a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you

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And through it all, I stood and stumbled, waded through my thoughts and heart Yeah through it all, I fooled and fumbled, lost to the poet's frown.
I fought the wolves of patience just to let it lie down.

I've come to the conclusion that I am quite lousy at relaxing.

And it's never been more apparent than on this trip. 

Even with my deep desire of a life that is simple, I find myself wrestling with my inability to just sit and be and how much I feel the need to do all the time. 

But I need life to give me some answers to some things that have been heavy on my mind lately. And I know what I have to do to get those. Even when it means discomfort to get them. 

When we landed in San Jose, Costa Rica on Friday we found our way by taxi to a tiny little bus station that would take us on a four hour turned seven-hour journey to Puerto Viejo where we were staying for the night.  This is near the Panama border. 

After two plane rides on nothing more than a few glasses of wine and two green superfood bars I picked up prior to leaving, we found ourselves on a long, full bus ride listening to the unwelcoming sounds of an arrogant Polish twenty-something playing dubstep from a keg-shaped Bluetooth speaker in his lap. 

I only know he is Polish because my friend Raven and I sat for a good thirty minutes listening to these guys talking back and forth as they drowned themselves in some kind of liquor from a bottle in a paper bag.  Eventually, I needed to know and asked. I like to ask people where they are from when I travel. I like to hear their stories. 

After we had our brief conversation he turned on his speaker for the whole bus to enjoy. At first, I thought it was coming from the bus speakers but it became apparent, from the annoyance of other riders, both locals and travelers, that this was not the case and it was coming from the keg shaped speaker in the Polish guy's lap. 

I found myself growing irritated too. I mean, come on guy. Dubstep? Had it been mellow beats that is one thing but if you are privy to dubstep you know it's anything but mellow. 

I kept telling myself to just relax and go with the flow. Don't let this one little moment, this person, this blip on the screen of your life caused by someone else's actions annoy you. 

This is what travel is about after all. The unexpected things that happen. The laughter that comes for years that come from moments just like these. 

Little did I know, I was going to be saying this to myself often on this trip. 

As with everything though there is a great lesson to be learned. And what I've realized on this trip so far is that it has more to do with the fear of facing my myself and my thoughts and hearing that little voice inside speaking truth to me than actually not being productive

But  I don't want the dubstep noises of life to cause me to miss out on all the wonderful moments in between so I need to learn to relax and just go with the flow of life. 

I want to hear life talking to me and to do that you have to learn to slow down, open your eyes and your heart and fully take in what is around you. 

So I slow down and let things be and allow the thoughts and feelings to surface. All of them.  I allow answers to come to those questions I keep asking God and give thanks with gratitude in my heart. Even when it's not the answer I truly desire. 

And as the lyrics of one of my favorite songs goes:

And what we found
Down these coves of limestone and cockle shells,
What we found
Down these roads that wander as lost as the heart,
Is a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you
My my a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you
Oh my a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start

And it's through this song that God gently reminds me that his hands are all over everything as rain pours from the skies and I have no other choice but to just sit and be with myself, my thoughts and my own heart and maybe, just maybe, it's a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start. 

For once there is no dubstep to drown these out. 

These Waters by Ben Howard

I saw red and yellow flowers outside over the moors
And brightest sunrise ever to touched my eyes.

And through it all,
I stood and stumbled, waded through my thoughts and heart
Yeah through it all,
I fooled and fumbled, lost to the poet's frown.
I fought the wolves of patience just to let it lie down.

See these waters they'll pull you up,
Oh, now if you're bolder than the darkness.
My my, let these songs be an instrument to cut,
Oh spaces 'tween the happiness and the hardness.
My my, spaces 'tween the happiness and the hardness.

Oh, out the door,
The touch of morning, the burning of the frost
Out the door
My, strong hands to hold, good friends that I never lost.

And what we found
Down these coves of limestone and cockle shells,
What we found
Down these roads that wander as lost as the heart,
Is a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you
My my a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start to you
Oh my a chance to breathe again, a chance for a fresh start

Oh, no, see these waters they'll pull you up,
Oh, no, if you're bolder than the darkness.
My my let these songs be an instrument to cut here darling,
These spaces between the happiness and the hardness,
Oh my my, spaces between the happiness and the hardness
Oh my my, spaces between the happiness and the hardness
Oh my my, spaces between the happiness and the hardness

Sit In Your Shit

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Lately, I’ve been in this interesting emotional place. A lot of stuff from my past has been resurfacing. Stuff I believed, I had long ago put to rest. 

It's not that I'm in a dark emotional place, however. It is more like things are coming up so that I can finally shed them and release them. 

Lately, I've been waking in the middle of the night, shooting out of bed from a dream of a person from long ago I hadn’t thought of in years and the feelings it brings up linger for days. I know it’s not about the person. The person is just the messenger. It’s about the feelings.

In the past, I got really good at stuffing and dusted these feelings under the rug. I'd think I was acknowledging them with some spiritual jargon as if the words were magic and would erase the past. This is called spiritual bypassing and something I’ll talk more about soon.

I’ve conceded, however, that this stuff will never go away unless I really look at it face on.  I am being asked to finally and truly feel my feelings.

I am being called to sit in my shit so to speak. And honestly, who really wants to sit in their shit? 

I am also feeling called to take full responsibility for my part in all of the shit because even as I perceive things happening to me (hello victim mode), I know well enough that my perception, my attitude, they are all mine and at any moment, I can choose to see things differently.

Growth isn't necessarily easy, but I do know it's worth it. 

I also happen to be in an interesting place with my spiritual growth. Teetering on the line of wanting to dive deeper and deeper and finding safety in staying just where I am. Where I am is like a warm blanket wrapped perfectly around my naked body. Just enough warmth but not too much to suffocate me.  I’m scared if I commit to the call I feel deep inside, I’ll lose the grip of that warm blanket, exposing me in the most uncomfortable of ways.

I have no idea if that makes sense but put more simply, I’m scared of the vulnerability that comes with truly knowing and trusting in God’s plan.

But I don’t think I can stay where I am anymore.

And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hold back from sharing more of this growth here, in this space, out of fear that you will leave. I know for a lot of people, the mention of spirituality or God or anything in that realm can evoke a lot of negative feelings. That is not my intention.

But it is what I’m feeling inspired to talk more about.

And I wonder, instead of potentially leaving, what would happen if you stayed? I’ve been applying this myself to all areas of my life as well. As someone who habitually runs at the sign of any discomfort, in many areas of my life I'm exploring patience and curiosity instead of be-lining for the nearest exit at the first sign of struggle.

What if you play with the curiosity yourself?  What if you are being asked to sit with your shit too? Maybe the uncomfortable feelings that come up aren’t a bad thing but really, leading you to something you never knew was possible?

I understand very well, the feelings that may come up when talk of spirituality and God comes up. I’ve wrestled for years with these ideas and concepts myself and have said, many times, that I just don’t need God in my life. And I, by no means, am trying to push God on you. So please know that.

I know very well that if you are going to get down with the G.O.D, you gotta come to that on your own. 

It also doesn’t help that there is a lot of religious and spiritual contradictions out there that make you question things.

There are also some really big and justifiable questions that cause a lot of us to be confused. Like; why do really good people die? And why do bad people get away with doing bad things? Why is there starvation and horrific deaths and illness and so much suffering?

I’m not sure we will ever have those answers until we come face to face with the creator ourselves.

All I know for me is that for a really long time, I’ve felt a deep void in the middle of my chest. And I filled it with drama and shopping and food and sex and TV and drugs and alcohol and gossip and anger and selfish motives...all because for a brief moment, those things provided the relief I was desperate for.

Lately, however, I’ve been called to sit in the shit rather than numb. And in those moments when I am desperate to numb I resist and feel it instead.

And in full transparency, it 100%, without a doubt, most of the time absolutely sucks. Honestly. It does. Emotional pain is by far worse than any physical pain I’ve ever felt and I’ve been in some pretty excruciating physical pain. Try having a major pelvic and abdominal infection right after having two feet of your colon removed. It was like stabbing a dull butter knife over and over into my pelvis and slowly removing it each time.

And the emotional pain, at times, has felt worse.

But what's been happening when I sit in my shit is interesting. It’s really painful but then the shit shifts (say that five times fast!) and starts to loosen its grip and I start looking at the pain in a different light. I don’t feel it as intensely but rather, feel it leaving my body, just a little bit at a time.

The actual practices I’ve been turning to have been getting still and quiet, journaling and just being quite uncomfortable. I’ll literally feel it coming on and sit in the middle of my bed, close my eyes and feel into the area that hurts.

And then I pray but not in the way I use to.

I used to only talk to God when something bad was happening and it usually amounted to me desperately begging for some kind of salvation. Or, I’d just curse God altogether for said situation.

I didn't realize at the time that God is seeking to know me deeper too. And how do you know someone? It takes time, good communication and opening up in a vulnerable way. 

I also didn't ever think God really wanted to hear me talk about my dating life or my money problems or something I deem less important because well, doesn't God have bigger things to worry about? 

But that is not the case and has become very clear. 

Lately, prayer has been more of a question and answer series or just a conversation. If someone was watching me, they might think I was crazy because I literally walk around my house talking to God as if He's just sitting on my couch having coffee with me. 

But those are the kinds of relationships I love. When I sit around with friends and family and just hang and chat for hours over tea or coffee and I thought to myself, maybe this is the kind of relationship God is asking of me too?

So my conversations with God have been more of me asking a lot of questions and listening for the subtle ways in which God responds. Sometimes it’s just a knowing inside. Other times it’s a song lyric or book that falls into my lap. The other day I was walking Rocky and came across a box of free books. I perused what was being offered and a couple jumped out and I knew this was one of the ways in which God was gonna shed some light on a few of my questions.

If you are curious, the books were When God Writes Your Love Story (because let's be honest, I should NOT be left to my own devices in the area of my love life. I always muck it up on my own) and Blue Like Jazz.  I’ve already read Blue Like Jazz a few times but Donald Miller is hands down one of my most favorite writers on faith and God and this book has so much to offer. I'm constantly in a state of "AH-HA!" when I read his work. 

And then God often talks to me through seeing the same random quote multiple times in the space of 24 hours or a Hummingbird flies right in front of my face and just sits there flapping it's wings staring at me for a good long while. As if to say, "I'm right here with you Amanda."

It's always a feeling, a deep knowing, that God is answering. 

Lately, I’ve been praying that God helps me deepen my relationship with Him (or Her) in ways that only I will understand. Not that my relationship with God is any more special than yours. I just know I can be incredibly stubborn and that I’ll only hear him if he talks to me in ways in which I can see, hear and feel. And then I ask that I be open to all that I discover.

A Course in Miracles, which is a spiritual text I’ve been reading lately, teaches a prayer I use often, “I am willing to see things differently.” I’ve written about this before but I’ve never felt it working more in my life than right now.

You see, A Course In Miracles states that God is waiting for the slightest invitation to help us heal and return to a place of love. We just have to ask and then surrender and let God do His work. And know that it may not come in the way we think it should, but it will come.  

So this is what I’ve been practicing.

Sitting in my shit, surrendering and chit-chatting with God in my kitchen while I make coffee. Oh if these walls could talk!

And let me tell you, it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel a little crazy but mostly I feel a new sense of peace and like I'm shedding extra weight I've been holding onto for years.

I’ve been known to be a little neurotic when parts of my life feel out of control but what’s really interesting, is ever since I’ve started this practice, I’ve felt more peace and a deeper sense of trust that everything will work out and even better than I could craft up myself.

And that my friends, is how miracles work. They are not some big, self serving boom in your life. Miracles are a willingness and openness to finally change. Miracles are a willingness to see things differently. 

And God works in mysterious ways. Like nudging me to finally sit in my shit.