out of the valley & into the light

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. I John 1:5-7

This is a collection of thoughts pieced together through the keys of  my laptop over the last few days, but really these thoughts have been formed through tearful conversations and brewed in a thousand cups of morning coffee and screamed in aimless drives around my neighborhood with no one but God and the radio to listen to my rants. Summer 2015, what a hell of a summer you were. If this blesses you, reader, PTL. But really, this is for me.

There’s a new kind of life coursing through my veins: hope.

I’m waiting to board a flight (OC —> Seattle) to go see my best friend in our city of dreams (the land of Meredith Grey and coffee). Planes come and go on the runway in front of me, and people shuffle and scurry over the tile behind me. Duffle bags with iron-on volleyballs on the side bump against excited teenager’s legs as they rush to their gate, eager to be somewhere new. Weary-eyed business women and men wheel their briefcases over the cracks in the tile, click click click, eager to be home.

The sun is setting in a vibrant display, peeking out from behind the fluffy clouds that create a patchwork of blue and white. I can literally see the silver lining.

Pumpin Blood – The Jane Doze Remix by NONONO is on repeat, blasting into my head and sinking into my heart.

Hey ho, on the road again

moving on, forward. 

Sticks and stones won’t break your bones

You’re in the car, on a highway.

It’s a magical feeling that no one’s got a hold. 

You’re a catalyst to your own happiness you know. 

It’s your heart. It’s alive. It’s pumping blood.

HOPE. And I haven’t felt that in a very long time.

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. This has hands down been the hardest year of my life. There were so many firsts and a sad amount of lasts. My circumstances shifted and relationships changed. The systems that were supposed to support me proved hollow and institutions I believed in broke my trust. The Jacova I have always known myself to be was shaken, deeply.

I know the terms are vague. The fullness of the story is not one to be told on this screen; it will be saved for safe and honest conversation. You are welcome to seek that with me if you want it, but for the purposes of this post, just know that I was messy. Very very messy and unsure and confused. And ever so sneakily, anger at injustice and sorrow at loss nestled a little too deeply in my heart.

My mentor and friend, Hayley, recently helped me uncover the difference between righteous anger and suffocating bitterness. Anger is a right and healthy response to injustice. It is the pathway to something greater be that working towards change or initiating our own. Anger is a short lived fuse that must burn out. Bitterness sets in when that anger and sorrow turns into a forest fire. Bitterness sets up camp when anger becomes the lens through which you see the world.

This year the anger and sorrow and confusion that I so rightly felt at a series of trying circumstances became my lens. Emotions that I should have felt, and needed to feel, became the context through which I processed life. Rather than moving me towards advocacy and growth and surrender, they became my compass. And through this lens, the world became darker, people’s character became more questionable, and I only became angrier and sadder. The walls of the valley felt like they were closing in.

Walking through the valley is part of life. I believe that there are seasons when we are called to descend downward, when we have to press through the darkness. But we are never supposed to stop walking. We have to keep moving forward.

The beautiful thing about the valley is that there is no where else to go but up. You have already plummeted to the lowest point. You have crawled through the mud. You have dwelt in the crevices. But as long as you put one foot in front of the other, you are moving forward, and moving forward means moving up.

I knew that this summer was the season when I could walk out of the valley. I had been a bottom dweller for long enough. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel illuminating the path I needed to take to walk out. But all of a sudden, I didn’t want to.

The valley had become familiar, the lens of bitterness and darkness was all I had seen for so long. As much as I craved the light, I knew it would illuminate parts of my heart that I wanted to stay numb and hidden. The valley had changed me, in good ways and hard ways. I felt like walking into the light meant I had to return to a sort of shallower, naiver Jacova that had to forget some of the valuable, nuanced things I learned in the valley. I didn’t want to forget; I couldn’t forget all that the valley had taught me and all the ways it had changed me.

I’m not sure how long it would have taken this perspective to shift if I wasn’t surrounded by a group of core people who chose to sit with me in the mud, who decided to descend with me into the valley, grasping my hand and leading me towards that light.

I learned from Hayley that I get to choose what I take with me out of the valley, and more importantly, what I leave behind. She tells me everyday, whether through word or deed, that I am enough, and I am learning to lean into that truth. She also reminds me that just as much as feeling and pressing in and doing the heavy lifting of processing is important, so is laughing. We can celebrate even in the scariest seasons. We can find joy even in the darkest places.

I learned from Leslie what it means to be unapologetically myself. She teaches me what it means to bear who I am in process, all of me – the parts that are fragmented and the pieces that are whole, and let the world take it or leave it. She has cracked my heart open wider than I thought possible, and she has been one of the most joyous and surprising parts of my process this summer. She is a fighter. Thanks for living life with me, Weswee.

I learned from Katie what the most tried and true of friendships looks like. She is a common thread, woven through the tapestry of the last three years in the most sovereign way. She has chosen to stay, to press in, no matter how messy I become. She has stayed close through every twist and turn of the valley, and she has chosen to walk into the light with me. I would not be where I am or who I am without her.

I learned from Jesus grace. Grace upon stinking dose of grace. How often has that word speckled these posts over the last few years?! Probably every single one. Probably because I need a hell of a lot of it. In the deepest of valleys, in the strongest of currents, in the most terrifying of battles, He is my constant. Even when I can’t see him or feel as though I don’t know him. He is carrying my pack and he is guiding the waves and he is swinging the sword.

Sometimes I feel alone. Even as I walk (meh more like stumble) forward there are days when I feel as though I am sloshing through the muck on my own. But when I am fearful I feel hands squeeze mine and when I trip I am steadied by strong arms and when my legs give out I am scooped up. Sometimes I feel alone, but then I realize that I never am.

And now I know – I am more sure than ever – it is time.

It’s time. I have two weeks. Two weeks left of summer. Two week left of the season I barely crawled into alive.

It is time to step fully, finally, into the light.

Yes – the valley changed me. It scared me and scarred me, but that fear is turning into wisdom and the bright pink scars are healed enough to move freely with the stretch and pull of my skin. The mud I crawled through is drying and breaking from my body with every step that I take upward, onward.

I get to choose what I leave behind. I get to choose what stays in the valley and what accompanies me into the light.

So, now I am waiting to board a different flight (Seattle —> Ontario). There are different people around me, but the volleyball duffles and the briefcases still bump and click. The blue sky is speckled with different clouds, but I can still see the silver lining. I am going back to Azusa, but hope is still pumping through my veins.

Hey ho, on the road again

moving on, forward. 

Sticks and stones won’t break your bones

You’re in the car, on a highway.

It’s a magical feeling that no one’s got a hold. 

You’re a catalyst to your own happiness you know. 

It’s your heart. It’s alive. It’s pumping blood.

This last weekend I breathed deep and laughed hard and enjoyed the adventure and coffee and company that Seattle had to offer me. I walked the streets with my oldest and dearest friend, who consistently calls me into my best and out of my worst.

And now this is my confident declaration: the valley is in my rearview mirror. There will always be potholes in the road and I will most assuredly trip again and there could very well be a different valley on the path in front of me. But for now my eyes are trained on the majestic, snow-capped mountain that rises ahead. Skies are blue and the sun is warming my pale skin and I am so eager to embrace this next season.

Because I’m moving on, forward, with this new hope in my veins.

I’m stepping into the light, and it feels so damn good.
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