After 20 years in beautiful, sunny, diverse Southern California, I am moving back to Pacific Northwest, to my husband’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. Portland is a beautiful city blah blah blah. But right now I’m in the process of saying goodbye to a city that I love. I’m saying goodbye to relationships that began when I came here in 1993. I’m leaving the family that became my family when my mother nearly disowned me. I’m leaving the Korean American church that blessed me into ministry when my mother had cut me off from my Korean home church. I’m leaving the church that hired my husband as youth director and then became wonderful place of healing and growth and blessing to my husband and I. I’m leaving friends. I’m leaving a ministry context where I have deep trust and partnerships. So, I’m feeling some angst.
Here are some observations and reflections on this season of transition and stress.
1) Get your inner life in order Girl- and apply lessons you’ve learned over the years!
In May, my husband and I had a wonderful time travelling through Europe. I had an amazing month of reflection and prayer. All the Christian inspired art really spoke to me and fed my soul. Flash forward just two months later and I’m a slightly crispy and very exhausted urban project director. Some of that is natural- leading an urban project for 7 weeks with 50 students is an all consuming endeavor. But a lot of my fatigue comes from the fact that I didn’t maintain my inner life disciplines of reflection, Sabbath, rest, and spiritual direction. I realize that I can maintain my inner life disciplines when I have no stress up until a medium level of stress. But when things crank up to level 7 to 10- I just let it all go. This season has revealed some weaknesses in my inner life.
2) Erna- pay attention to you marriage!
I know that you probably think that my marriage is made up of running in slow motion across flower covered fields and holding each other- just like people in the movies hold each other. But lets get real. There is no cuddling in a heat wave. TOO HOT! And as I have been emotionally depleted and tired from ministry, and my husband has been travelling to Portland for work in two week stretches, our marriage has taken a hit.
I had a chance to do some reflecting and I realized that our approach to high stress seasons is to just white knuckle through it and then try to get quality time on the other side. But as my insightful husband commented- we really just have one tool in our tool belt- quality time. And when stress periods go for longer, we just empty the tank. This season has revealed a weakness in our marriage. We are starting to have good conversations about other tools that we can use in the MIDST of stressful seasons, instead of just waiting for them to be over.
3) Numb the pain!
I have known for a long time that I use food to numb out stress and anxiety. Also, I sometimes use a cocktail or two. And sometimes a combination of both. There is nothing like a taco run and some tequila to wash over late night loneliness or anxiety. This summer I met a fantastic woman named Jasolyn. She has become a huge inspiration to me in this area. About a year ago, Jasolyn realized that she had been numbing pain in her life through food and she courageously joined a 12 step program that helped her discover her food addiction. Over the last year she has lost over 100 pounds. But as I listened to her share- it became clear that it wasn’t really about the weight. She talked about the difficulty of facing pain and really processing it. She talked about how scary it was not to numb out painful experiences or negative feelings, but to actually feel them for the first time. As I listened to her, I could see that I had been avoiding feeling sadness, loneliness, loss, and disappointment. I had been using food, and cocktails, and Netflix to numb it out. I felt so inspired by her courage. So much in our culture is about numbing out. And I don’t want to live in fear of my own emotions. I want to learn from my friend Jasolyn’s courage and character.
Being under the stress of leading the summer urban project and getting ready to move has revealed some weaknesses in my life. I have tools and disciplines that get me through about a level 1 to 7 of stress. But as I have been in stress level seven, eight, and nine – I have seen some weaknesses. Last summer I was incredibly proactive as I saw a stressful season approaching. I knew that I would be directing LAUP on my own- so I went totally vegan and eliminated caffeine and alcohol. I also saw my spiritual director weekly, had a prayer partner that I connected with every Friday, and sent out prayer requests every week. I felt totally present and focused during the experience. I poured myself out completely during the summer, but I felt so much better as I did it. So I have a positive and negative example to draw from.
I feel an invitation to go deeper with God and my character in this season. Anyone else out there feel me on the pain of transition? Tell me what you have learned about yourself in the midst of transition.