The Inner Voice

 

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had two separate experiences where I felt so anxious, and so out of control that I could hear a voice inside me trying to get my attention.

The first one had to do with a job posting. It was the perfect job for me. A cute little shop filled with cute little local made items. What a great way to get out there, meet people, earn a little extra money. I was nervous, but what was the harm in applying?

Except, in my heart I could tell something was not right about it. I was beset by anxiety. Finally on a Sunday afternoon I called a friend that I missed so much, A friend I consider a mentor. After confiding in her all my concerns, all the pros and cons I said, “I can’t tell if this is the Holy Spirit or if I’m just scared.”

“Jessie, your not ‘just scared’. I’ve seen you do scary things before. This is the Spirit. Think about it, your kids are going to be starting a new school. You being close by, and able to volunteer is way more important to them then the money for piano lessons.” It was so good to hear her say that. To have someone confirm to me that I should not ignore that inner voice.IMG_2625

The second experience happened not long after. Mid summer a friend of mine sent me the link to a new website for women. They were looking for writers. I applied kind of on a whim and then forgot about it. A while later I was contacted for an interview. The interview went well, I was accepted to their team and it felt good to know that I had their approval (approval, something I never seem to have enough of). What a great opportunity, another plank on my writing platform, a way to reach more readers. Then suddenly anxiety. Little warning flashes.

When I finally took a moment to think about it I realized I hadn’t really prayed about this opportunity. It looked so great I just jumped right in. Surely if it wasn’t right God would close the door, after all. But there were things about it that were eating away at me. A different friend this time, a friend who is also a writer. The same message I was getting from my mentor, “listen to your inner voice, there’s a reason you feel this way. Your not crazy.”

I hated backing out. I was worried about disappointing them, burning bridges, missing out. After I sent my resignation letter the founder contacted me, and instead of feeling like I had let them down I felt affirmed. We understand, they said, we love your voice, if you ever want to write for us, when the time is right, the invitation is open.

Listen to my inner voice. Over and over. My inner voice, something I’ve become so adept at ignoring. I’ve ignored it for so long I can’t tell the difference between it and simple nervousness. But I’m starting to hear it now.

I know why the job wouldn’t have been a good choice for us. I’m not sure why the writing gig wouldn’t be, but that’s the thing God DOES know. We took a huge leap of faith to move here. Our life is messy, and crazy and there’s a lot I need to work through emotionally. My kids need more of me, my husband needs more of me. There’s still only 24 hours in any day, and if I’m not careful I’ll fill those hours up with things that aren’t nurturing them or me. I have a book, a book that I believe in that I want to have published so bad, and I think God is protecting my time. Protecting it for the book, for my family and most of all for me.

As women we’ve been trained to ignore that voice, but it’s there for a reason, I’m going to start listening. 

 

What I’ve learned so far.

Another installment of what I’ve learned so far.

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Who’s Pancake house is this any way? Same Battle Creek diner coffee on our west coast location.

Having the washer and dryer on the main floor makes it slightly more likely that I’ll start the wash but no more likely that I’ll remember to finish it. Having a dishwasher is amazing but there are still ALWAYS dishes on the counter, WHAT THE WHY??

Fred Meyer and Meijer are not the same grocery store, even though they’re pronounced the same and are remarkably similar to each other (both huge with clothing, housewares, etc). Fred Meyer is the same as the jewelry store, however, which is confusing as I thought it was “our Fred Meijer” who had founded the chain of jewelry stores, which is where my engagement ring came from. What a strange world.

Like christmas trees, furniture looks smaller in the show room, and also IKEA couches are only slightly more comfortable to sit on then slabs of granite, though Brian can still fall asleep on it mid-sentence.

The thrift shops here really are great. Heather found like, five cute dresses, the store didn’t have that weird thrift smell, and I came home with an Agatha Christy box set!

In Seattle you get heat warnings on your phone when the temp might hit eighty along with cryptic warnings that you can still drown even if it’s hot out??? I think because the water is cold, but I grew up swimming in Lake Michigan and Huron. I mean it’s uncomfortable at first but once your legs go numb your golden.

If you seven year old discovers that Mt. Rainer is a volcano there’s no going back, and he will never tire of questions bordering on paranoia. Thanks a lot tour guide.

Finally, I have discovered that I am weirdly offended when people lump Michigan in with the mid-west. If anything Michigan is the west-east. When I hear mid-west I picture all corn fields and wheat fields and while Michigan does have a lot of that we also have tons of fruit, and world class vineyards and miles and miles of pristine shoreline. Not to mention more lighthouses then any other state in the union! It just seems weird to assume that that many people share a culture, as any one who’s been to both Detroit and the upper peninsula know Michigan is vast and diverse in her own way. My husband has pointed out that according to whoever’s-incharge of these things MI is technically mid-west but please if your around me lets call her what she is: A Great Lakes State.

Back In Seattle

I’m finally back in Seattle.

The three weeks with my family were lovely and flew by. I managed to get a bit of a tan, and some new clothes and spent loads of time with my nephews and niece and my sisters. I was excited to come back. Excited to (as I told my sister) “just get on with it already.” I felt ready to start our new life in earnest.

My youngest sister flew back with us. Her presence made it felt like an adventure. We worked like we were under a spell, and decorated the entire house while she was here. We hiked in the woods, and went to the sound. We visited the aquarium and took the ferry to Bainbridge. We even walked to a used book shop and a local coffee place both just up the road.

After the kids went to bed we watched nerdy TV together, and it really was a wonderful week.

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She left this morning, and with her all the excitement and joy left too. Despite having started this process months ago there was always something making it not seem real or permanent. First was the road trip across the country, seeing things for the first time. Then we were staying with other people without the kids and it felt like a vacation. Then I was off to Maryland for a long family visit. Finally my sister was here and I got to show her all the wonderful things that made me fall in love with the PNW to begin with.

But this morning it was real life. A life I don’t quite understand yet, in a house I’m not used to. Separated by an entire country from all of our family and most of our friends. I felt lost all day. Somehow my sister’s missing presence snapped the last tether I had. I Went grocery shopping (nothing will make you feel more alien then shopping in a new grocery store.), baked a cake, read a book in front of my fire. I even folded laundry, all in the hopes that it would make it feel real. That somehow those actions could anchor me to this new life.

Finally I went to words, to my keyboard and screen. Maybe here I’ll be reminded of why we came, and how it’s all going to be okay. 

Truth

I’ve come a long way since my childhood when meeting people was absolutely exhausting, and while I’d still consider myself an introvert I am pleasantly surprised that I really do enjoy meeting people. 

I find I’m most content right now when I am with people. hearing their stories listening to them talk about their lives. Riding with them and seeing what it is about Seattle they love. But after they’re gone and I’m alone I find myself overcome with all kinds of self-esteem issues. Things I thought I had long ago put behind me are suddenly rearing their ugly middle-school-heads. I’ll lay awake and think, “why did I say that?” “Why did I laugh so loud?” “What must they think of me?” I haven’t felt this insecure about my body and clothes since my twenties.

Here’s the thing, this is absolutely on me, and not on anyone here. Every body has been above and beyond nice to me. But, in Battle Creek I knew who I was, I knew how I fit, and I knew what was expected of me. Someday I’ll know those things here. In some ways I already feel them more then I did two weeks ago, but there’s still that niggling doubt.

I think the key is to know who speaks truth and who speaks lies. Truth will make us better, and build us up in love. Lies will only tear us down, make it harder for us to be the best person, the one God created us to be.

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Truth is, when the “Prime Timer” Bible Study group listened eagerly while Brian explained to them how they can help reach out to the children of our church. When they stood behind us and prayed over our family and ministry. Truth is, when we hung out with friends from church and played “Farkle” and I laughed harder then I had in a long time. Truth is, when other transplants drove us all over the city introducing us to amazing ice cream. Or when a family generously opened their house until ours was ready, no questions or restrictions.

The truth is, this is home and it is becoming home. And it’s love that makes it so. The love and grace we have for ourselves and that others have for us.

Closing

We closed on our house today. What a blessing, if it had dragged on much longer my stress levels would have surely gone up, and yet I feel surprisingly sad. I don’t feel like celebrating. Instead I feel that one more tie to home is gone. 

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It’s weird to imagine someone else putting their things in my cupboards, using the shower that I was forever trying to keep mildew from colonizing (may they have better luck then I). Their couches in my living room. Waving to my neighbors. I know, it’s not my house any more, but it was. It was mine for ten years. It’s where I brought my babies home, watched them take their first steps.

Today, I miss my boys (they’re with their grandparents) and Maddie and Jack. Babysitting them in the summers was often loud and always messy (twice the kids). But they would laugh and play and it reminded me of growing up with my cousins. We would all load into the van and listen to Elvis as we headed to the zoo, or the park. We’d play “Starts with.” “Or I’m thinking of something that…” The two younger kids weren’t very good at it yet, but I bet they would be this summer. When Beki would come to pick them up we’d have glasses of iced tea and chat. And I miss chatting.

I went for coffee and a stroll along the water with a lady from church yesterday. It was really nice. When I first met her I felt like she was the type of person I could really be friends with. I’m sure you know that feeling. But that’s the thing, right now it’s a lot of “could be’s” and “will be’s” I KNOW God wanted us to move here. I KNOW He is going to give us a good full life. But that kind of life takes time. I know what I left behind, I don’t yet know what’s ahead of me. And in that space is some excitement but also a lot of homesicknesses, and loneliness.

I like it best when it’s grey, and even better when it’s sunny.

Ranger and I have taken it into our heads to walk to the sound every day. It’s not too far, but by the time you go and walk the hills and come back it’s a very good workout. We take water, his collapsable dish and my journal.

I like the grey cloudy days, they’re moody and brooding. You can’t see the mountains shrouded in mist but you know they’re there. The breeze off the water is damp and there’s something quiet in the clouded gloom. A quiet that’s broken by the loud crows (for real, I have never seen so many crows before.) It’s the perfect environment for writing.IMG_2383

Of course I like the sunny days even better, when the mountains stand in glory and your breath catches in your throat. It doesn’t seem real. With the water sparkling blue and the clouds puffy white, it feels like a fairy tale world. Any moment Aslan may come running down the cliff face with centaurs and beasts behind him. That’s a good environment for writing too.

At the park that we walk too there’s a foot path that follows the cliff around the top. It has benches and the view from up there is wonderful. You feel as if you can see it all. That’s good for writing. But then if you go down to the waters edge there are all these logs washed up on shore smooth and bleached white. Down there you can hear the waves lapping on the shore and I love that sound. It’s so soothing and I feel like it’s ordering my thoughts, clearing space for ideas, medicine to my spirit. That’s good for imagining and imagining is good for writing.

In the midst of homesickness I feel awed that this is my home now. A place plucked from the pages of my imagination.

Sunday

We experienced our first Sunday here. I almost said “survive” but it wasn’t hard to survive at all, so that word isn’t right. It was lovely really. Meeting more people then I ever thought I could, worrying that I won’t remember their names (I know I won’t, I once forgot my own future husband’s name). I reached out to people, enjoyed getting to know them laughed. The service was lovely, they laid hands on us, which was very meaningful, they sang songs I knew that made me feel connected and songs I didn’t know which made my heart stir.

What a strange moment. To feel the presence of God, to know that this is His bride too. To be excited and happy and to also feel sadness and loss. Wondering how things were going back “home.” My mom told me that my oldest son cried when they went to church Saturday night. He said he liked the service but it made him miss Central.

Yeah, I know that feeling.

This morning the dog and I walked down to the sound. We found a bench high up where we could see the glittering water spread out below, the mountains rising out of the back and I thought about beauty and sadness. I’m happy to be here, excited even, but I also know that there is grief I need to face. Loss, a hurt that hasn’t healed completely. I’ll be exploring some of that here, taking you along on our journey through the last two years. Maybe some of you will understand, maybe it can help some of us to know we aren’t alone.

For now, I keep going back to the water. Waiting for God to speak to me. To whisper His healing over me. Kind of afraid to pick up my pen and really explore the dark corners. It was easier to bury it all in cardboard boxes and the rush of leaving. But there’s healing too, the way that the water washes a rock smooth. 

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Pho

Over the last couple of days I’ve learned some new things. For instance, it’s Puget Sound NOT Pugent sound. I always assumed there was an “n” in there.

Not only does the ocean not smell like Lake Michigan it also doesn’t smell how Yankee candle claims that “ocean breeze” smells. For shame Yankee candle, for shame.

Pho, this amazing, Vietnamese soup, which is really popular around here, is pronounced fah, like fah la lal la, la, la, la, la.

And finally, no matter how hard I try to say Oregon I am, apparently, saying it wrong. I think it’s more like or-i-gin? But honestly, I’m not sure. I think I’m saying it that way but I keep getting corrected.

There are other things that make me feel like I’m speaking a foreign language. I’ve never been good at directions, or road names. Up until very recently, I referred to one of the main roads in our city in Michigan as “Meijer’s road” meaning the road Meijer’s is on. I guess it’s also called B-drive, whatever. So, it’s no surprise, that today when Brian was asking our friend, Meghan, what the best way was to the mall, I felt like I was listening to two people speak a completely foreign language. There just isn’t any frame of reference for any place here in my brain.

It’s a little disconcerting. I got really lost once as a child, right after we had moved. That awful feeling has always stuck with me and being here where nothing is familiar keeps pinging that feeling in the back of my head. 

And yet, slowly, things are starting to feel familiar. I’m sure the way a foreigner feels when they start to recognize words and phrases. When we pass this one specific Starbucks I know that I’m close the road I’ll be living on. When we pass this other charming coffee shop I know we’re close to where we’re currently staying. And I’ve been on two walks where I returned home safe. And those two walks…magic… Even if the Puget Sound smells kelpy, it’s breathtaking. Way more wild looking then FL. Like the upper peninsula (where I spent most of my childhood) with its rocky shore and clear, cold water. There’s something about that water stretching into the distance that makes me feel awed and at home all at the same time. Like somehow these pine trees are connected to the ones of my childhood. The breeze feels the same too, and yet it’s more.

This morning I took Brian’s hand and I thought, “I can’t believe this is our home now.” Home, a living breathing thing, slowly I’m learning to speak its language.

 

Seattle

Here we are. We made it to Seattle our new home. Of course by Seattle I mean Shoreline and by “our new home” I mean the place, not the actual house we’ll live in, but isn’t ready until July, and by “we” I mean husband and I, as our kids are still across the country with grandparents.

Transition. Seemingly never ending. It will end. I hope, and for now, I’m trying to make the best of everything. Getting my feet under me, going out with people trying to make new connections.

Our first full day here I was overcome by severe homesickness. The pressure and speed and stress of moving having masked what I knew was coming. I know it’s still there too, grief. The natural emotional steps we have to take to get to a new stage in life, the steps we take to deal with loss.

In some ways now that we’re here it’s easier. The day to day pain of knowing I’ll miss these people in front of me, is gone, and there is an ease of not having the kids here right this moment. I’m sort of a little starting to recognize things (though not well). But I also know that eventually, I’ll have to face it, the loss of my old home. I’m planning on doing that here, as a series.

For now here’s what I’ve learned so far: Trader Joes is NOT Aldis. It’s much fancier but also much more expensive and there is less gf stuff. I’ll take more gf and cheaper any day. The Northwest is beautiful, smells like pine and the Sound is breathtaking. There are people here I really like, people I think I’ll be able to build community with. That’s a nice thought.

And finally, today I walked the dog by myself (and only got a little lost). Using a handwritten map. We made our way through footpaths and strange little, overgrown alleys and suddenly I was standing  next to a library on a hill overlooking the Puget Sound and I had to stop and marvel that this is the kind of place I’m living now. A place that is filled with magic, so long as I don’t let discouragement steal it from me.

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Changes

I’ve been very absent from here for a long time. It isn’t because I’ve given up on blogging. It’s because my life is in upheaval right now. There just isn’t actual time to blog, or sleep well, or do all the dishes… I came to a place where I had to put all of my writing on hold and it’s been really hard. These outlets are places where my soul and brain and fingers all get to meet. Knowing that this time of chaos isn’t forever is the only thing making it okay.

We’re moving. Across the country. And it all happened very fast. Some day soon after we’re settled into a new home with a new normal. I want to write a series on here about it. What lead to the change, and our journey through it, because it really has been a journey.

For now I’d like to say that moving is really hard. Even when you know without a doubt that it is God is behind it, it is still hard. People keep asking how I’m doing, how my children are doing, and as I think beyond the mess, and boxes and never ending list of things I just keep saying that, this part is hard. And there isn’t any way to make it less hard. Sometimes to get to something good we have to walk through something really difficult first.

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Every day I run across something: moments, friends, neighbors, sentiment, things that makes me want to stay. Makes me wonder if this is all worth it. And I can’t know the future. Can’t know when it will get easy again. But I do know that God doesn’t call without good things in store. Faith is the space between the now and the seeing what God had in store. It’s where we take a step and go on even when it’s breaking our hearts. I’m in that place now, and it’s bittersweet to be sure, but there is sweet. There is the closeness my husband and I are experiencing, feeling the love poured out over us by people who are sad to see us go, seeing my porch swing in it’s new place from my neighbors yard…

I’ll be back, and someday soon I’ll have a lot to share about this journey.