A rambling good-bye

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My map of what breaks me open, an exercise in turning brokenness into beauty. I am currently navigating my way through a book called “the Geography of Loss” by Patti Digh. She talks about taking those moments that break you open and creating a map using those moments as landmarks by which to move forward–creating beauty from brokenness. This is my beauty of a map. Artist I am not, but luckily that wasn’t what this map required.

Update July 29, 2015: When I originally wrote this, I was sure I was ready to move on and start fresh in a new blog. Well, I guess I lied. I’m really not going anywhere. This place has too much of me poured into these pages to ever let it go. I was and will always be Hanging by a Thread. ~Melissa

This is a rambling, a jumble of words, a see-ya-later-but-not-really.

They say all good things must come to end, and so to must this blog.

When I began Hanging by a Thread in January of 2012 I was a different person, one that had done the work and was ready to take charge of her life.

And took charge I did.

But little did I know what life had in store. . .

Unimaginable loss. Change. Grief. Pain. Heartache.

Comfort and safety snatched away.

Healing. Love. Gratitude. Growth.

Grace. Redemption. Hope.

Learning to trust His way.

Little did I know that the title of my blog would become an aching metaphor for life. . . 

And now I have come to a crossroads. . .

A season of major life changes, a season of loss, a season of finding me–is slowly fading.

I can feel it in my bones.

What is next?

I have no clue. . . only visions in my head of where the path is leading.

Visions placed there by the whispers of my soul.

It feels like a settling in, of heading where I am being called, of finding the courage to share with my whole heart what life’s journey has taught me over the years.

And even though I am ready to take the leap, to dive headfirst into the deep end–it is scary.

Very scary.

But in a good way, I think.

It’s a new season.

A new day dawning.

I have felt it for a while now.

But it takes courage, both to let go and to move forward.

And sometimes courage is hard to muster. Really hard.

It is easier to just stay where we are at because it’s comfortable. It’s safe.

Then I remember that comfort and safety are really just illusions anyways.

I wrote this a while back and just found it the other day. I don’t even really remember writing it. It was one of those thoughts that popped into my head and I recorded it on the spot. I knew it was a perfect snapshot of where I was at, of where I am, and of where I am heading.

Change is coming again. I can feel it. I don’t know exactly what it will be, even though I have an inkling. I have learned to be okay with not knowing. I have learned to trust, even though I wonder. I have learned to be patient, even though I’m not wired that way.  I have learned that even though I know the change will be amazing, it will be hard. It always is. Growth and change and healing are like that. They don’t call them growing pains for nothing. 

I have learned to trust, even though I wonder . . . luckily my middle name is faith.

Faith.

It’s what has gotten me through, given me hope, and brought me home.

Even though this blog is ending, I am not done writing.

In fact, I am just beginning. . .

You can find me here, in my new place, with my new blog, My Middle Name is Faith.    http://melissafaith.com/

I don’t know exactly what it will be. In fact, there isn’t even anything there. And even though I don’t exactly know what it will be yet, the words real and raw come to mind–kind of like a conversation with those that know me best. A space where authenticity, tolerance, grace, and love are welcomed . . .

Thank you all for your encouragement and love over the past few years. I thank God for each and every one of you.

Thank you to all who have shared my tears, watched me come undone, and stayed by my side through the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And lastly, thank you to those that have remained through the brokenness and the beautiful of this journey. 

Let the new chapter begin. . .

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Uganda 2014: The end is just the beginning

“Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort,
and letting it be there until some light returns.” ~Anne Lamott
 
Murchison Falls National Park, Uganda.

When I originally started writing this I was sitting on the balcony of my lodge room, overlooking the Nile River in Uganda. My view was beautiful, the warm air comforting, and the sounds coming from the African forest were soothing to my soul. I was preparing to spend my last day in this incredible place and although my heart was heavy at the thought of leaving, I was also very much at peace. This trip had been so full of unexpected blessings and was far more than any trip I could have ever imagined. For 10 days, I had been surrounded by amazing courage, whole-hearted joy, peace, healing, beauty, and LOVE. My heart had been opened and my soul expanded. I had been reminded that even though no one on this planet is immune from heartache, HIS love never fails us. It will always carry us through the worst of times if we choose to let it.

At the dedication of the Michelle and Julia Hoffman Memorial Children's Home.
At the dedication of the Michelle and Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home.

Fast forward a day. . .

As I decided to continue writing, my surroundings were far less than the bliss I had enjoyed at the start.  I was just one hour away from United States soil and s-t-r-u-g-g-l-i-n-g to make gracious choices. I had been on a jam-packed flight from Amsterdam for the past eight hours with some loud, annoying, and rather rude people who thankfully decided to ease up on their alcohol consumption. (As my friend Jaynee would say, “They were seriously harshing my mellow.”) I had not been out of my seat for several hours, showered for nearly two days, and I was d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e-l-y in need of a run. I am pretty sure my a@@ had grown two sizes and my ankles had swollen to the size of elephant legs from the multitudes of hours I had spent not moving. I had only had about 10 minutes of crappy time on the internet in the previous four days. I was crawling in my skin at that point and all I wanted to do was talk to my kids and see the hub. That peace, love, and joy I had experienced less than 24 hours ago had completely left the building.

The tulips were in full bloom in Amsterdam. A bright spot on the otherwise LONG flight home.
The tulips were in full bloom in Amsterdam. A bright spot on the otherwise LONG flight home.

And now, three weeks later. . .

I’ve been back to this page several times since my return from Uganda, never quite finding the words I thought I needed to create some sort of crazy-amazing post that would inspire everyone reading  to drop what they were doing and hop the first plane to Uganda to work with orphans. (When I realized that probably wasn’t going to happen, I decided just to finish,  and to be okay with however the words tumbled out.) It already seems like a lifetime ago since we left and although there isn’t hardly an hour that goes by that I don’t think of the orphanage or the trip, I haven’t chosen to slow down enough to let my mind “go there” yet. Ya’ll know what I mean? And while I have yet to begin to comprehend and process everything that I have seen and experienced, that’s not the whole story. The root of the problem– really– is this. . . I know that the longer I put off reflecting and writing about my journey, the longer I have to continue in my COMFORTABLE, tidy little world. 

Which brings me back to one month and three days ago. . .

As I was attempting to relax in my nightly bubble bath a few days before I left, I suddenly had the INTENSE feeling that when I returned from Uganda this time around, my life was about to get really UNCOMFORTABLE. Not  in the physical way (like I was on the plane), but uncomfortable in the emotional and spiritual way, (which, for me, can be somewhat angst producing.)  I had no clue what was going to be such a game-changer, I just knew it had something to do with knowing better and doing better.

“When you know better you do better.”

 ~Maya Angelou

I knew I wouldn’t be able to unlearn what I was about to learn from this trip therefore I knew upon my return, I would have no choice but to DO better.

Suppose a brother or a sister is without

clothes and daily food. 

If one of you says to them,

“Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,”

but does nothing

about their physical needs,

what good is it?

In the same way, faith by itself,

if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

~James 2:15-17, NIV

But, that is the hard part–the doing, the action– mainly because that is where the messiness comes in. It’s in that mess where the uncomfortableness begins and it’s in those uncomfortable messes where we have to make our toughest choices. Do we simply say “go in peace?” Or do we put our faith in action?  Like I said, the action is the hard (uncomfortable) part, especially, when it is SO easy (comfortable) to just say “go in peace.”

But, when you know better, you do better, right?  

At this moment, I have NO idea where my life is headed.  I only know that I have learned the hard way that no matter how much I try to control it–no matter how much I try to stay comfortable–I can’t. And I am now grateful for that. I have faith enough to know that I will trust in the journey–despite the heartaches and uncertainties-because I know that God is faithful. ALWAYS. All the time. Even when we can’t see it through the mess. Even when we are uncomfortable. His love never fails us. The evidence of that rests in a beautiful little orphanage in Uganda. . .

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The 2014 Oman/Minnesota Team with the children of the Michelle and Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home.

Uganda 2014

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Some of the children of the Michelle and Julia Hoffman Memorial Children’s Home in Uganda. Thank you Sarah Elbing for this photo!

As I write this, I feel like I should be pinching myself.

I’m going to Uganda for the second time in one year?

What?

I know.

I feel like the luckiest girl alive at the moment.

I could never thank the people that have made this trip possible for me enough. I don’t have the words to describe how truly grateful I am. I don’t know if I ever will. All I do know is that this trip will be incredibly special. I can feel it already.

I failed miserably writing about my last trip. I am not exactly sure why. Yes, I can be terribly lazy about my writing, but that wasn’t what this was. It was something more. I have a feeling much of the experiences of my first trip will come out in the blogs of trip number two, which, by the way, I PROMISE to write!

So in the mean time. . .

Stay tuned.

It’s Uganda or bust!

Facing fears and finding me the fifth: Owning your story and believing your worth

(On January 5, 2014, I had the honor of speaking at the MACCRAY Community Health Challenge 3rd Annual Kick-off. Here’s  the blog-style version (part 1) of where I was coming from and where I have been on my weight-loss journey. To some of you that read my blog regularly, some of this will sound very familiar.)

To truly believe in yourself and all of your amazing awesomeness, you must first learn to accept yourself with your whole heart. This means forgiving yourself for past mistakes and honoring your own unique and beautiful story, no matter how difficult some of the past chapters may be to reread. Accept yourself, own your story, and believe that you are worthy of great things. ~MFB

As I write this, it’s been nearly two years since my first installment in this little blog within a blog. Little did I know what life had in store for me at the time of my first writing. When I started this journey just two short years ago, life was SO completely different. . .

I really hadn’t stopped to think about it until I started preparing for a little presentation I did last night for my community’s annual health challenge. Even though I talk in front of people on a regular basis, this one was rattling my nerves BIG TIME. After pondering why for quite some time, I finally concluded that even though I frequently bare my soul in writing on this blog, I had yet to publicly speak about my weight loss. Quite frankly, it is scary as H-E-L-L. It also dawned on me as I was looking back through my earlier blogs that when I began this journey, life was “as usual” in our family. The beginnings of this story had started for me pre-crash with my mom and sister-in-law cheering me along every single step of the way. They were my absolute biggest and most loving supporters. My sister-in-law was the first commenter on my first blog and one of the very last conversations I had with my mom (just a couple of days before she was killed) was about my weight loss. She had exclaimed (in a way only a mother could) that she forgot how small my shoulders really were (they aren’t, but the last few pounds that I had lost had come off that area of my body in a very noticeable fashion). She also had told me how proud she was of me and that I was inspiring her to “get on the stick” and lose some weight. Even though I am so very thankful for these beautiful memories, recalling them is still crazy painful. I hadn’t thought I’d be “going there” while preparing to talk so it threw me into a bit of a mental tizzy that I wasn’t expecting. Nonetheless, I had to do this–not because I had yes to speaking–but because I had to do it for me. I had to own my story, out loud, in front of real-life people, as opposed to the usual virtual audience– even though I was scared sh$$less.

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Own your story. You are amazing and worthy.

Over the last couple of weeks, I had been contemplating what I would talk about and how I would present what I knew in a manner that would be helpful to others. I am obviously not an expert on nutrition, weight-loss, or anything of the like. I am, however, an expert on myself and my own story. I know from experience the power that owning your story holds. I also know that no matter what our struggles are or where we are on our own journeys, we are NEVER, EVER alone. Because of this, I knew that what has worked for me would work for others in their own way, on their own journeys.

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You can stop the weight loss roller coaster once and for all. You have the power.

For the record, I truly have no idea how much weight I have actually lost. I stepped on the scale in January of 2012 for the first time in nearly a decade. At my official “weigh-in” I tipped the scales at 240. Yep, 40 pounds more than I thought and 30 pounds more than the worst-case scenario number I had in my head. Since that fateful day, I have lost roughly (depending upon the morning) 65 pounds. I am guesstimating though from looking through photos  that at my heaviest, I probably pushed 250 on the scales, which would make my total weight loss somewhere between 70-75 pounds. I was able to finally the stop weight-loss roller coaster at that moment, not because I had suddenly become a health and fitness guru, but because I had done the mental work beforehand. I had faced down the demons in my head and had decided that I was WORTHY of being happy and healthy, regardless of my past or present circumstances.  I had learned to accept myself for exactly who I was– nothing more, nothing less. I had zero excuses left (not that any were truly legit anyways) not to stop the not-so-thrilling ride that I had been on. Once I learned to accept and believe in myself, the journey became so much easier.

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Believe that you are so very worthy, because you are.

The most terrifying thing is to accept yourself completely.”  ~C.G. Jung

It’s hard though! Learning to accept ourselves and believing that we are worthy of happiness and healthiness can be so very difficult to do; but, acceptance of ourselves and belief in our own worthiness is essential to the journey. There isn’t a single thing that you cannot overcome– if you make the choice to do so. You cannot change your past, you can only integrate it into your present and own it. Make it part of your own beautiful story–the one where you truly believe you are worthy of great things. The one where you are in charge of writing your own ending. . .

(Next up: Part two: The rest of the essentials)

Thanks to the Facebook Game Currently Trending, Here Are 17 Random Facts About Me

  1. I strongly disliked my name “Melissa Faith” growing up. Now, I cherish it.

  2. I am working very hard at restoring the creative and musical side of me that I successfully squashed years ago. My mom would be so proud.

  3. I marvel at and thank God for the absolute awesomeness of my kids. Every. Single. Day.

  4. The places my soul is happiest are California, New York City, Africa, and the mountains of Colorado. Also, anywhere I am with my family and/or by water: the ocean first, mountain streams second, and after that pretty much any river or lake will do.

  5. My dream job would be traveling the world rescuing human trafficking victims and slaves. I would bring the hub along for muscle power to put a little hurt on the slave owners as we depart. I shared that dream with him a while back and he wasn’t as enthused as I was. My other dream job would be to travel the world photographing and writing about what I have seen and experienced. Sunrises and sunsets on every continent? Could happen.

  6. I have had to “get over myself” several times throughout my life. I deeply regret the times when I was less than a decent person.

  7. At my core, I am an adrenaline junkie. Having children tamed those urges significantly as the need to be responsible outweighed my need for recklessness– although barely, at times.

  8. I have learned to appreciate and crave silence. This came only after I exorcised the demons from my head.

  9. I LOVE music of all sorts, especially of the alternative and hard rock genres. The only exception to this is the fact that I STRONGLY dislike country music, unless it’s the old stuff. A little Patsy Cline anyone?

  10. I love and miss my family around the world and country intensely.

  11. I am a thrift storeaholic. Most days, all or a good portion of the clothing I am wearing is second-hand as is most everything in my home.

  12. I have the best friends in the world and have had all throughout my life– as far back as I can remember, even when I wasn’t deserving of them. I am deeply grateful for all of them, old and new.

  13. Running has saved my life.

  14. I LOVED dinosaurs when I was little. Still do.

  15. I am adopted.

  16. I could eat pizza, watermelon, ice cream, and cereal every day.

  17. I have learned that practicing gratitude will lift you from some pretty dark places and that faith in God will sustain you, despite what life dumps on you.

Your soul knows…

“Your soul knows the geography of your destiny.

Your soul alone has the map of your future,

therefore you can trust this indirect, oblique side of yourself.

If you do, it will take you where you need to go,

but more important it will teach you

a kindness of rhythm in your journey.”

 John O’Donohue, from “Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

This quote came to me in an email series I was subscribed to (http://ericastaab.com/40-days-of-deep-wisdom/) recently. Of course, it came to my inbox on the day that I absolutely needed it most- the day I learned to listen to my soul.

I was saving it for the rest of my soul-searching story but some people that I really love a lot could use it right now. Listen to your heart, listen to your soul. . . let it guide you on your journey.

With love~