Coffee Date: Therapy and God.


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(I started meeting you here for coffee every month the end of last year, courtesy of my brilliant friend, Erin, who is one of the beautiful minds behind Coffee Dates. As always, please feel free to write your own Coffee Date or email me here. I’m always here and the coffee’s always on at my place. So come on in, love.)

Hey Coffee Date. It’s been awhile. I’ve still got stories of February and Atlanta and lessons learned the hard way, but for now let’s just be real with each other. Just for a minute. I still worry that I do this coffee date thing wrong–did I ever tell you that? It’s one of the biggest fears when I click that publish button–I’m always worried I wasn’t what you needed for a coffee date. The beauty, though, of coffee dates is you can say anything, let down all the masks, hand it all over for a few minutes to be real and raw. I don’t know about you, but I could use a little more of that.

But…uh…hey, coffee date? Before we go in, I need to clear the air.

*deep breath*

I am Amanda Russell and…I like pumpkin spice lattes. Cliche, frothy, sticky, other-worldly delicious pumpkin spice lattes. As in, I would GLADLY wear PTL for PSL t-shirts–in fact, I should set up a booth.

But it gets worse. I get ventis. I’ve tried pumpkin spice at every coffee shop I frequent and I can tell you with zero uncertainty who makes the best pumpkin spice lattes and who makes the worst. I even have pumpkin spice latte inside jokes from that one year my bestie and I were hyped up on life (because what kind of university makes sophomore/juniors sit through chapel services for an hour and a half right AFTER summer ends? It was torture.) and I walked right up to a Starbucks barista and asked for a pumpkin sposs latte. I still haven’t lived that down…

So, yeah, today if we were on a coffee date…

We’d be at Starbucks.

I’d swing open the door at 5:30, wearing the same holey jeans that saw me through a catastrophic spring and a foggy summer. “We did say 5:30, right?” I’d ask, draping my bag over the chair.

I use matte lipstick now–but not too bright because I’m not there yet. I arrange my hair in the mirror before looking anyone in the eye, brush it firm when you’re not looking because oh no, oh no, oh no my anxiety scars are showing these days–days and nights of job hunting and pulling added up until I finally chopped off brunette locks when I didn’t know what else to do but something needed to be done. Even in this, God gives me grace.

“Your hair will grow back,” my therapist is my newest voice of reason–she gives me goals for stopping my hair-pulling, but gives me permission to blow it. And I need that, coffee date. I think we all need permission to blow it sometimes–a verbal permission slip to make our mistakes and go on from there. I see her weekly, unpack emotions, make sense of them, pick up my bag for the week ahead, thank her endlessly for talking with me. I’m here—but not remember-I’m-not-a-burden-to-my-therapist here, if you know what I’m saying. But therapy is like a lighthouse I settle into once a week–one of the biggest forms of grace God’s given me. I’m not drowning anymore–I’m learning to swim.

I see my own anxiety these days, coffee date. I view it as a meter now and when I feel it go beyond a 6, I stop. I adjust. I take care of myself. I write myself a little note sometimes or press my wrists under cold water or use an essential oil–breathe deep.

This is where I am, coffee date, and I’m proud of me. I really am. This is good–this is beautiful. But, before you go? Let’s do a speed round to catch me up on where you’ve been while I’ve been out:

  1. Where were you for the eclipse? And did you see the ground snakes they talked about because I didn’t see ANYTHING and I was so freaking mad.
  2. HAVE YOU HEARD TAYLOR SWIFT’S NEW MUSIC? I am all the way here for her new era, Coffee Date.
  3. How’s your fall starting out? Busy? Colorful? Good? I want all the thoughts.
  4. Have you seen this? I’m late to the scene on this but it’s so good. Go watch it. Be good to yourself, coffee date.
  5. What are you reading/listening to? I’m currently working through The Ocean At The End of The Lane and I’ve been on a podcast binge from the church I’ve been tiptoeing around for a year and a half. Okay, okay…and also my go-to fall song is All Too Well by Taylor Swift. No judgments!
  6. How are you taking care of yourself these days? I’ve been journaling and watching Gilmore Girls like there’s no tomorrow. #teamlukeandlorelai
  7. How are you holding up during hurricane season? If there’s any needs you know of, I’d love for you to leave them below in the comments because I’ve been trying to help as much as I can.
  8. I want you to comment below with three things that are going good for you. Go, go, go!
  9. If we were really on a coffee date, what’s your poison? Are you into chai or pumpkin spice these days?
  10. Finally, coffee date, before I head out of here–what can I do for you? Do you need encouragement? Email me and I’ll send you as much encouragement as I can pack into one little page.

 

Hey Babe: When You Feel Unseen


 

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Hey Babe,

In the thick of my mental health struggles, for some reason, I always wanted someone to randomly come into wherever I was, sit down beside me, and say, “Hey babe–what’s wrong?” (Kind of like the aunt in Ramona and Beezus. Because umm…who wouldn’t want an aunt like that?)  With that, those two words have been swirling around in my head for the past couple months, so here I am, saying them to you. This newest thread of Not Your Average Coffee Bean is meant to be a hand-holder in the darkness–to encourage, uplift, and show love to anyone who needs these words. If you’re reading, the biggest thing I want you to take away from these little rambling notes is that you matter infinitely more than you know.

I couldn’t even look at her.

Twenty-one years old and face-to-face with the story I would mostly keep to myself (when, you know, I wasn’t using it as a bit to poke fun at myself because they ALL could see how much of a mess I was anyway so why not join in?).  It was a breezy day in March when I ran into the guy I’d had a crush on for MONTHS with his girlfriend during an afternoon walk. I’d been carrying my dog across the sidewalk near the lake, pulling at my blue shorts every ten seconds and regretting walking the half a mile from my house when I saw them. Me and him–we were friends, so of course I stopped and said hello, trying to act normal when in reality I was red-faced and feeling awkward.

In that moment, one of the things that sticks out in my memory is that I found myself unable to look at his girlfriend because I didn’t want to see if she was beautiful. Because what if she had something that I didn’t? What if she was better than I was? Don’t we do silly things to ourselves, infringe silly lies upon ourselves? 

The conversation was short–awkward on both ends before they turned and walked away, leaving me staring after them in disbelief at what had just happened. It would be five minutes before I called my friends and had them crying laughing, asking the infamous, “What are the odds?!” It would be ten minutes before I shot a text to my sister and asked her to please, please, PLEASE pick me up. But in that initial moment, I remember simply turning around and slowly sinking onto a nearby bench, letting Lucy wander around for a minute.

Unseen. That was the heartbeat that followed me after that day at the lake. Unseen, unwanted, unheard, repeat, repeat, repeat. And with every disappointment that came afterwards, it chipped away at any hope I had left that anyone really saw me or cared what happened to me. It’s taken years to see that lie, let alone begin to untangle myself from its grasp. Never buy stock into even one lie because it will set up camp, loves. It will stay as long as it can and steal as much as it can, leaving you empty and wondering how it took so much of you away.

The even lesser-known part of the story, however, comes an hour and a half after leaving the lake. I was listening to Pandora (it was cool back then, okay, kids?!) when a song that I’d never heard before started. In that moment, I tell you…it was like God sent me a lullaby because the words in that song spoke directly to every part of my aching, angsty, twentysomething heart.

“These are the scars,
Deep in your heart,
This is the place you were born,
This is the hole,
Where most of your soul,
Comes ripping out,
From the places you’ve been torn,
And it is always yours,
But I am always yours.” –Always, Switchfoot

I break my own heart from reaching for something that wasn’t supposed to be mine and God sends me a lullaby. I mean…TAKE A HINT, RUSSELL. You’re seen by the only one who really cares–and you out there, reading this? He sees you too. You matter to Him. You’re very much seen, wanted, and heard. He sees the good moments, the bad moments, and all the little moments in-between. He crafted your laugh. He stitched together every part about you. He picks you up and dusts you off. He’s got your names etched into his hands–He cannot, will not let you go. Ever. He sees. I promise.

He went on to graduate the same year as me and start a life. But I went on too. I went on to learn insane lessons from crazy after-college jobs and wipe away pumpkin from team members’ clothes and learn to laugh wild-crazy and write the book and push my body to its limit and embrace variety over a black and white lifestyle.

And hey, babe? Maybe that’s the best part of the story: we all go on. And we’re all seen.