Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Becoming October


About twenty-one Octobers ago, my husband, then-boyfriend, and I became exclusive--we said we were "together" and we said, "I love you," all in the same month. It was the month of hope, and love, and dreaming.

Now? Sitting in this October and looking back after seventeen years of marriage, and fifteen years of motherhood, I can say that hope has slipped into disappointment more often than not, and love has become entangled with expectation more often than it should. Yet, in this October, while the leaves are falling, something different is budding within me, and I can't hope or love the way I used to anymore.

Forty has been a rough age so far. When you reach these soul-shaking milestone birthdays, people often tell you to shrug it off and age doesn't mean anything. And whether it is just our imagination or the [old] mind playing tricks on us, these kinds of birthdays do change you--even if it's in some weird self-fulfilling mental lapse kind of way.

Needless to say, I've not enjoyed forty-year-old Angie at all.

On the outside looking in, you see a newly published author, a proud mama of four kids, a wife of a super-hero kinda dad, and a woman who really shouldn't complain.

But on the inside...

It's been pretty void. I feel like my insides are a vacuum, and everything in my brain has been screaming, "ME", and everything in my heart has been shouting, "Get OUT".

It's like that commercial where the person unzips their current body and a whole different person is inside. You know what I'm talking about?

Well, if forty year old Angie had a choice, she'd unzip this person and escape the mess inside. How many times have I told my husband that I just want to crawl out of my skin? How many times have I said I just want to run away? How many times have I absorbed my children's bickering and melted into despair? How many times have I taken that sock lying on the floor so personally, that it makes me send the kids to bed without a kiss goodnight? How many times have I fought for something stupid like a clean kitchen and ruined the chance to have family time because Mama ain't happy?

Somewhere along the way, I've fallen for the lie that it's all about me and what I control. Somewhere along the way, I've become a consumer of my family, and my church, and my world.

And the vacuum inside me just sucks up the justification, the proven points, and the reprimands, and I realize that I have nothing but the crappy broken threads that wrap around the vacuum roller and eventually stop the whole thing from working.

Those broken threads are heartstrings that I've shunned, shamed, shut out from tangling with my own. It's all about me, and I'm just too busy trying to clean up messes without stopping and trying to mend what's going to break.

Well, I was the broken one. And I had wanted change for so long, but I just couldn't unwind those stupid messy strings from the roller. I was stuck.

I was the one who was sitting in a dark pit of despair, feeling hopeless and alone in this whole thing we call life.

So, one day at the beginning of October, I started to listen. I thought, "Maybe I should look for something different." When life feels completely stale and not worth trying for anymore, something different seems like a good change. And I took this tiny little step.

And something amazing happened.

That step took me outside of myself. SERIOUSLY. Like, the little step had me sit in a church I'd hardly ever been and listen to a speaker I'd hardly ever heard. And even though the sermon was hardly something to blow me away, a whisper within the sermon knocked the wind out of me.

And that's the beginning.

Over the next few weeks, EVERYWHERE I turn--whether it be my church services, my Bible study, a conference call for work, a parents' gathering for my son's youth group...EVERYWHERE that I am expectant for God's wisdom...about SEVEN DIFFERENT PEOPLE so far...some who are connected, some who don't even know each other...EVERYWHERE I TURNED GOD SAID THE SAME THING TO ME.

For someone who WAS hopeless, and self-centered, and trying to take control to a point of destruction, I was slowly aroused from my darkest slumber by these three concepts that each of the seven encounters have mentioned and centered their messages on:

Humility

Hope

Living Sacrifice

Coincidence? Go ahead, call it that. There's no special liturgical calendar the seven encounters were using to guide their messages to me. But, I am here to tell you, that the mess deep down inside me is so ministered by the resonance of each encounter speaking the SAME wisdom to me, in such a personal way--meeting me where I'm at--that I can't even begin to deconstruct my experiences and find a way to attribute it to my [old] mind playing tricks on me.

Something inside me woke up...and it wasn't a noisy vacuum. It was a flood of sweet repentance for my inward focus, and a swishing revival of faith--smaller than a mustard seed--but a faith that promises hope again.

This October, I am becoming again. I am not finished in this growing up business...forty really is just a number. I am still figuring this all out. And I am seeing myself outside myself again...but I'm not trying to run away. I'm outside looking further outside--at those I love, at this chance I get to commune with a God who put up with me in the mess, and still sits with me there when I inevitably stumble back again. I can actually see hope in the next step, when before, all I could see was the tangled mess.

October. A month I once fell in love--for the final time. And a month I once gave birth to a son. October. A month filled with changing color. And a month of changing me.

***

Here are a few of the people who've spoken God's words to me. By no doing of my own, except saying yes to the environment they met me at. Completely organic. But completely ordained:

James MacDonald (study, Think Differently)
Greg Hawkins (actually heard him on a conference call, then was led to this book--More)
Andy Stanley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMpj0cXldnk&feature=youtu.be)

(and....sermons on Hope at Lutheran Church of Hope, and on Solitude and Servitude at Meredith Drive Reformed Church...um...and I just realized, I named this post, "Becoming"...and that's the name of the sermon series at my church...BUT IT'S TRUE FOR ME TOO).





Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Living in the Grey


Our counselor of several years, once told us that kids tend to see issues through a black and white lens. It's up to us as parents to encourage our children to not fear the chance that there are more sides to an issue, and that it's alright to think beyond the status quo and come up with a thoughtful perspective.

Ooh, that sounds scary. Having these little minds around who don't accept truth because you say so? Believe me, I completely get that. It was my BIGGEST fear for my children when my husband stepped away from the church.

But, letting go of that fear has been my GREATEST freedom--a freedom that sometimes opens the gates for frustration when I see adults taking the black and white approach on an issue. When I see human brokenness treated as a mis-step from the "right" side of the issue, I cringe at the disregard that the issue might be the outcome of a deeper problem...a deeper wound...even an actual NEED that has yet to be met.

In the face of government fiascos, gender wars, sports figures' choices, sexuality debates, or even doctrinal differences, what if we didn't just choose a side, but saw the issues from all sides, and not just realize the topic, but dig deeper into the reason for the hurt, the need, the sprouting of such an issue?

What if those of us who just say "yes" to the one side of an issue because that's how it has been done, or SHOULD be done, are missing out on the chance to understand humanity deeper, and to realize the ultimate need for a Savior beyond even ourselves (even our "right")?

The only black and white Truth walked among all the grey and understood the brokenness. 

He didn't shame anyone for their weakness, but offered strength in something beyond a yes or no. He cared for the most colorful and diverse entity on Earth--the human heart.

I am not saying to live lukewarm. Or that we become lukewarm. On the contrary, I am suggesting that we stop shouting like clanging cymbals and getting fired up by the symptom, and start offering healing to the hearts that need us--every human, no matter their affiliation, opinion, or side.

I don't want to contribute to the divide on matters that don't matter as much as the people affected by them. I want to be the messy smear of black and white and show how we can step into the grey and find color again.

Find hearts again.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

When Everything is Right...& You are Miserable.


Ever like your social media self better than that person in the mirror?

I am sure you are thinking--wow, did she just say that? Honestly, I try and be as authentic as I can on social media, but we all know, it's a two-dimensional space. I can either put misery on the screen, or happiness. And when I have SO much good going on, HOW in the world can I dump my troubled heart on a FB status? Mixed signals, much? Two-faced? Hypocrite? Ungrateful...ugh. The slander continues in my brain as I assume every ill thing someone can spit at the screen boasting two different messages that are Angie Dicken.

But, believe me, even feeling these deep, dark emotions in light of my giddy steps through the door of publication and the joys of growing my children, makes my sub-conscious scream the same. 

YOU hypocrite.

It's that other dimension, you know? The one you can't see...the one I can't see--but oh, I can feel it more than the droplets of rain on my head this dreary Saturday afternoon. This gloominess is tangling with every fiber within me. I feel it. Too deeply. It eclipses all that is good.

It reminds me that the stuff of this world is just not enough. There IS a spiritual world at war here. No matter what naysayers speak so closely in my ear. No matter the denial I am exposed to day in and day out. There IS a battle going on in my heart and I am afraid I will suffocate by it.

I am exhausted. I am sad. I am heartbroken.

And it's because I let myself think I was okay for so long. And I neglected the condition of my heart. If you've been with me on this past three and half year journey, you know that the first year of that was valley walking. In the valley though, God had drawn close, and I crawled along the floor, ready to climb out. That upward climb was deceiving though, because even though I reached higher ground,  I had expected a lush spiritual revival. What I found was a dry desert, one where even my God decided to remain behind in the valley. Well, that's what it feels like anyway. Maybe He raced ahead? Maybe he's given me this strange time of external successes, only to show me how bankrupt my insides are. I need Him more than ever, and I can hardly see past the mirages on the coarse sand upon which I stand. Hazy fabrications of what I think I need, and no fulfillment in sight.

I need Him. I've always needed Him. And there is nothing in this world that can fill that hole. No matter how hard I focus on what I have, I don't have enough if I don't have Him.

So, I sit here, in constant gratitude for everything that's gone right, but miserable because I had believed it would fix me.

Only He can. And, I'll hold on to that. If there is one place that I've learned this most, it's in my journey as an author. The one place He's showed up time and again is when I gather with my fellow author friends. One external thing that meets my internal turmoil with healing, is my community of writer friends. 


I am holding on, waiting for Him to slow down ahead, and let me catch up. Just a few more days, and I hope the healing will begin.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Release Day: I am PUBLISHED!

Today is the day! My debut novel, The Outlaw's Second Chance, debuts today! If you haven't checked out my Facebook author page, please do! Lots of good stuff and my online launch will be there!

It's been a long journey, and I just have to say...it's ALL ABOUT the journey. I have learned sooooo much, and I know there is so much more to learn. This is an amazing step along the way, but I don't want to quit walkin' this walk any time soon (actually, my next book comes out in November)!

Thank you for reading my blogs of unrequited publishing desires and inspirational writing pep talks!

If you would like to check out my newsletter, I have all sorts of info on my debut (it's a dance card in a way...at least the all the dates of where I will be online these next few weeks)!

Have a wonderful week! Hoping to start blogging again soon! 


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Mama's Pre-Reflection


What I will miss most when they're all grown up...
(I know that grandparents will tell me to just wait...but these babies are the only babies I am guaranteed)

The rummaging of legos in the basement

The surprise of waking up next to a child who crawled in my bed in the middle of the night without waking me.

The hundreds of papers with drawings of stick figures, L-I-B-B-Y, trees, flowers, scribbles...strewn all over the table tops, living room floor, dining room floor, bookshelves...oh my.

The sound of sweet children's t.v. while I cook.

Two brothers playing catch in the front yard.

Two brothers giggling in the late hours of the night.

The clipity-clop of my high heels being worn by little feet, and the swish of my knee high dress brushing the floor as it's modeled by the little mama holding her American Girl.

And I am sure there is more...but lastly for now...

I'll miss giggle boxes turned upside down, when all four of my children get along...for those brief moments...everything is right in our home.

That's what I'm going to miss.