Yellow Journal

I pick up my bright yellow journal with a soft moleskin cover from the coffee table as I sit down for some morning quiet. This book feels more special right now as I notice there are few empty pages and it is nearing its end. It holds bits of my life’s journey the last six months. I have really loved this companion. It fits well in my purse, and the elastic piece on the outside has kept all the pages tidy despite my messy wrestling and rants.

What will I scrawl today?

We are in the midst of a kitchen remodel, a worldwide pandemic, and two of our young adult children have moved back into our disheveled home. Last week, we experienced a painful relational break with the leadership of our church. I feel rather untethered. My sleep has been disrupted, and the muscles are tight from the bottom of my spine all the way up to my neck. Collective trauma is screaming inside the walls of my body.

I have learned enough to care for myself in the midst of unexpected shifts, but right now I am not even sure what I need. My normal support systems feel inaccessible. My longing for “face-to-face” care and safe gatherings is out of reach. I am rattled but grateful that my faithful diary is available to scratch out my roller coaster of emotions.

I glance back at my soft journal with its well-worn corners. As I consider the last empty spaces in which to write, I feel sadness. I am beginning to say goodbye to a dear friend who has walked with me in the depths of life. At the end of a journal, I like to page through and notice themes and musings of that season. Often, as I look back, I can celebrate shifts and freedom that have come. At other times, it brings fresh grief when I see the areas that seem forever stuck, and I wrestle again with the things I cannot change or control. I really hate that part of looking back. The pain in my back isn’t shifting as I consider this. I am aware of how much I truly despise what I cannot will or coerce to change.

Today I consider my response choices in our ministry situation, when a phrase jumps off a page a few pages into my journal review:

Nehemiah 5:15, “Out of reverence for God, I did not act that way.”

This note stops me suddenly. It feels like I am still holding my breath when I try to take a long exhale. I don’t like this verse, but I am drawn in with curiosity. Why did I write this out and what did it mean to me? I look for more. Nothing in the page prior or the one following that expresses why I wrote it. At this moment I have disdain for Nehemiah’s example, but I trust there is goodness in the chance finding.

I think of the relational breakage and loss within our church. I consider how we were there at the beginning fifteen years ago.

I remember how we have been loved and attempted to love there the best we can.

Recent years have not proved the same, and much misunderstanding has ensued. Attempts for repair and care have been missed, and harsh accusations and darts have been thrown.

This event reminds me of a young story where I took the punch and kept silent again and again. I no longer want to stay silent. Everything in me wants to cry out against injustice. My back is really killing me right now. I feel a pounding in my head.

My husband and I have been mulling over responses as we leave this “family.”

1. Go silently.
2. Share truthfully and with discernment.
3. Go out in a blaze, speaking recklessly and causing harm.

In this situation, silence is not right. Most moments gasoline and a torch sound best to me.

But I pause and consider, “Out of reverence for God, I will not act that way.”

I am being invited to option #2.

The muscles in my back loosen a bit as I type. I breathe a deep release, and I feel a shift in my body.

Can I rewrite my former narrative? Instead of going out defended and voiceless, can I hold my head up high and speak without punching back? Can I let God be my witness, gather my tears and hurts, and let that be enough for me? Maybe, I can.

I set my trusty ledger down, thanking it for its insight.

Excuse me now. I need to get out my mat and stretch

Maryhelen Martens is a lover of whimsy and play, beauty and depth, all of which she experiences in her relationships.  She finds life in authentic conversation, walking alongside others and ultimately Jesus – who has been so kind. Each day, she draws from a larger bowl of grace for herself and others. Maryhelen, a mom of three, currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with Keith, her husband and co-laborer of 29 years.