gratitude.

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It is inching nearer to 4am and my alarm will ring in 4 short hours, but here I am.  Whether it is an early evening iced tea or God wanting my attention, I do not know, but I do know that He will have to provide extra strength for the day tomorrow.

In my hours of waiting for sleep to come in the wee hours of the morning I have been reading through Oprah Winfrey’s 2014 book entitled¬†What I Know For Sure. ¬†I expected to read 10-20 pages and then set it aside for the night, letting my heavy eyelids win this match, but sleep will not come and so I am now 100 pages into a book that is already shaping some of the outer edges of my heart.

Each page is filled with wisdom, with each turn a sentence or two making waves in my soul in an unexpected and glorious way. ¬†She is convicting me and encouraging me and, in the spirit of Bren√© Brown (I see now why they are friends), helping me to remember that holding shame is the “greatest burden of all. ¬†When you have nothing to be ashamed of, when you know who you are and what you stand for, you stand in wisdom.”

She also speaks of the practice of gratitude, specifically noting that after years of maintaining a habit of writing down five gratitudes per night, a break allowed her to lose the ability to look for as detailed of blessings throughout each of her days.  The practice of writing each night changed how she lived each day, what she experienced as her life moved along.

As mentioned, this was a particularly rough year for me. ¬†There have been many things beyond my control, and surely some things in my control, that just crumbled. ¬†There have been losses, collapses, and times of desolation. ¬†Through all of this it has been a point of mine to look for the blessings. ¬†I never did that with an intent to gloss over the hardships, but instead to see the care and love of God through hardships. ¬†Some days it has been easier than others, but nevertheless it’s remained a goal.

And so:

I hope to begin creating a habit. ¬†I want to seek out the gratitudes. ¬†Though my heart is plagued with anxiety these past days, I have also been more stable in who I know myself to be, and so I would like to look through my days, “name and claim” the blessings that God has given me, and allow the anxieties to pass. ¬†Because ultimately I am under his wing, he is the protector of my heart, and he is the one who remains the same.

With that said, today I am grateful for:

> Getting an outside glimpse at what I have so that I am able to value it. <

A friend in from out of town brought a fresh pair of eyes and a thirsty heart to our community this week and it has been a refreshing reminder of the very different and special blessing that I have in community. ¬†Not all regions have people who seek each others’ hearts well, who want to mature together, who jump into the deep end in conversations without the need to wade through the shallow end first. ¬†I am thankful for friends who have hearts that match mine.

> Snapshot moments <

Several times lately I have been able to enjoy¬†a particular viewpoint looking in from the outside of a moment that I am a part of. ¬†Whether it’s during a quick stepping away to refill a drink or use the restroom, I turn back toward what is going on and pause to just take in the sight. ¬†Friends gathered around tables, kitchen counters, living room couches….I look and see faces a-glow, spirits engaged, and laugher and joy twinkling from eyes and mouths. ¬†I am thankful for friends who love, who seek, who sing, who rejoice, who pause, who pray, who embrace. ¬†Each action is a gift. ¬†Each is a dignifying moment. ¬†Each is a window into the heart and mind.

> Rest <

This week especially has been a gift in rest (although as I’m typing at 4am, perhaps not today). ¬†Being immensely blessed with the ability to work from home has allowed me to take it easy after a season of perpetual motion. ¬†I never stopped moving this past year, both figuratively and literally. ¬†God sees all and knows all and has graciously allowed me to be a part of an organization that doesn’t micromanage or over-boss but trusts it’s employees as the professionals we are, knowing I will complete my work and do it well, whether it’s from an office desk or my living room coffee table. ¬†My heart is healing, one PJ-clad work day at a time.

> Reading <

I am ahead of schedule of my 60 book goal this year. ¬†The books that I have consumed so far have changed me. ¬†Oprah says in her book that “Reading opens you up. ¬†It exposes you and gives you access to anything your mind can hold.” ¬†She continues, “It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. ¬†And keep climbing.” ¬†This has been true for me, especially in these most recent weeks. ¬†What a gift.

> Breeze <

There is something healing to the soul about a springtime breeze blowing through an open apartment.

Needless to say, God has blessed me today. ¬†I want to keep looking for blessings each day that goes by. ¬†I hope I will continue to share them here. ¬†There are other blessings from today that I don’t even have words to explain now. ¬†I hope I will someday soon.

 

 

 

 

 

complete.

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i am a hypocrite.

i have spent 10 years pursuing a career in counseling.  i spent 4 years getting a b.a. in psychology, 3 years getting an m.a. in counseling, and 3 years completing licensure requirements in the state of missouri.  i have gone through over 64 credit hours of masters level courses, nearly 1000 hours of internship practicum seeing clients and preparing case notes, and over 3000 hours post-graduation seeing even more clients and receiving supervision.

i’ve devoted my life to the idea¬†that counseling has a beneficial and lasting effect on people…

but i never really believed counseling worked for me.

 

in 2011, as a brand-spanking-new seminary student, i arrived at covenant and was informed that sometime in the next 3 years of my program i would need to attend 12 sessions of personal counseling in order to graduate. ¬†besides being a fantastic idea (why should someone be able to become a counselor without ever experiencing counseling?) this was an intimidating concept. ¬†sure, counseling would be a great experience for so many of my peers…but i just didn’t have that much to work on. ¬†i’d led a good life. ¬†i’d had a good family. ¬†my childhood was idyllic. ¬†however, i thought, i don’t know why i would put this off until the end. ¬†i might as well get this thing over with while i’m new here and learning how to transition to a new state and a new phase of life. ¬†that day i called the counseling center and signed up to see an intern on campus (because it was free and i wasn’t going to pay for something i didn’t really believe in, nor believe that i needed).

i had no idea the journey i was about to embark on.

today, over 5 1/2 years later, i look back to that moment i first walked into the counseling room across from my feisty italian ninja warrior counselor. ¬†she immediately was a safe person for me. ¬†i told her pieces of my story that i was ashamed of and she comforted me. ¬†i told her things i was proud of and she cheered me on. ¬†and i told her all of the ways my life had been wonderful up until that very moment…and she began to unravel them. ¬†she took my blind acceptance of my life and helped me to see the pieces that i could be thankful for and helped me to work through the pieces that needed healing. ¬†she high kicked the shitty stories and the abuses and the maladaptive behaviors, and she cradled the loving stories and the caring family and the small milestone moments when i told myself i mattered.

through a very rocky 4 year journey she was the loudest voice in my head telling me that i was enough, that i was worth it, and let me tell you i wasn’t about to blindly accept that encouragement. ¬†i fought back. ¬†i wasn’t ready to¬†accept her message of worth and value. ¬†but week by week she took my stories of heartbreak and pain and helped me to fight for myself in those stories. ¬†she taught me how to punch lies in the gut and deliver a solid roundhouse kick straight to the devil’s face when he came for me. ¬†she fought for me in a way i never knew how to fight for myself and week after week (for¬†the 12 weeks i was required to be there and probably 150 weeks after that) she began to reprogram the way i saw myself. ¬†she helped me untwist my twisted theology and psychology and sociology and helped me to make sense of the jumbled mess in my brain.

when she finished licensure, changed work places, and i couldn’t afford her anymore, i took a break and then started seeing someone else. ¬†though the new counselor was an adequate¬†person to bounce things off of and helped me not feel crazy in the midst of a crazy season, she was no therapy ninja. ¬†i’ve spent a lot of time over the last 5 1/2 years being thankful for my first counselor and how she worked with me tirelessly to fight the voices of the demons of self-consiousness, low self-worth, and depression.

but still, i wasn’t sure if i believed in counseling. ¬†sure, she helped me. ¬†but i still let the other voices creep in. ¬†voices that said if only i lost 50 lbs then maybe someone would be interested in dating/marrying me. ¬†the voices that said if only i could stop having such unreasonably high standards for friendships then maybe people would want to pursue me back, or maybe even the voices that said it was ridiculous to expect pursuit. ¬†the voices that said that in the end i’m just a tiresome person who wants constant communication and companionship and all the complicated facets of a complicated relationship. i felt like i was too much, like i never would find satisfaction or the fulfillment of my desires, that i would forever be lonely and alone.

but then last week i woke up and it was like the ground shifted beneath my feet. ¬†all of the pieces that had been floating around in the air since that first day of counseling 5 1/2 years ago locked into a new pattern. ¬†the ways i’d been practicing self-love and self-acceptance over those years finally began to mix with the love and acceptance i’ve been lucky enough to receive¬†these recent months in¬†newly close friendships. ¬†the messages i’ve been surrounding myself with of body positivity and the worth of all races and cultures meshed together. ¬†my continued scattered prayers of “Lord, help me to see myself through your eyes” began to become reality. ¬†my time spent unequivocally seeing and naming the beauty and worth and purity of my sweet nieces for the past few years became something i saw in myself too. ¬†all the pieces came together.

and now here i am. ¬†i am jill ellen. ¬†i am enough. ¬†i am loved. ¬†i am worthy of being desired. i have worth. ¬†i have allure. ¬†i am full of beauty. ¬†i am fierce. ¬†i am a protector. ¬†i seek truth. ¬†i pursue justice. ¬†i am a warrior. ¬†i am all the things i’ve ever wanted to be.

if i am lucky enough to get to be married, i am all of the things that i want that man to want in a woman.

and though there is always growth to be had, though i will always strive for change and maturity and healing and newness and stretching and correction and humility, though i will always seek to grow closer to Jesus…

i can now say for the first time…

i am complete.

the year of the owl.

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nearly ten years ago i was a student in college, living nine hours from my country home. ¬†i had left a community of people who knew me like a relative, and largely considered me so. i searched for any way to remain connected in a meaningful way to that place, those people, and let me just tell you, that can result in quite the internet spiral. ¬†through my searching i discovered a blog that my friend caron was a part of, a group blog with several of her closest friends called whocares. ¬†over the years i grew to rely on that blog. ¬†they probably didn’t know i was reading it, but it kept me connected to home and it kept me interested.

eventually i began to feel like i knew her friends, and i took an interest in their personal blogs as well (i promise that i’m not really a stalker). ¬†after christmas one year, a friend of caron’s posted a blog about how she approached new year’s day. ¬†rather than spending time setting and failing at new year’s resolutions, she had developed a habit of “naming your year.” in a much more positive way, naming your year allows you to hope, dream, create space for anything to happen.

i was very inspired by her idea and for the last six years i have named my year, with the hope that keeping a word or theme in mind throughout the year, making decisions with that theme in mind, would allow my life to be transformed by intention.  many years i have looked back over the previous 365 days and been surprised by the ways in which my word or phrase has truly applied to the events.  sometimes it is harder to see than others, but the challenge is part of the experience.

2017 is no different than any other year. ¬†i arrived at the end of last year full of resolve to be different. ¬†i was very aware of the ways in which i had failed myself, they ways in which i’d set myself up to be failed by others. ¬†i felt the need entering in to 2017 to lean back, to stabilize, and to wait.

so, 2017 is the year of the owl.  owls are known as seers of souls, the keepers of sacred knowledge.  they are known as symbols of wisdom, strategy, foresight, discretion, intuition, truth, patience, and empathy.  they are silent and fierce.

owls are protectors. ¬†they are watchful. ¬†you can see an owl in flight, but far more often they are seen settled on a branch, patiently watching and waiting and observing all that goes on around them. ¬†one of their ears is higher than the other, allowing them to have perfect stereo hearing, what is sometimes called “second sight.” ¬†this can symbolically represent the idea of being able to hear what is really being said despite the words and emotions coming from the messenger.

with all of these characteristics, then, owls cannot be deceived, and remind us to be true to ourselves, our voice, and our vision.  they are perceived as fierce defenders of truth and honor.

as i go throughout this 30th year of my life, i hope to see characteristics of this wise and lovely animal in my mannerisms and actions, how i situate myself in life, and how i interact with others. ¬†years past have pushed me to be “sassy and fabulous,” “brave” and “fierce” which were necessary lessons at the time. ¬†something must push you out of your self-consciousness at some point in your life. ¬†but with all that pursuit and leaning into and tenacity, i have become exhausted. ¬†pursuit is exhausting. ¬†i’ve spent the last….well what seems like forever…pursuing something. ¬†pursuing stability. ¬†pursuing professional development and achievement. ¬†pursuing licensure. ¬†pursuing experience. ¬†pursuing relationship. ¬†pursuing a way to feel confident in my life.

but guess what? ¬†i’m tired of pursuit.

i’m ready to sit back and see what pursues me. ¬†i’m ready to settle on my branch, observe life, participate in what comes toward me and use all of my senses to pay attention to the underlying message. ¬†i want to be a fierce defender of truth and honor. ¬†i want to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves, and i want to pursue people who pursue me back. ¬†it’s time to settle into my intuition, my empathy, my discretion, and take some time for my heart to heal a bit.

this is the year of the owl.

 

 

#blacklivesmatter

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Madame Manec: ‚ÄúThen help us.‚ÄĚ
Etienne: ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt want to make trouble, Madame.‚ÄĚ
Madame Manec: ‚ÄúIsn‚Äôt doing nothing a kind of troublemaking?‚ÄĚ
Etienne: ‚ÄúDoing nothing is doing nothing.‚ÄĚ
Madame Manec: ‚ÄúDoing nothing is as good as collaborating.‚ÄĚ

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Ch. 10

15 before 30: an update

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1)  Go to Greece with Katie

  • still in process. ¬†still a dream. ¬†still before 30??

2) Eating a whole heart shaped pizza each with Katie on Valentines Day.

  • turns out my body doesn’t want me to do this every year before i’m 30. ¬†so i will edit it to say that we will celebrate galentine’s day every year in some fanstastic way.

3) ¬†Have an official, hopefully longterm, hopefully on our way to being engaged boyfriend. ¬†Let’s be honest, I’d rather get married by 30. ¬†But I’m shooting low on this one, since it seems to take me about 8x as long as everyone else to get to different stages. ¬†(jk…kind of)

  • ok i mean….still a goal, OBVI, but i basically have no control over this.

4)  Finish my Masters.

  • CHECK

5) Get licensed

  • 20% done! ¬†can’t believe this is a reality in my life now.

6) Get a real counseling job

  • not as glamorous as i’d thought it would be when i wrote this, but i DO have one, and i AM glad i did it.

7) Kick my student loans asses.  One by one.

  • Ok I did this once. ¬†I have to do it again, but I think it’s worth crossing off….

8) Get a new car

  • i mean i didn’t get a brand new car, which is what i probably meant, but i now have a car that won’t probably just stop working in the middle of the interstate, and that’s all i really want. ¬†dependability.

9) Develop some sort of a more permanent living situation with less than 6 people involved.

  • hellooooooo, post-school life. ūüėć

10)  Work on Spanish again

  • it’s time for this. ¬†with a trip to spain in my future, i’d like to be able to at least get around a conversation.

11) Lose 80 lbs.  I am currently really trying for 65, as of today.

  • the everlasting goal? ¬†we shall see. ¬†still would like to do it.

12)  Go to Israel

  • BEEN THERE. ¬†DONE THAT. ¬†LITERALLY BOUGHT THE POSTCARD.

13)  Write a song

  • hm. ¬†nope. ¬†do i still want this?

14)  Start and keep a prayer journal/list thing to be in continual prayer for others.

  • half hearted commitment to this, which has been a growing desire again as of late. ¬†i will try again.

15)  Cut up my credit card

  • almost there…..

spaces.

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Kevin and your mom were talking to the doctors, and Deb was there on your bed telling you things about the day so you could have someone to listen to and be less scared. She noticed that you had started to mimic her. A phrase like ‚ÄúLillie is flying in from Texas‚ÄĚ was repeated back as soon as she uttered it. She would say ‚ÄúRalph pissed off a dog in the park‚ÄĚ and you‚Äôd repeat it verbatim. You were parroting everything she said, and she was ragged and scared, and wondered why, why would you be sarcastic and torment her when there was clearly so little time left. She was fighting tears but tried to be calm and said why are you imitating me, is my talking upsetting you? And you said, softly, No. I‚Äôm trying to catch your rhythm. I want to catch your breath.

It occurred to you to take someone’s tempo with you, since you’d be forced to let go of all hands at some point. You took the spaces with you. No way to take the voices you loved, they would have to stay behind, so you took the ellipses.

Parker, Mary -Louise (2015-11-10). Dear Mr. You (Kindle Locations 972-977). Scribner. Kindle Edition.

the year of the hyacinth // constancy.

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according to¬†the language of flowers, the meaning of the hyacinth flower is constancy. ¬†constancy is defined as the quality of being faithful and dependable, the steadfastness of mind under duress, the quality of being enduring and unchanging. ¬†these words carry so much weight for my heart, and when i first read through the index of flowers and came upon the hyacinth it took my breath away. ¬†the word constancy touches on so many of the deepest longings of my heart over the past two decades: the longing for community, intimacy, fidelity, devotion, permanence, mutuality…i am a person committed and have often found that loyalty falling in non-reciprocal places. ¬†whether that is due to a lack of desire or the temporal or eternal lack of ability on the part of the other, i am not sure. ¬†however, i have always longed to throw myself into relationships with people who were ready to throw themselves in too. ¬†i have wanted commitment. ¬†i have longed for¬†dependability. ¬†i have desired common purpose.

the last 10-15 years have had many good points, but have also had much relational turmoil and pain. ¬†friends that i thought were “in it for the long haul” turned out to be flaky or going through some kind of emotional or relational pain that led them to withdraw from friendship. ¬†people i have committed to have been in a place of transition, needing someone to come alongside them and be a steadfast and stable friend, to help them heal and to be gracious to them in the midst of change, but had nothing to give in return. ¬†i am so willing to be a person that can go through the fire with others, but i was finding myself in a place of relational depletion. ¬†i desperately wanted to experience the type of relational fierceness and sacrifice that says “i am committed to this. ¬†i am in this for the long haul. ¬†lets make plans together and grow together and push each other and care well for each other, even through the hard times, the slow times, the happy times, the painful times. ¬†even when it costs us something.” ¬†i wanted friendships who could continue to show me Jesus.

over the past few months i have found myself experiencing this in a new and highly unique way for the first time ever.  what started as my roommate and i committing to care well for a friend in a time of pain became a mutual commitment of friendship.  what started out as random experiences together soon became a weekly occurrence, and then twice weekly.  when other people came along who were in the midst of pain, there was an open door for them.  some others began to commit themselves to one of the weekly gatherings.  soon we had a small community of people who were highly committed to each other.  people were willing to sacrifice.  people were entering into important conversations, talking about our community, being willing to process how to strengthen and grow what we were building.  eventually, we even began to talk about what that might look like in more of an intentional living community.  safety was present.  we were flourishing.

somewhere along the way, katie and i introduced the concept of wine advent, fully expecting resistance from some if not all.  we had tried (but failed) the year before to get a small group of people together every evening to open a different bottle of wine and share our time and our lives together.  however, when we brought this up in our weekly gathering, immediately there was an intrigued acceptance, an ownership that was claimed by each participant.  people were jumping in with ideas.  before we knew it, we had committed to a nightly gathering for the 24 nights of advent, reading advent prayers together and meditating on different aspects of the Lord, enjoying new wines and being in community with one another.  what i expected to be 30 minutes a night of introverts getting together and then heading home for alone time turned into a nightly 4 hours of laughing, conversing, discussing, and loving each other.  night after night as each person showed up, no matter how hard their day was or how bad of a mood they might feel like they were in, how tired they were of being in the constant company of others, i found myself beginning to notice the rhythm, the pattern, the dependability, the constancy of it all.  i was learning what true healthy community and care looked like from these people, my people.  i was understanding the true meaning of belonging and permanence.

when i read the index of¬†the language of flowers and came upon the hyacinth, i knew. ¬†i knew that what i wanted to focus on this year was continuing to learn and experience what these last few months of friendship with these people has taught me…i want to be committed and i want to be committed to. ¬†i do not want a great and collective purpose to scare me or to be scary to others. ¬†i want us to be able to¬†expect things from each other,¬†need each other, and¬†depend on each other in ways that are not societally normal.

last night we shared our words for the year. ¬†when i said mine, one of my friends mentioned that he knew two meanings of constancy: that of steadfastness and dependability, unmoving, like a rock; the other consistent, regular, enduring and unending, like a waterfall. ¬†he asked which one i meant. ¬†both are what i mean. ¬†because i want to look back on the eve of 2017 and see that this year found me dependable, steadfast, enduring, faithful, loyal, consistent, and having integrity, permanence, and purpose. ¬†i want these things personally and in community. ¬†my last few years have taught me how to have courage, how to honor myself, how to be sassy and fabulous (might have to revisit that one…), how to be balanced, and how to plant my feet back on the ground. ¬†This year I want to be rooted. ¬†To grow deeper in all these things. ¬†To be fiercely loyal and determined in relationship. ¬†I want to have constancy.