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bring it on, world.

October 26, 2011.

That is the day I last wrote a blog. That's not the day when my life changed but it is a day that I can recognize as one of the last ones when I knew who I was and what my purpose was.

I'm not generally a quitter. Sure, sometimes I quit on books or I quit on small projects but in life, nope. I  try hard at most things, usually right until the end. I won't say that quitting is not a thought that meanders through my being when something gets tough but I have come to learn that when I stick things out I come out having learned a thing or two.

But I did quit. I quit a big commitment. I said I would live in Washington, DC and I would do my best.

I tried. I also had my very first panic attack, too.

It was too much. I couldn't think or breathe. I couldn't cope with the devastation I felt for leaving Mongolia early that March morning. I couldn't cope with no one understanding what Mongolia had meant to me and how it had changed me right down to my bones. And I definitely couldn't cope with a new job with endless complexities.

So, I quit.

I don't like to say that was quitting to other people but I've been beating myself up for the past 2 years for it. But I did and deep down I knew it. I had forgotten (or at least chose to forget) what I believed in my heart--that sticking with something brings learning. Since then I've had a really difficult time forgiving myself.

Rather than October 26, 2011 being the day it all changed...it was rather a string of days, months, now years. I stopped forgiving myself and a tiny seed of self-criticism crept into my heart and made a home.

Recently I have become quite fond of the show "Once Upon a Time" which beautifully tells the untold and unimagined (up until recently) stories of those we believe to have lived "happily ever after." Turns out they didn't have it as nice as I thought.

In the latest episode, the Evil Queen rips out Snow White's heart in front of her. But instead of squeezing her heart to kill her, she simply shows Snow what's inside. Inside is a tiny black spot, right in the middle. She tells her that it is evil and that once it has begun growing, it will only get bigger.

All week I've been wrestling with that thought. Is Snow really evil? But really I've been thinking of myself. (I really am selfish to the core, even when watching TV) Although I've harbored self-doubt, been critical of myself, held onto guilt, kept pain, and have been joyless--all the things that are that tiny black spot, am I bound to be that person? Is it only going to grow? Can't I stop it?

Yeah, I can change.

I don't have to be that person. I can claim what THE ONE who lives in me believes. That grace is bigger. Forgiveness is bigger. Love is bigger than any black spot.

That's just it, when we see that ugly bit of black growing inside of us, when we recognize it, that's when we can finally see clearly. We can eradicate the dirty, the ugly, the things that are holding us back from living freely.

So, just as that tiny feeling of self-criticism slowly crept into my soul... I feel it being taken over by another tiny seed. A seed that I do want to grow bigger.

Joy.

If you know me, you know I used to live in a room with words painted all over my walls. It started with one word, though. Joy. It has been waiting in my soul for a long time.

Choose joy. Sometimes choosing isn't enough, you have to fight for it.

Now, for the first time in nearly 2 years, I'm ready.

I'm ready to fight for joy.

Bring it on, world. The joy I'm fighting for can't be tainted by you. It is from a different place.

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The Prayer of the Empty Water Jar

Jesus, I come into the warmth of your presence
knowing that you are
the very emptiness of God.

I come before you
holding the water jar of my life.

Your eyes meet mine
and I know what I'd rather not know.

I came to be filled
but I am already full.

I am too full
This is my sickness

I am full of things
that crowd out
your healing presence.

A holy knowing steals inside my heart
and I see a painful truth.

I don't need more
I need less
I am too full.

I am full of things that block out
your golden grace.

I am smothered by gods of my own creation
I am lost in the forest of my false self
I am full of my own opinions and narrow attitudes
full of fear, resentments, control
full of self-pity, and arrogance.

Slowly this terrible truth
pierces my heart
I am so full there is no room for you.

Contemplatively, and with compassion
you ask me to reach into my water jar.

One by one, Jesus, you enable me
to lift out the things
that are a hindrance to my wholeness.

I take each one to my heart and