I Smiled Again

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It was a beautiful day. Perfect in many ways. Incredibly wonderful. My soul was refreshed and renewed. Jesus was more real than he’s been in months. I experienced life to the full and it took my breath away. I was alive.

Yesterday was the closest to a real day off I’ve had in six months. Sunday is my only day off, which is rarely, completely that, with all that goes on to make Sunday happen. And though I have no complaints about Sundays, I will say that I have learned that I need an occasional day to just be “off” instead of “on”.

Saturday was that day. Friday night, I left the phone on the kitchen counter, as for the first time in half a dozen months, I had no need to set an alarm. Nor did I need to receive any texts or calls during the night. All that could wait.

Though I woke up at 6 a.m., I didn’t get out of bed until much later. I read my Bible and had a relaxed prayer time with God. There was no hurry to anything on this day.

I wore comfy clothes and was just ordinary Rachel. As I was driving on the highway early that morning, a wild turkey bounced out of the sky or a tree, landed in the median, and scuttled across my lanes. He looked like a giant, feathery blob falling from the sky and I smiled. No grace there, just ordinary turkey. Just being the creature God made him to be.

It was going to be a good day.

I went to the vet clinic to get Joseph’s special food. And I was just ordinary Rachel. No one knew I was a vet tech. Just another girl getting food for her cat. It felt right and I loved blending in with everyone else.

From there, I went to the church office to do a bit of work for Sunday and next week. I was greeted by the smells of old building and fresh coffee. I breathed deeply of both, and for possibly the first time, I actually felt like I were coming home to something. Again, I was just Rachel. I was not “on”. I was just an ordinary volunteer, using the paper cutter and copier.

As the day went on, I began to become more of who I used to be—relaxed, calm, quiet, peaceful, and at ease in who I was. I worked for a couple hours in the afternoon—and enjoyed it. I really saw the colors in the button cookies and felt the flakiness of the apple Danish. Life was returning to my life.

The day ended with an evening walk by the lake. I was overwhelmed by all the good gifts from God present in that walk. He knows exactly what makes my heart sing and gave me Christmas in May. Like hundreds of dandelion seeds, he gently blew me his love. He kissed my broken heart and made me cry.

So much to experience and savor—bonfires, faces lit up by the fire’s glow, lilacs and other sweet-smelling flowers, rabbits in the shadows, ducks bobbing in the murky waters, whirlybirds under my feet, lights on the boats, fishermen by the shore, delicate wings and legs on water gnats.

There was music streaming from my earbuds, but the real song was in my heart. I was so grateful to be alive and feeling, smelling, touching all of this. Words flowed easily from my heart to my lips in thankfulness to Father God for all his good gifts. I felt incredibly loved. And I couldn’t stop smiling through my tears.

Before I had left that evening, Jesus spoke to my heart, “You will smile again.” And how right he was.

If he’d told me that six months ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed him. The past months I have been so broken, burned out, and sad—that I didn’t know if I’d ever have a smile that reached my heart and touched my eyes.

Yesterday, all that changed. I smiled again.

Burnout: Emergency Brakes Required

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I never thought I’d be here, and yet, here I am. Just one pull of the emergency breaks between a screeching stop in front of the edge of the cliff and a full-on, head-first fall over the same mountain. Sadly, I began to write about this topic in January (just never posted it), but have continued operating the car of my life at far too high of speeds. I have zipped through all sorts of yellow lights, seen some unusual warning signals on the dashboard, and heard shuddering alarms. Yet, I have pushed on and through.

Since last summer, I have been steadily creeping up to this place. But I didn’t round this final curve until December. And now, it’s just a few pebbles between earth and sky.

Burnout is not something I ever expected would happen to me. Or if it did, it would be glorious like the missionary quote about the candle burning completely out.

But rarely is there anything remotely beautiful and amazing about burning out or running on empty. In fact, I am willing to say that God doesn’t want your burned-out life. He doesn’t want you giving him fumes and fragments. He doesn’t need that from you. But even less than the pieces of your exhausted life, He has no need for the disposition that goes along with burnout.

So, what exactly is burnout (in case you haven’t experienced it yet)?

Burnout can present in any career or position. It is usually seen in people who are high-achievers and can’t or won’t admit they can’t do it all. In many ways, it can be likened to Compassion Fatigue—the name given to burnout seen in the medical/helping professions. Burnout is the pouring out of yourself into something until your dipper comes up empty from the well. It is usually the result of consuming yourself with something, at the expense of other aspects of your life.

Burnout is psychological in nature and refers to long-term exhaustion and a dramatic disinterest in the work that was once enjoyable. Sounds rather unemotional and detached, doesn’t it?

A good article on the signs and symptoms of burnout can be found here.

Burnout isn’t supposed to happen to young, single girls. That’s what I’d been telling myself, but it’s not true anymore. I recognize all the symptoms in myself and know it’s the end unless I go with God and make some radical adjustments.

Desperately, I want to love life and the people in it. Again. More. Better.

My heart is broken at what feels like weakness, failure, and incredible brokenness on my behalf. I am also deeply sorry I didn’t listen to God, to the warnings of people in my life, and the symptoms presenting in my physical body.

But it can’t be ignored and shoved away any longer. I feel the pains of what it is doing to me, and I am scared.

To all the people I love—I am sorry. I am sorry I wasn’t enough in myself. I’m sorry I can’t say “yes” to everything anymore. I am sorry for how this is going to affect some of you.

Jesus, I am sorry I didn’t listen to you sooner. I am sorry I took advantage of your protection and faithfulness and used these two things as an excuse to keep going. I am sorry.

To my dear people—I love you. Incredibly. More than you’ll probably ever know. Enough to say enough. I want to live but I am terribly afraid of what may happen if I don’t stop this car.

Elisabeth, Keren, and Deborah—thank you for loving me enough to tell me to be careful and make changes. Ker—thank you for telling me the story that has rattled my soul and really woke me up to this pending reality. You all are precious to my heart and oh, how I love you.

Stephen—I don’t know what ultimately took you away, but a great part of me says it had to do with being stretched far too thin.

To the other people in my life who mean the world to me—if you are reading this, I hope you know who you are. I love you from the deepest places of my heart.

I have some changes that have to happen. Right now. I want and need to be able to feel the beauty of life and Jesus again. And I love both far too much to continue on this path.

I trust my Father’s heart and know that none of this has surprised him. He loves me with a love that continues to take my breath away.

Dear ones, we have a Savior that doesn’t walk past our boats in a storm. Nor, does he just still the storm and keep on going. No! This God gets into our boats with us and stills our storms. This Jesus takes our hands, holds our hearts, and gives us himself. Let him hold you in his strong arms. Let him tell you to stop. And listen to him and love and respect him enough to do it.

Rest in his arms. Trust that he will be enough. Always enough.

Oh, my soul, how incredibly much he loves you!