking coffee regularly until I lived in Ukraine.  As I started to make friends I realized a recurring pattern…they all wanted to meet over coffee.  Small, standing-room-only coffeeshops could be found on practically every corner, and they were always packed with people. Often, my new friends would call and explain that they had 30 minutes of free time between jobs or before their bus would arrive; would I like to meet at the corner coffee shop?

30 minutes to spare…and they wanted that time with a friend.  I often think about those moments, how special they were to me.

I miss them.

Although in America we’d rather spend 30 minutes of free time alone or at home, and seem to plan out our coffeeshop gatherings in advance, we still get to enjoy the results of sipping a hot cup of joe with a friend…and, if that’s what it takes to grow a friendship…then I’ll take mine in Venti size with extra whip cream!

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What does Jeremy think about coffee?  Click Here to find out.

Next B/S Chronicles topic:  Discipline



The B/S Chronicles: Sibling Rivalry

We grew up together; now we blog together.  In the B/S Chronicles you’ll get to experience viewpoints from a brother/sister team…who may or may not always see things eye-to-eye. 

The B/S Chronicles:  Sibling Rivalry

I admit it.  I have been spoiled all. my. life.

But I can’t help that I was born the only girl between two brothers.  I also did not choose to be the first granddaughter on my mother’s side of the family.  So, naturally, you can see why I was spoiled.  Grandmothers and Mothers love dressing up their little girls and Daddies shower their princesses with sweet pleasantries.   It happens….so, brother, GET OVER IT!

Actually, when it comes to competition and rivalry – whether vying for attention or differing life viewpoints – Jeremy, my younger brother, and I remain fairly civil and equal.   We definitely do not agree on certain issues, but the key is that we don’t let them come between us.  We either talk them out, or we just keep silent and deal with it on our own…a.k.a. forgive and move on.  My older brother, Michael, is quite a bit older…so by the time I had grown to develop my own ideas and ways of doing things, he was already out of the house.  We, too, do not agree on many things…actually i’d say we disagree more than agree…but we have matured and learned to not let disagreements interfere with our relationship.

Growing up, things were much different between me and Jeremy.  For starters, we lived under the same roof, had to share the same toys, and fought over one-on-one time with our parents.  Like most children who do not know how to properly express their emotions, we had moments of explosive “disagreements”.  Often, the house resembled more of a boxing ring than a comfortable home.  And…there was even that one time where I chased him around the house with a butcher knife. (I wasn’t going to hurt him…promise.)

I clearly remember when it all changed.  It was a normal day in our household…full of screams and hurtful words.  It escalated quickly and ended with slamming doors and tears.  We were then in our teenage  years, and we both had had enough.  When all calmed, I remember sitting down with him and just talking.  TALKING.  No accusations.  No shouting.  No flying fists.

We expressed our hurts, our frustrations.  We admitted our wrongs and made amends.  But then we did something very wise beyond normal teenage thinking…we made a plan to end all the strife.  We wanted a home and a relationship built on friendship and respect.  Home had become a house of stress, but we were ready to turn it into a refuge of peace.  

Of course we didn’t achieve that peace 100% of the time…but life was drastically different in the Wheeler household after that.  Even as our family struggled over the years in different ways, Jeremy and I pursued to make our home one that pleased God.  Together, we exchanged ideas, watched movies, attended church, did mission work…and most importantly we studied Scripture and prayed together.  I had best friends, but Jeremy was the best of them all…and, today (other than my husband) he still is.

Read:  Sibling Rivalry – Brother’s perspective.  Click Here to read His Side.

Reach Out Day 3: Jonathan’s Place

In 2008, in Dallas County alone, there were over 5,000 children removed from their families and placed in foster homes or facilities*.  These children, ages newborn to 17, have faced abuse of all kinds, neglect, and abandonment.  Under the Family Protective Services, both children and parents are held to high standards and must meet specific requirements in order for the family to be restored.  Until the children can be returned to the parents, many remain in a group home, institution, or foster home.

One such Children’s Shelter is Jonathan’s Place,  “a ‘home-style’ emergency shelter for abused, abandoned, and neglected children.” Currently they only have about10 children, but numbers change almost daily as children either return home or get moved to a foster home and new ones come in.  Most days, especially in the summer, the children remain at the shelter and do not get to venture outside the walls much.  Although the facility is very nice (& expanding with renovations), the children long to get out & have some fun.

Yesterday we gave them an opportunity to get out by hosting a picnic/grill out at a local park.  About 40 of us gathered together, ate hot dogs, and played some kickball.  Our purpose was not to try to “save” them or counsel them with Scripture; we simply wanted to show God’s love through our friendship and acceptance.  The children from the shelter seemed to feel comfortable with us, and overall we all had a great time.

The cookout was the start of a partnership with Jonathan’s Place.  From here on, we’ll be providing dinner and activities once a month.  I anticipate that we’ll get to build better relationships with the kids and a chance to speak Jeremiah 29:11 into their lives:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

*taken from the Dallas Family Protective Services 2008 data book.

To Hungary or Bust

Lori needed to go into Hungary to wire some money to the States, stopping at Tesco and McDonalds as well. Tesco is much like walmart – low pr lefices, lots of selection – more options that what we have in Ukraine. McDonalds because it’s just fast and a small taste of America.

I tagged along with her – as the idea of eating something other than potatoes, carrots, and onions sounded well worth the 2 hour drive. I don’t really like McDonalds, but I have not eaten beef in over a month, so a hamburger was sounding pretty good. Overall, though, I really just wanted the chance to hang out with a good friend.

The Ukrainian/Hungarian border was a breeze to get through. No hassles. The weather was nice, despite a little bit of rain. And, overall, it was a pleasant drive. We talked about life in Ukraine, life in the States, and God in our lives.

t the day feeling refreshed and spiritually encouraged.

After about 2 hours of driving, we came to destination in Hungary (I can’t remember the name – probably couldnt’ spell it anyways). As we drove past Tesco, our stomachs twisted – there were NO cars in the parking lot!! What? Looking around we noticed that ALL business were closed. It was a holiday – part of their Easter celebrations. So – No bank, no Tesco. But…you can always count on McDonalds…

After a messy big mac, hot, salty french fries, and a coca-cola, we spent a little time walking around the square and then headed back home. Although we weren’t able to accomplish the goals we set out for, I still returned home feeling refreshed and spiritually & emotionally encouraged.

(Click on the picture to a larger view)

The Valley of Narcissi

Every year, for only about 3 weeks, wild Narcissi flowers bloom outside a small town in Western Ukraine. Thousands of people from Ukraine and surrounding countries make the journey to “The Valley of Narcissi” to take in this beautiful site. Some of the interesting things about this Valley and the flowers:

  • the valley is the biggest habitat of the narrow-leaved narcissus and is situated only at two hundred meters above the sea level, which makes it the lowest known place where such narcissi grow. Mostly, this species of narcissus — out of 30,000 known species — grows very high in the mountains
  • Narcissi gets its name from the Greek mythology of Narcissus (short version: the beautiful man who, when seeing his reflection in the water, fell in love with himself. He could not get himself to leave his reflection, so he stayed on the river’s edge until he died there. His body then transformed into the Narcissus).
  • In the medieval times, narcissi were used in making love potions; its fragrance was believed to inspire love of beauty and bring peace of heart.
  • It has been written about in poetry, and is today celebrated with its own festivals in many countries throughout the world.
  • They are in the same family as the daffodil

If you want to read the detailed history and facts about this valley and the flower, you can click HERE (which is where I got my information).

Josh and I were among hundreds of people that visited the Valley on Sunday. Friends invited us along, and since we really haven’t had the chance to venture out, we jumped on the chance. The hour drive was enjoyable, almost more than the actual valley – as we drove over lush green mountains, past shimmering lakes, and through quaint villages. We realized we were getting close to the valley when we hit a traffic jam (one day I will have to write a post only about the driving here!). After parking on a cow pasture (see picture below) and walking through a labrynth of cars and people, we made our way to the entrance and then on to another long walk to the fields of flowers. There’s only so much you can do in a valley of wild flowers, so after about an hour of walking around and taking lots of pretty pictures, we headed on out. On our drive home, we decided to stop for a relaxing picnic by a river. the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Friends Natasha and Ivan

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