Every week I look forward to "Writing Day Friday". I think because it feels like an opportunity to make something beautiful, and after an especially strenuous week I find myself extra hungry for beauty. This week I am coming off of a Fashion Week outreach which, as always, is a glorious combination of total excitement and complete exhaustion. In Alcoholics Anonymous they have this thing called "H.A.L.T." which stands for "Hungry. Angry. Lonely. Tired." AA warns that if you find yourself feeling any of those things then you need to halt and use caution, because you will be more likely to be tempted towards bad decisions... which for the alcoholic is obviously drinking.
Shaun and I use "HALT" too. Whenever I am in the type of mood where my mind and emotions feel mushy like oatmeal and all I want to do is dissolve into the floor and stay there until next year, Shaun usually asks me if I'm feeling "Hungryangrylonelytired". Because for us it has become a one word thing. Sometimes we say it jokingly, sometimes for real, and this week has been a "Hungyangrylonelytired" week... for real.
I have this thing where every night I lay in bed and daydream about escaping. I don't know if that is right or wrong but I appreciate the comfort it brings me as I drift into sleep. I picture myself living in a home instead of a church. I picture shiny white walls and vases of lush pink flowers. There are pretty paintings and a big chandelier and happy photos on the walls. I imagine a fun family and fun guests coming for dinner and I imagine that after dinner we all go for a walk. Some nights we walk to the beach, other nights we walk to an ice cream shop. I imagine having a tidy home in a beautiful location that smells good and feels good and looks good in photos.
Unfortunately waking up from sleep is slightly less comforting. When my eyes open I still live in a room at a church. My walls aren't white and my vases are empty most of the time because we travel too often for flowers to fully be enjoyed. The family in my home is made up of me and Shaun and anyone else who happens to be residing on the church floor at the time. Our meals are typically eaten on the go or at the Youth With a Mission campus and we don't go for walks after dinner because my skater husband would rather roll than walk, and because if I'm honest I'm usually lacking the motivation to face the traffic near our church. I think it's safe to walk where we live, but I prefer to do it when there aren't speeding LA drivers racing to get home from work. My room is rarely tidy and if we were birds then our room would be less like a nest and more like a branch that we stand on in the evenings to relieve us from the wing-flapping of everyday life.
Most days I really do like our home in the church and I really do like our life. I normally genuinely enjoy being the gypsy couple who travels often and has the gift of way too many friends. I also feel sincerely proud to have mastered the art of packing light because I remember how grueling that process used to be for me and it's not grueling anymore. But about once a month (hormones anyone?) I forget what I love about my life and all I can see are its apparent flaws. I want to see my wonderfully-hilarious-and-so-gorgeous husband but all I can smell are his yucky skate shoes. I want to see the adorable creativity in our almost entirely thrifted home decor, but all I can see is how cute my friend's houses are and how much I long for a space of our own. I want to see how cool is it that we have experienced so much of the world, but all I can feel is the chaos of not knowing whether I'll be spending next week in LA or somewhere else... or what country we will be in next year.
If you are rolling your eyes at me I understand. Why would I complain when I have so much to be grateful for? But it's always like that, isn't it? Other people are always longing for the things we take for granted.
The thing is that I know too much about God to wallow in my discontentment for too long. I know too much about His mountain moving power and about His "I-called-you-by-name" personal love and about the way He left Heaven to meet us in the depths of our brokenness to offer us a way out. Even though I am somebody who is quick to talk about God... which may also have something to do with the fact that I am somebody who is quick to talk in general... when I am going through my "hungryangrylonelytired" weeks I find myself doing less talking and more listening. My mouth glues shut, my ears perk up and my weary eyes look to Heaven pleading silently for some resolve.
"Remind me of Truth Lord. Remind me of Joy. Remind me You are near. Remind me that the God who saved me from the weight of my sin, can also save me from the weight of this week's burdens. Remind me what I love about this life. Remind me what I love about you. Remind of me everything beautiful around me. "
I don't speak the words, but my heart aches them, and I know He hears.
Faith that is detached from everyday life has never been interesting to me. Having a relationship with a powerless God who only cares about my church attendance and whether or not I stay married is not interesting either. I have already let myself down enough in this life and I would prefer not to acknowledge that I'm letting the Maker of the universe down too. But "hungryangrylonelytired" weeks remind me that the God I follow is better and nearer and more interesting and powerful than I even have the capacity to understand. The posture of my heart this week has been a bent over one. Like I'm a little child trying to carry something heavy and I'm falling down under the weight of it. But just as a mother rushes to the aid of her little one in pain, Jesus, the God called "Emmanuel" meaning "God with us", desires to be our ever present help in time of need. (Psalm 46:1)
All I really probably needed this week was a nap, or a day to rest and regroup, but it's comforting to realize that even before that happens, I serve a God who can handle my funk. He understands me. The Bible says He even knows the number of hairs on my head. He knows my dreams and my desires and though they may not all come true exactly as I imagine, I can be certain that His plans for me are good and my future with Him is full of hope.
My life is not my own. I was handcrafted by a Maker who calls me to contentment. He calls me to it regardless of my circumstances because He has made a way for it in Himself. Last night I asked my younger sister if she had advice for a "hypothetical person" struggling with "hypothetical discontentment" and without hesitation she gave me great advice broken down into 4 steps. Better even was that she spoke them compassionately, as a fellow struggler, which is my favorite type of advice-giver.
She said that her first step and last step are the same, be Grateful. She said it is most important to be thankful because usually being discontent is tangled up in being ungrateful, and God says in the Psalms that "we enter His gates with thanksgiving," which means gratitude is a sure way to enter the presence of God.
Next she said we need to assess why we are feeling discontent. Are we "Hungryangrylonelytired"? Are we being lazy? Are we heartbroken and need someone to talk to about it? Are we doing something that we know is disappointing the heart of God (aka sin) that we need to turn from (aka repent of)? Meredith said it helps to reflect on how we are feeling because processing it helps us to see the real need and be able to meet that need specifically.
Thirdly she said we need to do everything we can practically do to make the situation better. She suggested things like talking to a friend, stopping the cycle of envy we may have developed when we look at other peoples' lives, getting offline for a week... or longer, going for a jog, changing up our diet, getting plugged into a church, and disconnecting from the people or places that are making the discontentment worse.
Finally she ended where she started. "I think we need to be grateful again," she said matter-of-factly after going through steps 1-3. "Gratitude is the opposite of discontentment. Gratitude invites contentment."
What a smart little sister. So now I am taking my smart little sister's advice and turning this "Hungryangrylonelytired week" into a week of "Everything is okay." I still dream of living in a home one day, but for now our sweet little room at the church is perfect and cute and I love it. I still dream of lots of other things too, but today I choose to focus on making what I already have better and more beautiful. Envy won't get the best of me. Neither will stress. I'll probably still take a nap, and I'll probably use tomorrow to rest and recover, but I hope more than anything that I will choose contentment over escape. Being right here is good, even if right here is not exactly how I wanted it, because everything I need is here and His grace is sufficient for me.
May we have eyes to see the beauty that is all around us.
"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:12