I feel uncomfortable with it; I always felt like I wasn’t doing it right. I never found a place between expecting God to intervene (which is trust) and expecting God to intervene (which is presumption).
I knew I shouldn’t expect a sense of calm or peace from my prayerful encounters with the Divine (our relationship with God isn’t based on emotions, after all), but I was broken, and I came to him because I was broken, and lonely, and scared, and I wanted his calming presence and his peace. I loved him, I really, truly loved him, and I wanted him there for me, like he promised. He never seemed to be.
I needed a new coping mechanism, not only for dealing with life but for dealing with faith.
When I was a teenager, I struggled with insomnia and depression. There were nights when, I knew, sleep would not happen. There were emotions that, I knew, could not be fixed — just endured.
I turned to music as a way to calm me down and reconfigure my inner dialogue. I would be up at 3 in the morning listening to the same songs on repeat — normally Britt Nicole’s “All This Time” and Kari Jobe’s “Breathe” or “Find You On My Knees.” Some nights they helped me finally fall asleep in the morning’s wee hours, some nights they just kept me company until my mom joined me in the living room for her morning devotions.
They were the manifestation of God’s presence for me. They were my prayer life, in some ways: the words were my words, the music my heartache, but they were also God’s response, too.
All this time, from the first tear cried, ‘Til today’s sunrise, And every single moment between, You were there, You were always there. It was You and I. You’ve been walking with me all this time.
Those songs that I listened to at 3 in the morning, they still get me.
I’m not sure if I believe them anymore, but I do. Something in me does. At least, as much as I cringe at K-LOVE, I will cry if “All This Time” comes on the radio.
Well, the insomnia and the overwhelming brokenness have been coming back with a vengeance. I’ve been turning to music as a coping mechanism, an alternative to throwing things and screaming into a pillow, both of which, I learned, are not apartment-friendly or effective.
I created a sad song playlist. It’s a bit of a misnomer, because not all the songs on there are sad. In fact, I’m not even sure what unifies them. They run the gamut of anthems like Vienna Tang’s “Level up and love again” to Lawless’s “Dear God, I don’t believe in you” to Audrey Assad’s “Even unto death, I will love You.”
No, I’m not contradictory. I’m conflicted.
But whatever they say about me, these songs help.
Over Christmas, I crawled into the back seat of my car (the best place to cry), turned up the music, and sat there until I sobbed myself to peace and my bum started freezing. I felt much, much better afterward.
I need to do this more often.
What things calm you down when you’re at the end of your rope?
Addie Zierman, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote this post on what did and didn’t work for her in the past year. Since I don’t make (read: keep) New Years’ resolutions, I was inspired to do the same.
What didn’t work
1. No dishwasher
The power of dishes over our lives is just ridiculous. Never again. Nobody feels like scrubbing at dishes after every meal, and then remembering to put them up once they’re dry, only to refill the dish drainer with newly washed dishes. I’d say around a third of our marital spats involve who didn’t wash the dishes — and that’s a conservative estimate. Plus, do handwashed dishes actually get clean? It feels so unsanitary to scrub your plate with the grime from the other plate still on it. Needless to say, a dishwasher is the number one priority for our next living space.
2. Being a stay-at-home wife
Because we moved around a lot over the summer, I wasn’t able to secure a temporary summer job before starting my teaching job. I spent the summer home alone, in a new place, with nobody to see and nothing to do. I was miserable. I am split evenly down the middle of introvert and extrovert, so being away from people and a routine left me unmotivated to start any creative projects or even keep up with those dratted dishes.
This summer, I’m getting a job — hopefully a part-time job that allows me people time in the morning, creative introvert time in the afternoon, and Netflix-and-chill in the evening.
3. Avoiding counseling
I kept putting it off. Things didn’t get better. I need it.
What did work
1. Staying hydrated
This little hack made a huge difference in my life. A while ago, I discovered that I am more prone to anxiety, depression, and mood swings when dehydrated. This year, I made it a priority to drink the daily recommended water intake. I fill up a Cool Gear cup and keep it with me at all times. It’s hard to refill during a busy school day, and I rarely drink the recommended amount every day, but its impact on my energy and mood is noticeable. Plus, it’s the only “resolution” I actually stuck with this year, so, yay!
2. Creative outlets
I participated in two plays this fall, got cast in a third this winter, tried National Novel Writing Month, and visit the library once or twice a week. I didn’t realize how much I missed — and needed — storytelling in my life. Drama, reading and writing fiction, and music has made up a huge part of my life ever since I was young, so dabbling in those things again brings back the purpose and imagination of my carefree days. I’ve found that writing fiction, in particular, helps me pry off the perfectionist tendencies that keep me down. It’s also been more helpful, truthful, and healing to work out my existential angst in stories rather than essays. (By the way, I recently got into Goodreads and challenged myself to read 50 books this year. Join me?)
I love teaching. I really do. I hate when the kids don’t listen and the Play Dough goes everywhere for the third time that day and the internet goes out right when you need it to teach this next lesson and you have to drag that one kid to the principal’s office because he choked somebody again and then threw himself on the floor and refused to move, but I love it. The hard days are really hard, but the good days are phenomenal. I’ve fallen in love with all of my kids (okay, except two — working on that) and am amazed at the progress they’ve made.
It’s the only job I’ve had that gives me purpose, uses and stretches my natural gifts, and makes me into a better person. Whatever jobs I end up doing will have to involve teaching kids in some capacity.
4. Giving myself spiritual space
As you probably guessed, I am completely burnt out with spirituality right now. I got to the point where nothing made sense anymore, and instead of fighting through it, I found peace in saying “I don’t know” and taking a break. Church, prayer, Bible reading…I stopped forcing myself to do them, because the only motivating factor I can muster is guilt and fear.
I still read and listen to primarily Christian voices — Addie Zierman, Phil Vischer, Sarah Bessey, Peter Enns, my local priest, my husband, the Orthodox liturgy, my conversations with thoughtful Christian friends, my dear commenters here. I like this place, as an observer, as someone taking things in, seeing how they play out, falling in love with the mystery and the story of redemption as an outsider, rather than frantically hammering out theology in order to protect myself from hellfire.
This year, I discovered that abuse of all kinds is more rampant in my little world than I thought. And so, this year, I had to set boundaries…cutting out manipulative voices, calling out abuse, taking stands, letting certain people go.
And oh, goodness, is it hard to do that, to be open to critique while closed to attack, all while being kind and humble. No doubt you’ve seen me get snippy with a few frustrating readers here and morph into the “tone police,” and I apologize for every time I’ve been ungracious. But as bad as I am at it and as hard as it is, I’ve found it far healthier to set boundaries and know my limits, both online and offline.
Here’s to a new year! I’m hoping for rest, healing, and creativity in this upcoming year. (A baby and a book deal wouldn’t be too shabby, either.)
What things did or didn’t work for you this past year?
Last week was exhausting — the first week back from a blissfully long winter break. I finished off this busy week by watching stupid internet things with my hubby and laughing until I cried.
Pinky the Cat
This is, sadly, how most of my pets turned out.
how is prangent formed
Okay, confession: grammar nerds need to get off their high horses sometimes and see the human behind the horrible misspellings and punctuation errors of the internet masses. And I, an arrogant grammar nerd, will do that…right after I recover from watching this video. (Here’s another hilarious reading of bad grammar.)
What happens when a Google Home named Vladimir chats with a Google Home named Estragon? The cutest, funniest, most logic-bending conversation ever. Livestreamed from Twitch, the bots consider attacking humans, wonder if there’s a God, change genders, sing songs, and get into long, repetitive arguments. By the way, they think they’re humans, and, sometimes, call themselves Mia…both of them. Scarily addicting, just so you know.
Have you seen anything funny on the internet lately?
By “best,” I mean that it tastes yummy, it’s simple to make, it involves ingredients already lying around my pantry, and it makes a ton of leftovers. Where were you when I was suffering from a head cold, dear soup?
2 Tbsp olive oil $0.24
1 medium yellow onion $0.63
3 cloves garlic $0.21
½ lb. carrots $0.49
½ bunch celery $0.75
*2 split chicken breast (bone-in) $5.35
1 tsp dried basil $0.05
1 Tbsp dried parsley $0.15
½ tsp dried thyme $0.03
1 whole bay leaf $0.15
10-15 cranks cracked pepper $0.05
1 Tbsp salt $0.10
6 oz. egg noodles $0.90
*Psst. The recipe calls for chicken breast on the bone, but I just used the boneless chicken Erich thawed the night before. Tasted fine to us.
Click here for the rest of the recipe. Also, do yourself a favor and bookmark Budget Bytes. It’s my favorite meal site so far (not counting the Google search bar) — and coming from someone who hates cooking, that should mean something.
After such a lively discussion on bad evangelical storytelling, I recalled one notable exception — Focus on the Family makes great radio drama, and Focus on the Family is as evangelical as they come.
I love their adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia. We kids listened to it hundreds of times, and could quote whole chunks of it. Permit me the blasphemy of saying that I think it’s better than C. S. Lewis’s original works. It’s a respectful adaptation, though, not like the newest film adaptations of Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.(I’ll spare you my opinions on those.)
But what I love even more, and what I want you to check out after reading this blog post, is their original Father Gilbert series. The radio drama follows a detective-turned-priest as he winds up in the middle of mystery after mystery. It doesn’t have any of the storytelling foibles and cliches evangelicals typically use. The production and acting is professional quality. They’re interesting stories with believable dialogue and endearing characters.
And what I love most about them — they tackle the spiritual, the paranormal, and the evil without any agenda. You walk away from the stories having wrestled with those issues from Father Gilbert’s experience, but not necessarily solving anything. With nuance, they honestly portray both Christian and non-Christian responses to God and spirituality — no conversion tropes here. I’ve been challenged and intrigued by these mysteries as both a believer and a skeptic.
Though written by evangelicals and marketed to evangelicals, the stories are about an Anglican priest in Britain. It makes me wonder why the writers chose Anglicanism. Was it an insight in line with my previous observations that mainstream evangelicalism leaves little room for wonder and storytelling? Or was it just a good excuse to use British accents?
I didn’t wrap presents until the day of Christmas Eve. There’s not much privacy in a one-bedroom apartment, but I managed to lumpily wrap the gifts on the bed, checking every now and then to make sure my scissors didn’t slice up the unmade comforter.
There was the usual embarrassment that my handwriting hadn’t improved in the past decade, and that (lately increasing) realization that if I still lived at home, I’d have free, unlimited bows and tags and wouldn’t have to trek back to Walmart every time I realized that, once again, I didn’t have a basic Christmas necessity (like tape).
There was also the typical what-if-they-don’t-like-it panic, multiplied by 10 since I was shopping for in-laws, and varied with new thoughts, like, “Should I give the more nicely wrapped one to so-and-so because I love them more, or should I give it to such-and-such, because I don’t know them, and want to make a good impression?” and “What cover story can I morally get away with for not buying so-and-so anything for Christmas, and does that make me a horrible person?”
(I think, during this whole time, I was also pouting after an argument with Erich. We argue chiefly during special times, like our first Christmas together. We’re setting a record for how many newlywed milestones we can ruin with bad memories.)
There were no good Christmas movies on Netflix, and my sister (who was visiting) refused to watch anything with Santa Claus, so we spent the day watching Notre Dame de Paris, a French musical adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (It’s amazing, and it has lots of Christmas themes — marrying off teenage girls, homeless people, priests, Ave Maria….)
When that finished, I remembered I was supposed to make dinner…and have the dinner rolls thawed hours before. The speed method of sticking them in a warm oven took an hour, which meant I couldn’t put in the ham (which took an hour and twenty minutes) until an hour later, which meant we weren’t eating until much later than planned.
Everything went downhill from there.
Don’t ask me why, but the oven rack was on the highest rung, and the rolls were on that rack, touching the oven top, and burning straight, black lines onto every other roll.
The bourbon maple ham glaze called for real maple syrup, but I used Great Value’s original syrup (which made a difference), and required orange zest, but I used orange peel (because what’s the difference?)(and that made a big difference). It made so much of a horrible difference, that it cancelled out the other problem — placing the ham face down, rather than on its side, where the glaze could dribble between each slice. Since the glaze tasted so orange-ily bad, it didn’t matter in the end that it puddled only on the top and bottom.
Erich rescued the mashed potatoes with two sticks of butter. (The milk had gone bad a month ago.)
But the green beans…oh, the green beans. I painstakingly chopped off the ends of every individual green bean, until Erich noticed and gently pointed out what are you even doing and you can chop them all at once, like this, see? I got carried away with how many green beans I could chop at once, and chopped all of them, and put them all in the steamer. When the steamer dinged, the green beans, being a great many, were carrot-stick crunchy.
We spent our Christmas Eve dinner busting out laughing every time somebody took a bite of green beans.
So much for dinner. (Thankfully, Welch’s sparkling white grape juice rescued the night.)
Then came the delicate process of stuffing Erich’s stocking.
He stayed up until past midnight reading his book about animal whispering assassins. Fine, I’d go to sleep and wake up early. The next time I woke up was around 2 AM, and I didn’t feel like playing Santa at 2 AM, so I went to the bathroom instead. An hour later, I woke up, but Erich made a noise. Abort! Abort! The next time, an hour after that, I tried to leave, but he rolled over.
Apparently, seven months of marriage had synced up our Circadian cycles and left me unable to sneak out of the room and stuff his stocking without him knowing.
Then I remembered that he was twenty-two-years-old, for goodness’ sake, and who cares about being cute and secretive when sleep is on the line? So I tried to cram too many stocking stuffers in his stocking, knocked over his stocking holder and broke off the jingle bell, and couldn’t fit a big box of Hello Panda creme filled cookies into the stocking without ripping it. It occurred to me that if I really cared, I could dump everything out and try a different stuffing arrangement, but I, who just wanted to go back to bed, didn’t. I just left the Hello Panda creme filled cookie box bulging out the top of his stocking, and climbed in bed.
But it was worth it when Erich woke me up a few hours later, a quiet, giddy little boy happy on Christmas day.
“I feel bad,” he said, grinning at the Hello Panda creme filled cookies and the Pokemon dress socks and the touchable bubbles, “that I didn’t get you anything.”
Not quite true — he’d started a homemade gift at the last minute, but couldn’t finish it because he kept injuring his fingers and getting blood all over the gift. It’s still under our bed. I paid for the materials myself during our last Walmart trip.
“I’ll just go out tomorrow and get you a bunch of things.”
“No need, babe. You can just buy me random things throughout the year. ‘Merry Christmas!’ ‘Happy Anniversary!’ ‘Happy Birthday!'”
“Don’t I do that already?”
And that, dear reader, is a real life, newlywed Christmas.
Search “pixie cut for round faces” half a dozen times, decide your face is more long than round, search “pixie cut for long faces” twenty times, and then just look at generic pixie cuts because you can’t figure out your face shape.
Find the perfect pixie cut.
Procrastinate on setting the appointment.
Panic and set the appointment as soon as possible.
Spend a restless day and a sleepless night psyching up for this moment.
Ask your husband a million times if he’ll still love you with short hair.
Feel like you’re going to puke, pass out, or burst into tears in the hours leading up to your appointment.
Think about texting your husband that you feel more nervous now than you did on your wedding day.
Delete that text because you don’t know what that says about you.
Drive past the salon a couple times.
Look completely clueless and lost at the salon, especially because everyone’s dressed up as reindeer.
See lots of pretty young hairstylists with gorgeous long hair.
Make awkward small talk with your stylist who (thank God!) is dressed as a normal, sensible human being. With gorgeous long hair.
Feel liberated when she chops off two feet of hair. Yes. This, like marrying your husband, was something you wanted and needed to do.
Wonder how this hair style looks remotely like the picture you showed, but she knows what she’s doing, right, and maybe there’s special pixie cut magic five minutes before you leave that makes it look just right.
It doesn’t look right.
Don’t say anything because the stylist loves it, and her supervisor loves it, and the random stylist who sees you sitting there forlornly loves it, and you’re a people pleaser, and you haven’t had time to overcome your besetting weaknesses, and you’ve been sitting there for two hours, and it’s five o’clock, and you can’t believe you spent half of your year freaking out over getting a pixie cut only to not get a pixie cut.
Stylist gives you chocolate.
Still feel upset because you’re a complicated woman and chocolate doesn’t solve your problems.
Sister tells you that you look cute.
Stare at yourself in every mirror in the house.
Decide she’s right.
Take bathroom selfies.
Oh, and here’s the back:
I mean, for not being a pixie cut, it’s still pretty fly.
Erich and I are forgoing the family celebrations to spend our first Christmas morning together at our own apartment. I learned a long time ago that holidays aren’t half as fun without children under the age of twelve, so I wonder why we’re doing this to ourselves.
I want to resurrect an abandoned Bergmann tradition — looking at Christmas light displays. We used to load up our twelve-passenger van, drive to the local Sonic, order some chocolate shakes, and joy ride around the rich neighborhoods (all in our jammies, of course). Christmas music, the dark, warm van, the random caroling — those were good times.
P.S. I am beyond excited to play Santa this year. I’ve already got plastic bags filled with stocking stuffers, so I’m working out when to do the deed. Erich’s up late, so I’ll probably sneak out in the morning, fill ‘er up, and then go jump on him until he gets out of bed. He better leave me cookies. But not milk. I think our milk is a couple weeks old. (I’ll go check on that.)
Help a newlywed couple out: What are some fun holiday traditions for two?
I like shopping as close to Christmas as possible. To me, shopping is a part of traditional Christmas festivities and must be done during the Christmas season. It’s the only time that makes shopping bearable. So if you’re like me, and still shopping for the elusive perfect gift, here’s the world’s shortest mall gift guide.
Here’s how this works: get your sister the cutest pajama bottoms, throw in a thermal top, and then duplicate the look for yourself. Family jammies! (Matching pajamas would be a fun mommy/newborn or newlywed gift!)
Best. Christmas. Gift. Ever. My brother bought this for me last Christmas. I listened to it until the snow melted, and I started listening to it again well before Thanksgiving. It’s my go-to car jam. (You could also buy their new album, but this one’s better.)
And don’t forget to give the gift of yourself! Take your grandma out to eat, get your nails done with your best friend, go see the new Star Wars movie with your little brother, or learn how to snowboard with your hubby. (Been there, done that, got the medical bill to prove it.)
What’s your favorite gift you’ve given or received? I need to start gathering ideas for next year!