You Are More Than The Sum Of Your Past Mistakes

Today I finished the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  For anyone that hasn’t read it, it’s a heart breaking and often times gut wrenching look at a broken girl who ultimately made the decision to commit suicide.  But before she did- she made a series of audio tapes explaining the reasons that led up to her decision and how these 13 people affected her enough to make her feel like she had no other way out.  It’s told from 2 different first person narratives-  the girl’s voice on the tapes and one of the boys that was a ‘reason’.

I wasn’t really expecting to remember so many of my own depressed-ridden moments as I did reading the book.  They kind of hit me out of the blue like a ton of rocks.  Certain passages in the book making it hard to breathe just thinking about different times in my life when I felt alone and alienated, worn out and just plain exhausted with life.  For me, it never got to the point of even considering the s word- but it’s hard knowing that so many people go through life thinking there is no other alternative.  Sometimes, it makes me wonder exactly how they can feel so desperate for escape.

But when I remember those times in my own life.  The times when I was beaten down and bruised, I can always remember something in the back of my mind.  Even when days went on without end when my phone didn’t ring.  Even when I felt so disconnected, so removed from anyone and everyone that I thought cared about me, there was still a small flicker in my mind.  That reminder that all I had to do was turn around, and I could fall into the safety net of Christ.

For anyone that hasn’t experienced it, it’s a difficult thing to describe.  It’s more than just a reason to go on.  It’s that steadying calm inside your heart and mind… down into your very soul that says that you’re not alone.  It’s knowing that even though words can not convey the depth of the hollow inside your chest, He will forever be there, waiting for you to ask Him to fill it.

Now, please don’t get me wrong… I understand that for a lot of people, depression is a severe chemical issue and not just a matter of mood.  But for me- based on the choices I was making and the path that I was following- the issue was far more mind over matter.

Last week in our young adult group we talked about purpose.  We talked about life and what we’re really here for.  For me, it’s mostly always been a non-issue.  Aside from the few years that I strayed and made my life’s purpose to do whatever I wanted- my purpose has been clear.  Aside from that time, my purpose has been to follow God and His Will for my life.  I’m not saying I’ve always been good at it, or that I’ve always done exactly what I should- because that’s not what being a Christian is about.  All I’m saying is that deep down, no matter what, I’ve always lived with the knowledge that God’s will for my life is greater than my own will.  That no matter how many times I think my way is better- I’ll eventually discover that I’m wrong.

And that really got me thinking.  For anyone who doesn’t know God… I can completely understand how you get to a point where there’s no alternative.  I can see how at the bottom of the seemingly endless pit of hollow despair, there is no light.  If following God isn’t your purpose in life, than what is?

Love?
Wealth?
Happiness?
Convenience?

And if so- how are any of those things measured?  How do you measure love?  Is it lust?  The number of contacts in your phone or friends on facebook?  How do you measure wealth?  Is it the things you have?  The labels on the clothes you wear?  The name on the car you drive or the size house you live in?  When is it ever enough?  The idea that what’s good for me may not be good for you… how do you ever determine rules?  What is too much?

What if someone thinks stealing kittens is okay?  What about killing?  With that line of thinking… even though I don’t think it’s okay… even though it’s not ‘good’ for me… if they think it’s good for them, who am I to tell them it’s wrong?

Aren’t you all glad more people don’t live by this rule?  I know I am.

Getting back to the point- I feel like the only thing you can really claim to be a purpose would be to find something that you’re passionate about and pursue it with all your heart.  And in the end if that thing is not God, pursuing a passion can become a self-fueled obsession that leads to the hunger, the desire for more.  It’s how a love of a job can lead to a need for money.  How a passion for love can lead to marriage crippling lust.  It’s how out of a longing for a life of convenience is borne a life of complacency and stagnancy.  And I don’t want my life to become any of those things.  I don’t really think any of us really WANT those things.

And so- with all of these things swirling around in my head today, this post was born.  Because I feel like it’s so important to talk about, and so often it’s things that we miss.  We see a friend hurting and we brush it off, we get busy or we’re afraid of over stepping our bounds.  I pray that I am ALWAYS the type of person that people feel they can call no matter what.  Day nor night, busy or free, early or late.  No matter what- I want to be the type of person that would never turn away a person in need.  Because in life, everyone needs (and deserves) someone like that.

If anyone out there is wondering today… Yes.  Your life is worth it.  Yes, you are loved.  Whether you’re single, married, athiest, religious, black, white, straight, gay.  Whether you’ve been hurt or you’ve done the hurting, your life is worth it.  And whether you know it or not, you have someone there for you.  And for you… yes you… the one reading this right now that says you have no one.  Right now, you have me.  For an encouraging word or a listening ear.  For an email or a phone call or a hug.  Whether we’ve met in person or you’re crossing this blog for the first time knowing nothing else about me- I am here for you.  Because I know what it’s like to feel like there’s no one on your side.  I am on your side.

And for anyone who needs another encouraging word… this song is for you.

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

Be brave,

What is it, sweetheart? More boy trouble?

 
The ‘dating site’.  For some reason, it’s the one place that I feel drawn back to in order to explore potential mates.  And for some reason (probably NOT because another friend just got engaged or that I was kind of asked out by a guy who is completely wrong for me- but we’re not ruling those out yet) despite my pact, I have this itch to join back in.  To test the waters, to explore my options.
 
Terrible clichés aside, being content in being single is still a somewhat daunting task.  And I’ve realized that it’s not because I feel unloved.  I know that I have amazing family and friends that love me.  The lack of content comes more from the emotional response that being in love elicits.  It’s having someone you can count on.  Someone you can buy a second concert ticket for, because you know that if you are going then they wouldn’t be anywhere else.  It’s having someone to cook for, someone to tell you that everything is going to be alright.  It’s having that one person that you can always count on to answer the phone, no matter what time of day.  It’s feeling needed.
 
And those feelings aren’t easy to come by when you’re single.  But more importantly, those feelings rarely occur with friends of the same-sex.  I’m not saying that you should use your opposite sex friends to fill the dating void, I’m just saying sometimes it happens.  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t have a lot of guy friends.  And I know just how tempting it can be to become close to guy friends.  Sometimes friendships with the opposite sex are just as co-dependant as relationships.  They fill a ‘dating void’ that you never knew was there.  It’s having that constant companion, the person that will tell you how you look, someone to see a movie or go bowling with on a weekend.  I’ve been there- in the middle of it, and I know the absence you feel when it’s not there anymore.
 
I’m not exactly sure why dating sites are the one thing that I feel drawn back to.  Maybe it’s because I feel more comfortable behind a computer screen than face to face with someone new?  Maybe because on the whole I just don’t meet that many people my age.  Or maybe there is still that defiant part of me struggling with the idea that single now doesn’t necessarily mean lonely forever.
 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I hate being single.  On the contrary, I like being able to visit friends on the weekends without having someone to check in with.  I like not being glued to my phone in case he calls, which I never had to do, but so often felt compelled to do anyway.  I like resting in the quiet assurance that God as a plan— but every once in a while it hits you.
 
You hear that song on the radio that makes you remember how happy you were with him.  Or you see a couple deliriously in love and you wonder if it will ever really be that way for you.  The doubt  enemy sneaks in little by little until it floods your mind and overwhelms your heart.  And you find yourself stuck in this limbo of singlehood and you suddenly feel the thought roll through your head…
 
“When is it my turn?”
 
Sometimes I get so caught up in hearing people tell me “It just wasn’t the right time,” that I can’t help but wonder if the right time exists.  And just when my ‘singleness limbo’ seemed to be creeping up again, the sermon this week was about physical relationships.  God always has a way of knowing exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it.  And it makes saying things like ‘no’ to a free trial on a dating site a little bit easier.
 
The sermon wasn’t necessarily about not dating- although one of the bullet points in our notes was that if ‘dating’ has become synonymous with ‘sex’ then you need to take a year off of relationships.  And while that is not my reasoning for taking a year off- it’s kind of interesting that the weekly sermons and I are kind of on the same page when it comes to things like that.
 
I can understand that a year seems like a long time for some people.  However, it kind of amazes me how quickly some people jump from relationship to relationship.  My boss, for example, whose wife just filed for divorce three weeks ago has already informed me that he’s on a dating site.
 
I’m sorry, but if you’re 50 with 2 kids and 2 ex wives (well, one ex and one soon to be)  then maybe you need to think about what you’re doing wrong in relationships before jumping into another one.
 
He actually said something to me a few days ago that really stuck with me.  He said, “I’m 51 and I need to find myself.”
 
I think sometimes I take for granted the fact that I’m still young.  Sometimes you see friends and family getting married and having kids and you think you’re losing time.  I know I feel that way a lot.
 
And I know that comparing yourself with someone else is silly to begin with- because everyone’s life is different.  We’ve all faced different things, struggled with different things and learned different things.  But in the grand scheme of things- I’m half my boss’s age, and I feel like we’re both facing the same thing.
 
I can’t help but think of how lucky I am that I figured out now at twenty-six, that I need to do something different in my life.  That I need a change.  I can’t help but think that I’m lucky I’m not 51 and having the same realization.
 
And now, for the big news.  I’m so excited for next week, when I will get to cross something BIG off the list.  I’ve been keeping up with my 2 books a month deal (in February I read all three of the Hunger Games books… more on that later).  I have concert tickets to see Snow Patrol (One of my all time favorites and I couldn’t be more excited about it!!) And I’ve been finding some awesome craft projects to keep me busy.  But none of those are the ‘big one’.  Next week, my mom, sister and I are going on a road trip to Florida.
 
So far, we’ve got our stops mapped out.  We leave in 3 days and we will be gone for a week.  My sister and I are hoping for a day at Universal Studios to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but we’ll have to see if it works out.  (I’ve also downloaded all the Hunger Games audio books so I can make my mom obsessed too. shhh don’t tell)
 
Be prepared for some pictures of the trip!  I’m hoping to have a ton of them by the time I get back.
 
As always friends,
Be Brave,

Dare You To Move

I’m almost two months through this year challenge.  I’ve greatly enjoyed focusing my time and attention on spending more time with God, my family and my friends.  But I think it’s time to stop focusing on the inward, and start turning my attention to others.

As I mentioned before, during this year, I’ve also decided to read the Bible through in a  year, which is something I have never done before.  Our entire church received a “Life Journal” at the end of the year last year as a way to keep track of our reading, journaling and prayers throughout the year.  So far, I’ve read through Genesis and Luke.  I’ve also gone through part of Exodus and Acts.  A lot of the stories are familiar to me, in both the Old and New Testaments, but I’m also finding a lot of passages and stories that are new.  It’s been so interesting to me, reading back over the verses that have stuck out to me.  So many of them that I’ve journaled about concern God’s faithfulness and his love for His people.

After my Valentine’s rant, post last week, I read two different passages about God fighting for us.

Exodus 14:14
The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Acts 5:38-39

38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
 
Sometimes it is incredibly difficult to remember that God fights for us.  As humans we constantly try to do everything ourselves.  We don’t care enough to give our troubles to God, or we think “I’ll save him the trouble of this one.”
 
God’s will is greater than us.  He has a will for each and every one of our lives, and we like to ignore it or run from it or think we have a better plan in mind.  I spent so much time living like I had a plan that was better than God’s.  I spent years running from what I knew was right because I wanted something different.  And I’ve found that it is so much easier to live in the center of God’s will, rather than fighting against it.
 
God has proven time and time again that he has my best interests in mind.  I know that they say that hindsight is 20/20 and that is something that I have seen in my life over and over again.  I don’t always understand why something is happening at the time it happens, but sometime down the road, I’ll look back and see how God used that experience or trial to prepare me for something.  I feel like all of my experiences are culminating for something, and even though I’m not sure why, I know that it’s for God’s glory.
 
The last guy that I dated was kind of amazing.  And the relationship for me was kind of a big deal.  He was the first guy that I dated that I really felt was an amazing Christian and a man that feared God.  I don’t really want to do the whole name thing, so let’s call him Handy Man.  So, on our very first date, HM and I went to this sweet little restaurant and can I tell you I was nervous?  My goodness, I’ve never been so nervous in all my life.  And I don’t think it was because I was nervous about meeting him… I think I was nervous about the kind of guy he was.  Good, strong Christian.  And I was so new to it all.  Because even though I had grown up in the church and had always had the ‘right’ answers, I’m not sure I really let the faith be my own.  I was one of those kids that knew right from wrong and went to Church every Sunday.  I believed, but I didn’t have the life experience to back up my beliefs.
 
My three year hiatus from the church and the life that God set forth for me did a lot of damage.  On my life, my friends, my family.  It did a lot of damage on my head and my heart and I finally understood what it meant to be saved by grace.
 
Anyway- back to the story.  So HM and I are on our first date.  The conversation is kind of awkward and nervous at first, but then- somewhere between the coffee and root beer floats, it just felt right.  It felt natural.  It felt like I had known this guy my entire life and I couldn’t imagine how I could have ever not known him.  Our experiences with church and straying were so similar.  Our hearts longed for the same things.  (And I don’t just mean a meaningful relationship.)  We both had a heart for young adults and wanted to start new ministries to reach out to people in our age group who were like us- who strayed or who never knew the saving Grace that we can have.  We each had this picture in our mind of this ministry and it was so similar, so focused and exact- that I knew it was from God.
 
All the nervous energy I felt when HM and I first met wasn’t simply because I was meeting someone new.  It was because I was finally yeilding to God and what he wanted for my life.  HM was a good Christian.  Strong in faith.  He had a good heart and a strong family and I saw a future with him.  I saw a God centered future with him.  And that thought both thrilled and terrified me.
 
Anyway- I do have a point for explaining all of this.  You see- that very first conversation HM and I had, the one about the young adult ministry?  Well, that played a bigger role than I expected.  HM and I continued talking about it, and I had conversations with my dad about it, who was also beginning to feel that same yearning for this ministry.
 
The difference between HM and I and my dad was, my dad was in a position to do something about it.  And he began talking to young adults about what they were looking for.  Turns out- there are a lot of people out there searching.  There are so many young adults looking for a place to belong, a place to meet people, a place to make friends.
 
There’s a quote in this article by Chuck Swindoll that I think says a lot about church and community and what people are looking for.  From the article, I’m not sure if he wrote it or came across it.  But anyway, here’s the quote and where it’s from.

“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit that there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality-but it is a permissive, accepting, and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets, and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers. With all my heart,” this writer concludes, “I believe that Christ wants his church to be unshockable, a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk, I’m beat, I’ve had it.’ Alcoholics Anonymous has this quality-our churches too often miss it.”

 
Because where can you go to church and feel confident telling someone your deepest darkest secret and feel secure in them keeping it?  What church opens their doors, their seats and their lives to the broken-hearted, the beaten, the bruised, the unemployed, the addicts, the depressed?
 
 
Unfortunately, I noted some differences where I wished our churches were more like bars.
  • People went because they wanted to be there, not out of duty or obligation
  • The singing was celebratory and sometimes therapeutic
  • Greetings were heartfelt and welcoming
  • Everybody had a seat waiting for them, if there wasn’t room, someone gave up their seat
  • Everybody got a chance to play, but you didn’t have to play if you didn’t want to
  • People notice when you stop showing up
  • Nobody puts on “airs” and when they do, they get called on it
  • Thus, nobody expected anybody to be perfect, and nobody pretended otherwise
  • If you make a mistake, you get called on it
  • If you admit your mistake, you get forgiven
  • It was a great place to go when feeling lonely
  • It was a great place to go when feeling sociable
  • It was a great place to go when feeling down
  • It was a great place to go when feeling up

This young adult group that we’re starting, I’m PRAYING is more like a bar in these areas.  Is that a weird thing to pray?  It probably is.  But regardless- we’re designing it to be a place where people can gather and feel accepted, because we’ve known rejection.  A place where people can feel loved because they’ve known anger, hate, lonliness.  A place where people can be forgiven because they themselves have been wronged and done wrong.  A place where people don’t expect or pretend to be perfect, because we’ve all messed up.

God is still fighting for his people.  And it’s time we start joining in the fight for the lost.  It’s time we reach out to the broken hearted, the hurt, the bruised, the addicted, the wronged.  Because we’ve all been there, and pretending otherwise is just putting more fuel on the fire of those that call us liars and hyporcites and out of touch, holier-than-thou Christians who put salt in wounds instead of healing.

I’ve known those Christians, and truth be told, I’ve probably been those Christians.  But the trend stops here.  It stops now.  It stops with me.  I don’t want to be an out of touch Christian who does nothing in the fight to bring souls to Christ.  I want to be an instrument in the fight against evil.  I want to stop being the problem, and start being a part of the solution.

I know that this young adult group is what all of my past experiences are culminating for.  I know that God is going to give me opportunities to share my experiences with people in this new group.  I just hope that I rely on His strength to take the chances.

Be Brave,

Holding Out For A Hero

I’m not really sure why people put so much stock in the whole Valentine’s Day thing.  It’s just another day of the year.  A day to show appreciation to the person that we love most.  Is that really so terrible?

And yes, I can find mushy couples just as vomit-inducing as the next single girl, but I have to admit that when it comes to being in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, it’s not so bad.  Granted, it’s been years since I’ve actually been in a relationship on what some people call “Single Awareness Day”  but that doesn’t change the fact that being in love has a lot to do with people’s attitudes on this particular day.

That being said, you have to wonder how our society has built so much of an empire on days designed for individual people.  Shouldn’t the people that we care about always feel special and loved?  And I’m not just talking about our significant others.  Mothers Day, Father’s Day, Veteran’s Day.  Why is it that every other day of the year is a day that we can take these people completely for granted, and think we can make up for it with a bouquet of flowers or dinner?

Anyway- little rant over… this post is more about what I’m looking forward to in the future.  The kind of man that I want and the kind of woman I want to be.

Last Saturday we had a “Valentine’s” dinner at my church.  Every year we do a ladies appreciation dinner where the men cook and serve and the women can relax and enjoy each other’s company.  This year, instead of doing a ‘newly wed’ game or something similar, we watched a movie.  It was a movie that I saw with the last b/f in the theaters and cried my eyes out at.  It’s also an amazingly powerful movie and says so much about what Godly, God fearing men should be.

The movie is called Courageous.  Basically it’s a story about 5 men (4 of them cops) and their determination to become better husbands and fathers.  They each take a good long look at their lives, and they sign a resolution to make each day count.  It’s a touching story about hard choices and love.  About life and loss and how we handle each decision we make.  The final scene is a powerful portrayal of one of the men standing before his entire church.  Here is his speech:

   “There are some men who, regardless of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, regardless of what our fathers did not do for us, will give the strength of our arms and the rest of our days to loving God with all that we are and to teach our children to do the same—and whenever possible, to love and mentor others who have no father in their lives but who desperately need help and direction. And we are inviting any man whose heart is willing and courageous to join us in this resolution.

God’s Word shows us that God desires for every father to courageous step up and do whatever it takes to be involved in the lives of his children. More than just being there for them or providing for them, he is to walk with them through their young lives and be a visual representation of the character of God, their Father in heaven. Who will accept the responsibility of providing and protecting my family? Who will ask God to break the chain of destructive patterns in my family? Who will pray for, and bless my children to boldly pursue whatever God calls them to do? 

In my home, the decision has already been made. You don’t have to ask who will guide my family because, by God’s grace, I will. You don’t have to ask who will teach my son to follow Christ because I will.”

So where are you, men of courage? Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord?   It’s time to rise up and answer the call God has given you and say, I will! I will! I will!

I think that quote packs enough punch to knock anyone down a peg or two.  It was enough to cause me to take a look at my own life, and think about what choices I’m making now that could help me become the wife and mother that I want to be some day.

I also think that this movie is a great indication of why I’m waiting.  Of why I’m taking this year off of men.  I always thought that I knew exactly what I wanted in a guy.  How many times over the years have I daydreamed about Gilbert Blythe or Mr. Darcy or Danny Zuko?  Too many to count.

And even though I always thought I knew what I wanted in a guy… this movie made me doubletake with one major line.  During a conversation, Adam (one of the cops) explains that he wants to be a better father.  His partner looks at him and says “You’re being too hard on yourself.  You’re a good enough father.”  Adam’s reply is what really struck a cord with me.  He said “I don’t want to be good enough.”  There’s something very alluring about being ‘good enough’.  Not in the sense that we all want to be ‘good enough’ for something, but in the sense that sometimes we do as little as possible.  We do just enough to get by.  We settle for being ‘good enough’ when we should be specatcular.

I think so often in life, we let our schedules dictate our lives.  We focus on the most demanding, the most pressing matters above anything else.  And sometimes, that’s good.  We all have things that we need to do.  But those things aren’t the only things that matter.  Because work and school and hobbies don’t have souls.  But friends, family, kids- those do.  We need to remember to invest our time in people- because in the end, people are really the only thing that matter.

I just recently started re-reading through the book called Captivating: Unveiling the Mysteries of a Woman’s Soul.  It’s a book about women, why we have the needs and desires that we do, and understanding that having these desires is not wrong.  In fact, God made us to have three big desires in our souls.

1. To be romanced
2. To play an irreplaceable role in a grand adventure
3. To unveil beauty

There are a lot of things about this book that leave me wary.  It paraphrases Scripture more than it actually uses it.  But at the same time, I think it points to some major issues that women deal with, and things that tug at our heart strings over and over again.  It tries to explain the constant longing we feel for the three ‘big desires’ of our hearts and how God specifically made us that way.  It’s not another 12 step “How to be a better woman” book.  It’s more of an encouragement that we are fearfully and wonderfully made just the way we are.  It’s a book that acknowledges how hard women try to be perfect, to be everything.  It explores the feelings that we have of constantly being ‘not enough’ but at the same time feeling like we’re ‘too much’.  We’re not strong enough, not pretty enough, not thin enough.  But we’re too emotional, too careful, too caring.

I think every woman has felt this way before.  And I like that Captivating is a book designed to help us feel secure in the person that we are.  It’s not meant to be a fix-all.  It’s an attempt to identify the places in our hearts that God has made especially for Himself to be like Himself. 

Being single on Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be hard (despite the fact that I work across the street from a florist).  Sure, it may not be my favorite day of the year to be single on… but whose to say I can’t still get flowers and chocolate?  Spend an evening cooking myself a delicious meal and watching a sappy movie.  Maybe today is the perfect day to daydream about Gilbert Blythe and Mr Darcy and Danny Zuko.  So long as I don’t lose sight of what is really important.  Because all three of those guys have something in common.  They’re great stories, but as far as a Courageous, Godly man go… I’m not quite sure how they stack up.

On a better note, I’ve been adding more to my story.  What’s that you say?  You want a sneak peak?  Okay… I suppose I can do that.  But I’m only sharing two paragraphs.

Lia dragged the bag of clothes down the hall to the door at the very end.  She turned the handle and pulled; both the door and frame swollen from the heat refused to budge.  Dropping the bag and gripping the knob with both hands, Lia pulled again, harder until the door yielded to her demands and swung open.  She hadn’t expected it to actually open and the force of her pulling on the knob left her off balance when it finally gave in.

Flipping the light switch on just inside the door, Lia sighed when nothing happened.  She wasn’t all-together surprised.  Who knew when the last time was that anyone was up there?  Backtracking to the linen closet down the hallway, Lia found a flashlight in the emergency kit and clicked it on.  Shining it up the stairs into the attic, Lia began up the stairs, pulling the garbage bag full of her grandfather’s old clothes with her.

So what happens next?  Well… it’s a secret.  But you’re more than welcome to guess if you want.  I finally have momentum with this story again.  I’m really excited to see what happens.  I think it’s going to be good!

To all my single ladies out there…
Be brave,

 

Regrets

Do you have something you regret?  Big or little- minor or severe- most, if not all of us regret something in our lives.  For me, the one thing I always wish I could go back and ‘do over’ was walking away from my family, the church and most of my friends… for a guy.

Now, to be honest, he wasn’t a normal guy.  He was an extremely manipulative, controlling, abusive guy.  And there are times when I thought that no matter what, I wouldn’t have stood a chance.  But I can’t blame everything on him.  I made the decision to be with him.  I made the decision to let him have control over me.  And yes, he was a master manipulator, but the initial decision to be with him was mine and mine alone.

For as much as I desperately want to regret my decisions and all of the time I spent with him and everything I did, I can’t regret it.  Because as terrible and horrible as it was, it taught me so much.  First and foremost, I think I truly for the first time began to understand forgiveness, and unconditional love.

There was so much to forgive after everything that happened.  My parents forgave me more times than I can count.  I had to beg forgiveness from God, my family, my friends.  I had to learn to forgive myself.  And the big one that I’m still struggling with- I had to forgive the guy.

Going through traumatic experiences in life teach you a lot about the person that you are.  It amazes me to hear the stories of people that forgive the killers of their loved ones.  And while my experience may not have been that extreme, I still had a lot of healing and forgiving to do.  And I don’t think that the point of forgiveness is to fix everything and go back to what you had before.  It’s not about letting a situation define you.  It’s about letting it teach you.  Forgiveness is finding healing and strength in the face of things that tear you down and knock you out.  Forgiveness is learning that no matter what a person does to you; their offense is never as bad as the offenses that you’ve committed against God.

That last line, I can’t claim as my own.  Several months ago I went and heard Joyce Meyer speak.  She talked about the characteristics of a perfect heart and for some reason, that line is something that has stuck with me ever since.

Regrets are something we all deal with.  They’re something that we all have the option of.  But why worry about something that is in the past and can’t be changed?  Wouldn’t a better use of time be to figure out what you can learn from the experience and use it?

During this journey, I’ve decided to read through the Bible in a year.  It’s something that I’ve never actually done before and I’m really excited by it.  During just the last few days a culmination of things happened.  And I am convinced that God wants to use this to teach me something, and so I am going to share it with all of you.

The first thing that happened was I read through the story in Genesis of Joseph.  For anyone that doesn’t know- the story is about a boy who found favor in his father’s eye which caused all of his brothers to be jealous.  So jealous in fact- that they thought about killing him.  They didn’t actually go through with the plan however and instead sold Joseph in to slavery.  Crazy you say?  Yes, you read correctly.  They sold their own flesh and blood into slavery.  Talk about jealousy.

Anyway- what happens next, you ask?  Well, you see- Joseph pities himself and gives up.

I’m kidding.  The truth is MUCH more impressive.  Because years go by, and one thing leads to another until Joseph becomes the right hand man of Pharaoh.  As in- ruler of the land.  So here’s Joseph- the man who was sold into slavery and then thrown into jail for a woman accusing him of rape, he interprets the dreams of the ruler of the kingdom that no one else has been able to interpret, and Pharaoh makes him second in command.

Talk about impressive.

Okay- so I read through this story the other day, and it really got me thinking about regrets and circumstances and how God can use all of these things.

Onto the second thing that happened to me.  This morning, I went out to breakfast with a friend.  We were talking about reading the Bible and how sometimes the stories are hard to read, and I mentioned my thoughts on Joseph and how God uses the strangest things for his Glory.  Just like Joseph.  We talked a little bit about how it always seems to amaze us- the way God uses people.

The third thing that happened to me also happened this morning.  And here’s the kicker- and why I’m convinced I need to be writing about this right now.  Sitting in church this morning, my dad is talking about how God gives us all opportunities to shape us.  He mentioned David and Goliath.  How David had been faithful to God before Goliath.  In fact, the Bible says that David killed both a lion and a bear to protect the sheep that he was entrusted with.  He learned to stare danger and adversity in the face and attack it head on.  He had been faithful in those areas.  God knew that David would be faithful again.

And then, my dad mentioned Joseph.  Oh Joseph.  This guy is starting to seem like a real pal to me these last few days.  (And hey, as a sidenote- this is my year without a man…. I’m not supposed to be giving men this much thought… even ones that lived thousands of years ago).  Anyway- Pastor (it sounds more official than ‘dad’) talked about Joseph and all of the things that he faced in his life.  His own flesh and blood sold him, a woman accused him of rape, he was thrown in jail where the jailer gave him responsibility over everyone in there, and then once he had used the opportunity that God had given him, God gave him another one.

Life is all about opportunities.  Sometimes it’s hard to see them when we’re so focused on all of the things that we think are going wrong in our lives.  And yeah, I’m sure Joseph had some hard times.  I’m sure he had some days where he didn’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning.  But that doesn’t mean he didn’t make the most of the opportunities he was given.

For me, this year is an opportunity to focus on things outside of me.  It’s a time to take opportunities, no matter what shape they make take.  I’m not sure I’ll take it quite as far as Jim Carrey’s character in Yes Man, where he HAS to say YES to EVERY opportunity that comes before him, but we’ll see.  If the opportunities are from God, than who am I to say no?

Besides, if I’m faithful with the little ones, who knows what’s just around the bend.

Be brave,

P.S.  It’s my birthday today.  Leave me a little note? You’re all the best! ❤

Somebody To Love

I spent another week mostly treading water.  I got up, went to work and came home.  I made dinner, I ate alone, I went to bed.  I spent another week mostly treading water.  And hiding.

I’m not sure exactly what it is I am hiding from, but the truth is the same.  You know, it’s easy to put on a brave face- to say to the whole world “I don’t need a man to be happy, I’m fine on my own.”  And sometimes, it’s just as easy to fool yourself.

I know in my head that I don’t need a man to be happy, but that doesn’t change the ache in my heart for love.

This week, I was cleaning out my emails and I came across a letter that I wrote to my parents several years ago.  And looking back over it, reading the words that I expressed to them, I could see how lost and broken I was back then.  I could remember the hurt and the pain that I felt, that I caused them to feel.  I can remember how it felt to hide from them.  I remember lying to the two people who never stopped loving me out of fear that they might.

It’s so much different now.  I’m amazed at how much my life has changed.  But in the very deepest part of my soul, I know that I’m still hiding.

I’m hiding from the person that I want to be, and the person that God created me to be.  I get up in the morning, I go to work, I come home.  And all the while, I feel like I’m hiding from the world, from the person that I am supposed to be.

See, the truth is- I know that there are people in this world that love and care for me.  I know that God has a life planned and mapped out for me.  And I know that somewhere down the road, I could do incredible things.  But what about right now?

The last relationship that I was in ended 7 weeks ago today.  And for a while I missed him.  But you know what I realized I miss now, even more than I miss him?  I miss the person that I was when I was with him.  With him I felt brave and beautiful.  I felt adventurous and precious and loved.  With him I felt special- like I could do anything.  He gave me strength and courage and determination and I felt like with him all of my dreams could come true.

And seven weeks ago today, he ended it.

Sometimes I wonder how you can mean so much to a person, and then one day, just stop.  I mean, it’s not like I went anywhere.  He still knows where to find me, and he said he wanted to be friends.  And yes, I understand that ‘being friends’ never really truly happens.  But how do you wake up one morning and just stop caring?

With him, my favorite part of the day was 8:00 a.m.  Because even though we had distance between us, every morning we would text each other just to say I love you.  Just to say ‘have a great day today’.  Every morning those messages set the tone for my entire day, if for no other reason than knowing that someone out there was thinking about me at the exact same time I was thinking about them.

I’ve never been good at letting go.  My life has been characterized by my failure to let go.  My best friend in high school, my life with a controlling boyfriend, friends that I’ve lost touch with.  So, it comes as no surprise to myself that I still hold this close to my heart.  I’m not saying that it will always be this way.  In fact, the days are fewer and further between that my heart aches this way.  But it’s hard knowing that your love for someone wasn’t enough.

This week I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing photographer.  And I think there is a real possibility that working with him could make a lot of my photography dreams come true.  I showed him some of my work, and he seemed thoroughly impressed and has agreed to take me on as a sort of apprentice.  The good news is, I have my first gig with him tomorrow.

The bad news is I have never felt worth it.  I am beginning to realize more and more that my own self worth is almost nil.  In fact, the reason that I even started this journey was to begin to teach myself to find worth in who I am, instead of always identifying myself by the guy that I date.  Because until I can learn to love and respect myself, how can I expect to do the same to anyone else?  And how can I expect anyone to love and respect me?

The first three weeks of my journey haven’t been exactly easy.  They’ve mostly been spent in hiding.  Hiding from the world and hiding from the person that I am.  The truth is there are things about myself that I need to change.  But there are also things about myself that are good, that I like (maybe even things that I love).

Tomorrow, out on this photography gig, I am forcing myself out of hiding.  The witness protection program phase is over.  I am searching out ways to make a difference.  To get out of the house and stop hiding.  If God can love me for who I am, the incredible mess, all of the mistakes (for he sees everything after all) then maybe I should give myself a shot.

Be brave,

If This Was A Movie

You know those cliché movie scenes where the favorite couple breaks up and the girl is driving home all broken hearted- but when she rounds the bend to her house, the guy is standing there waiting?  Ok, well maybe they don’t happen exactly like that, but you get the gist.  Just when the girl thought she was going to be alone and that the love of her life doesn’t feel the same- suddenly there he is- waiting.  I guess my point is this- have you ever wondered “why isn’t my life like that?”  Come on girls- we’ve all thought it about one movie or another.  But here’s the kicker- real life isn’t like the movies.  Real life is messy.  It’s broken hearts and broken homes.  Its unemployment and family illness and you can never tie up all the loose ends in a 2 hour span.

I used to be that girl.  The one who drives home with the small flicker of ‘will he be there waiting for me?’  I used to dream of the romantic comedy chance meeting- the falling in love with a perfect stranger over an ‘accidental’ meeting of fate.  I used to hope for a two hour neatly tied up ending.  And I say used to because I’m not that girl anymore.  Or at least, I don’t want to be.  That girl is a waiter.  She waits for the chance encounter with the handsome stranger.  She watches the ideal fantasies of often love deprived writers who create characters that have the romance and adventure that they crave.  And yes- love stories do still happen.  But the hard truth is- waiting gets you no where.  Waiting= never going to have a part in any sort of story like that.

And that’s why I’m not that girl anymore.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about women in society today.  More specifically, why it is that so many of us think that we need a man to be happy.  And more over why we measure ourselves by how men see us.  We’re supposed to be thin, but not too thin.  Trendy but without caring too much about it.  Successful but not more successful than him.  Beautiful but not fake.  Cook and clean.  Need him but not be clingy.  Sensitive but not overly emotional.  We have to do jobs twice as well as men to get half the recognition- or it’s said that we’re sleeping our way to the top.  And on top of all of that we have to be willing to give it all up in bed but not too soon or with too many people.  We have to do all of these things just to be recognized by society’s standards and to what end?  So that a guy can grace us with his presence until he finds someone younger/skinnier/smarter/blonder?  Why do we hold ourselves to such a double standard?

I know I may sound bitter, and that’s really not my intention.  I just don’t understand why we as women continue to torture ourselves to fit some mold.  To be something that we’re not.  To hide the true feelings and needs of our souls and to repress it so far that our only escape are these romantic movies that only briefly sate an unquenchable thirst.

Why do women love romance movies so much?  Because we all ache for another person to ‘get’ us in some deep way.

Personally, I think it’s the same reason we all go for bad boys.  Because even though we know they’ll break our hearts in the end, the brief explosion of passion and romance gives us the chance to feel like the women in all those romantic movies that we idolize.  There’s something in our souls that longs for romance and adventure and passion.  And those things so often seem to come at the expense of the bad boy jerks who tend to love and leave.

I’m reminded of one of those cheesy ABC Family movies I insist on torturing myself with where one of the characters says something to the effect of “You can change everything about a relationship except the most important thing- fate.” For some reason, all those other relationships that I’ve tried have failed.  And there’s a line of thinking that says that someday in the future, I’ll meet the guy that will show me why.  But that doesn’t change the now.  It doesn’t change the fact that until that person comes along, I have to be somebody.  I can’t just be the ghost of a person who goes through her day to day actions just hoping that she sparks some guy’s interest.  Because as far as lives go, that one’s pretty pathetic.

Going back to the past for a moment, I just want to say this.  No matter how good you thought things were or how perfect you thought the guy was for you, God has other plans.  If you think that I don’t understand that this is a hard concept to grasp when you’re elbow deep in Ben & Jerry’s and snotty tissues- I promise you, I get it.  But what if the heartbreak was preparing you for something?  And I don’t just mean the cliché ‘you have to know the bad to appreciate the good’ although that is applicable as well.  But what if it was preparing you for this time.  Right now.

That guy (the one in my past and yours) was great for a reason.  What did he teach you?  Maybe to stand up for yourself?  Maybe he taught you how to laugh again, or how to enjoy the little things- how to motivate yourself to do something you never imagined.  And because of that you have the strength to be exactly where and who you are right now, today.

God pinpointed today on his map of your life.  You are exactly where you are supposed to be right now.  It’s up to you to figure out why.

 

Be brave,