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,

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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,

 

Month One Recap

(Please forgive the spacing in this post…. it’s really not liking me today!)

I feel like not a lot really happened in January.  Other than I got older.  Well- let’s do a tally of things on the ‘bucket list’.

I managed to get through my 2 books.  I finished the second one a little late.  (the last 30 or so pages were read on Feb 1, but that’s alright).

So my book choices were:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  I’ve always wanted to read this book.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every single adaptation multiple times but I’ve never actually read the book.  It took me a little bit to get into the style of the writing, but overall, everything I always loved about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy was just heightened by reading through the book.

Clockwork Price by Cassandra Clare.  Cassandra Clare is one of my absolute favorite authors.  I love the worlds she creates and the tortured characters that she always seems to make refreshing.  She does things that you don’t expect, and often times it means feeling like yelling and screaming at her for torturing the poor characters so much, but it’s so compelling you can’t stop reading.  Clockwork Prince is the second installment to her Steampunk series called The Infernal Devices.  She’s definitely one of the authors I look up to.  I had the pleasure of meeting her a couple of years ago, and she’s amazing in person.

Other than reading my two books, I’m not sure I accomplished much else on the list.  However, I did make some plans for some upcoming things.  My mom, sister and I are planning a road trip during a week in March.  I’m also excited to be getting my very first tattoo this month!  I already know exactly what and where- now it’s just a matter of finding the time (and the courage!).

February will bring with it plenty of surprises, I’m sure.  My books this month are The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and something by one of the Bronte sisters (I just haven’t decided what yet).  My plan is to read a ‘new’ book and a ‘classic’ a month.  Whew- it should be interesting!

Short entry tonight, but that’s my first month update.  Stay tuned!

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,

Alone Vs. Lonely

Have you ever had a day that was just horrible from start to finish?  A day when you felt so alone that all you wanted to do was wallow in it?  I don’t have these days often, but yesterday was definitely one of those days for me.  It came following a long, stressful week of work, and personal trouble that just hit one thing after another all week long.  And despite attempting to make the best of it, Friday just really hit me hard and all I wanted to do was sit at home and wallow in the fact that I wasn’t just alone- I was lonely.

Loneliness isn’t something that visits me often, despite the fact that I am often alone.  I have always thought of myself as an introvert- drawing energy and calm from being alone.  But I’ve recently discovered something about myself.  It’s much easier to be an introvert surrounded by people, than to be an introvert in the house all alone.

Several years ago now, I dated a guy.  I won’t go into all of the horrible details (the ‘cancer’ relationship I mentioned last time)- but the point is that we lived together in a place that was 400 miles away from my family and friends.  During that time, he was really the only person that I had.  And despite being with him every single day, all I wanted on a daily basis was to be alone.  I always felt like I was missing my ‘alone’ time.

Skip ahead a little bit.  I moved home (and not just to my hometown… I’m talking after seven years of being ‘on my own’ I moved back in with my parents).  I’m not resentful of this decision, the truth is very much on the contrary.  It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.  It allowed me to get the perspective and distance that I needed in order to start healing.  And it also gave me something that I had for so long desperately craved.  It gave me a chance to be my own person.  To do my own thing.  Alone.

And even though I was around my family, I still had the ability to coop myself up in my bedroom with a movie or book.  I could do anything and everything I wanted behind my closed door.  And even though I was alone- I wasn’t really alone.  I was still in a house full of people.  Oddly enough, it made being an introvert that much easier.  I still had that daily connection with people that love me, and people that I love.

Last summer my parents bought a house.  In November I moved in to that house as a tenant.  And while I do enjoy the time that I get to spend by myself doing my own thing, sometimes it gets lonely.  Not always, but sometimes.

It makes me reminisce about my best friend in high school.  Have you ever noticed how the most quiet girls always seem to make friends with people who are crazy and offbeat and incredibly LOUD?  Well that was me in high school.  My best friend was crazy and wacky and pulled me from my shell more than she will ever know.  For anyone that has read (or seen the movies) Anne of Green Gables, she was my bosom friend.  The one person in the world that I could tell anything to- no judgment.  And sure, we had our arguments, what hormonal teenage girlfriends don’t?  But at the end of the day, she was as close as a sister, and I would have done anything for her.

That’s not to say that she was my only friend in high school, because I had a wide circle of friends back then.  Even in college, I made some amazing friends.  But as we grow up and move on- as our lives change and circumstances change- sometimes we lose touch along the way.

And ever since I moved ‘home’, friends are something that I have been severely lacking.  I don’t admit this to elicit pity, because that’s just not me.  But as a general rule it seems like people after college meet in one of two places, work and bars.

My workplace isn’t exactly conducive to meeting people my age and the bar scene isn’t really mine.

So where does that leave me?

Especially when my main interests are reading and writing.  Not exactly big friendship builders there.  Not when you live in a small town and go to a small church with an almost nonexistent young adult population.  There’s not much in the way of book clubs or writing groups- both of which I have looked into starting in the past and couldn’t generate the interest.

BUT! That’s very soon going to change (I hope).  Of the young adults that ARE in my church, along with some other interested people and my dad (who is a pastor… I don’t think I’ve mentioned that yet… anywho!) we are starting a young adult thing.  I only call it a thing because I honestly feel like it is going to be so much more than a church service, although that is the initial plan.  I really want it to become this massive group of young adults that do more than just hang out at bars (which will not be on the itinerary).  And it excites me because in my normal day to day life, I really don’t have a ton of interaction with people my age, and I’ve grown to just have this ache for it.  For that sense of community, for the relationships.  I don’t necessarily miss high school or college, but I miss what they do.  I miss the community of diverse people that those places bring together.

That kind of brings me back to my whole alone vs lonely thing.  Because I have an incredibly hard time believing that just because I am single means that I should be lonely.  And as I said before, it’s not something that I feel very often, but when it hits me, it seems to be like a punch to the gut- stealing my breath and my resolution to do much more than wallow.

I think that part of the reason why it is so hard to distinguish between alone and lonely is that we were never really meant for either.  In the Bible one of the very first things God said about men was “It is not good for man to be alone.”  And so, out of Adam he created Eve.  And there they were- the very first love story.

Down through the years family relationships have changed dramatically.  It used to be that a woman would live at home until she was married.  And often even after she was married the family ‘clans’ all lived close to one another.  Women cooked and baked and sewed and had all of these bonding activities to do together on a daily basis.  Women back then did everything together.  They had that closeness, that bonding.  And then somewhere over the last 100 years all of that changed.  Women started leaving home during adolescence.  Going to college and having jobs outside the house.  There was a dynamic shift in gender roles.  Women became progressive.  We became strong.  We became ‘equal’.

And while there is nothing wrong with equality (trust me, I have no desire to revert our society back to what it was in earlier centuries) we as women have lost something along the way.  Remember when I said that we as women have an intense desire to have another person ‘get’ us in a real and deep way?  Well, why does that person have to be a man?

Let’s be honest here for a moment.  There are jokes and songs and movies up the wazoo about how men just don’t ‘get’ women.   You’ve got:

What Women Want
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

A woman is mystery
A man just can’t understand
Sometimes all it takes to please her
Is the touch of your hand
And other times you gotta take it slow
And hold her all night long
Heaven knows there’s so many ways
A man can go wrong
-Billy Currington ‘Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right

Men, on the whole don’t understand what makes us tick.  They don’t understand the mood swings or the emotions.  They can’t comprehend the desire to be thought of as beautiful, or why we change our minds and our hairstyles so frequently (which I sometimes don’t even understand myself, to be honest).

But where does it say that a man has to be a woman’s everything?  Why does he have to be her husband/boyfriend and also best friend, confidant, lover, therapist?  When we rely on one person for so much, it’s no wonder they don’t understand what we want half the time.  No person can fill all of those roles all of the time without a mistake here and there.

But having someone to lean on, a ‘partner’ throughout life, is definitely something that can be achieved.  But not without a little help from our friends.  As women, we need to learn to trust our female friends.  We need to be careful what information we give out to people.  We have to invest our time in people, but that doesn’t always include giving them our hearts.

And this is the problem that I have always seemed to have in the past.  When it comes right down to it, despite the fact that the Bible tells us to guard our hearts, it is something that I so infrequently do.  I’m not talking about being overly emotional (although I am that too often) I’m talking about letting the walls down for every person that shows an interest.  And those walls can be physical, or they can be emotional.  I think a major problem in our society today is not only that women so freely give their bodies away, but also that they so freely give their hearts.

The heart of a woman is sacred and special.  It deserves to be cherished and protected with as much fervor as her body.  There is a reason that our hearts are tender.  We shouldn’t let society and enemies and hate harden our hearts, because if we do that, we lose something so special.  In Matthew 5, Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Being alone isn’t an excuse to give ‘the goods’ away for free.  And again, this applies to physical and emotional goods.  In the past, I would definitely categorize myself as someone that holds on too much, I invest far too much into people that don’t return my affections.  I give my heart when I should guard it.  And in the end, I get a broken heart and a feeling of such intense loneliness, that I don’t think anything will ever be the same again.  And while the feeling dissipates, there is always a part of me that misses that person.  Maybe that’s what this year is really about for me.  Not only just taking a break from men, but finding a way to guard my heart through a sea of uncertainty.  Because not every story has to end in heartbreak.  But somehow, I always manage to let it be that way.  So here’s to a year of being on guard.

Touché!  (yeah yeah, lame I know.  That’s just me. Nerd and all.)

Be brave,

For The First Time

On Monday this week I got a tooth pulled.  Although I didn’t initially search out some sort of corrolation to being single, it kind of hit me dead on as I was sitting in the dentist chair.  Breaking up is a lot like surgery.  Some surgeries are necessary.  They’re required to keep people alive.  Some are to remove ‘dead weight’ and others are to replace vital organs.  Some surgeries are ones of convenience in order for us to look or feel better.  But the end result is always the same.  Big or little- they always end in a healing period.  The bigger surgeries, much like the bigger break-ups, take a long time for the wound to heal.  It may require therapy, or staying in bed for a few days.  The end result may be a change in diet or exercise.
 
The ‘surgery’ that I had on Monday wasn’t necessary.  Maybe someday it would have been, but for now, they did it to keep me from any more pain in the future.  I thought about it later that day.  The dull ache that I felt after the surgery that wasn’t necessary, but pre-emptive.  Maybe it was more like my break-up than I thought.  The pain that I felt was minimal- in fact, the dentist told me that the tooth had come out easily, and they weren’t even going to have to stitch it up. Similarly, my last break up, although painful, was over easily and I was back to my day to day life quickly.
 
I know this is not the way of all break ups.  In fact, my previous relationship was more like going through cancer treatments considering all the damage that was done- but that’s another story.  But sometimes these relationships ending serve to push us toward something new, something better.  It’s been several days now since my tooth was pulled- and I still feel that dull ache.  The faint throbbing that tells me that something is missing.  Maybe missing is the wrong word.  It tells me that something had once been there, and isn’t anymore.  That’s why I think it’s okay to miss people that have gone from our lives.  Even though they once felt like they belonged, in the long run it’s possible that having them there would have done more harm than good.
 
Anyway- that’s all I’ve got.  Now that I think about it, it’s a little cheesy that I’m using something like having a tooth pulled as an analogy for a break-up.  But there it is.  I felt like it was something I needed to write- if only just so that I would stop thinking about it. 
 
I’ve got my 2 books picked out for January, and I’m currently in the middle of both of them.  My selections as well as my ‘reviews’ of them so far are coming up soon!! 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Be Brave,