Thursday, August 30, 2012

He's Got No Chance

The comment:
How do you tactfully let a guy who's probably interested know that you're not interested? If they haven't brought it up explicitly it would seem weird to bring it up, but also I don't want to lead them on.

I am the absolute worst at ignoring people so... I hope there is another way.

Like.. what do you say when a guy says, "Let's talk about you. You're my favorite topic." How the heck do you respond to that when you're not interested??? (which by the way.. that moment has long passed)

I feel really guilty knowing that I might accidentally be leading guys on.
Oh, what a fun topic we have here!
I'd hate to say it, but there's probably not one generic answer to this problem. Different things need to happen based on who he is, the relationship/friendship you have with him, and who you are.

Ignoring doesn't have to be your first solution (not yet, may eventually have to go there, though).

First of all- let's look at who YOU are. How do you typically interact with others? What's your personality like? Instead of doing something that's within a textbook answer of 'how to tell a guy you're not interested', I think it's valuable to look at yourself, how you communicate best with others, and to cater to your strengths as you go about this. You may have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone, but I think it's important to know where your comfort zone begins and ends.

Now- take a look at your current relationship with this person. Is he a friend? An acquaintance? To what degree have you shared your lives/hearts with each other? Is he a confidant in any regard...or is he simply a guy who found you attractive and began the pursuit, but you've been a bit distant from the get-go because you weren't ever interested? Understanding your relationship with him is going to be key as well as you attempt to communicate a lack of interest in anything beyond friendship.

Do you even want to salvage a friendship, or would you really just prefer to leave it on the acquaintance level? Know what you want, know what you think is most beneficial--and know that you don't always get what you want. You may be giving up an incredible friend because you can't date him, and you have to be okay with that. He might not be ready to keep up a friendship with you if he can't date you. Understand that it might be hard for him and you need to give him time and space to heal and lick his wounds.

Finally- evaluate who he is. This may be hard if you don't know him very well, but hopefully you'll know if he's the type of guy who appreciates full-fledged honesty or if he likes things a bit sugarcoated. Hopefully you'll know if he's the type of guy who isn't going to fully grasp what you're saying unless you start ignoring him, or if he's capable of hearing your words and maintaining a friendship without hope for more.

And, when it comes down to it, you'll simply have to do something you don't like/want to do: let him know you simply aren't interested. If you haven't talked about it, you don't need to tell him you're not interested. He'll eventually pick up on it if you distance yourself from the situation. You don't need to ignore him, but (depending on all those things above) you can respond less frequently, you can answer questions without asking a question back, you can make sure you're only hanging out in group settings. He'll get the picture.

If he's still not, you may need to start ignoring him altogether. Honestly, at that point, it's ridiculous that he hasn't said anything to you about his feelings for you thus far and if he's not going to bring it up, there's no reason that you should have to bring it up. Plus you run the risk of rejecting someone who might claim to not even be interested in you at all, and then you feel quite dumb (no, I've never done it, but I had someone do it to me when I wasn't actually interested in them and it was quite demeaning).

If you simply can't stand the thought of ignoring him, feel free to say things along the lines of, 'I think we should text/hang out/talk/email less'. You're not accusing him of having feelings for you, but you're making it very obvious that you want communication to decrease.

Oh, and when he says ridiculously things like, 'You're my favorite topic'--don't say anything back that would encourage more statements like that. Here's when knowing yourself comes in handy. I'd probably say something sarcastic or awkward...but something that would definitely communicate, 'I'm uncomfortable with what you said and I don't want you to say anything like it again'. Some might simply be that brutally honest. Know yourself and be willing to respond in such a way that discourages further comments like that!

Be bold out there.
If you really don't want to lead him on, don't.
And don't be that girl who says she doesn't want to, but secretly does because it's nice to have the attention (yes, I've been that girl before, too). Follow through with what you say, even if it means 'being mean'. He'll appreciate it in the long run, especially if he literally has no chance with you.

You've got this!

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm Desperate

I think, oftentimes, that we're desperate.

Desperate for what...?
It depends.
I'd venture to say that it most commonly falls within the realm of companionship. It's pretty funny to see the statistics on my blog and how much more they increase when a topic has to do with love, dating, sex, relationships, etc. etc. We're desperate.

We're desperate to know the answers.
We're desperate to know how to make a relationship work, how to act within a relationship, what boundaries to set, how to love well, how to get someone to love us in return. We're desperate to be desirable to the opposite sex, we're desperate to not be lonely any longer, we're desperate for all of our 'dreams' to come true. We're desperate.

We feel hopeless and it leads to despair.
Our minds are raided and we're left thinking that we'll never meet anyone for 5 million different reasons. We're left thinking that we are too messed up to ever be in a relationship. We're left thinking that no one would ever want us. We're left thinking that our lives could never look different.

This is what matters to most of us, more than anything else.
Sometimes I think we lie when we say it's not.
We want to find love.
It's why we watch the movies we watch, it why we make the decisions that we make. It's why, when we are finally in a relationship, our world often gets completely wrapped up in it and we forget that other people also exist.

I've watched people lose themselves in relationships, I've watched them be all consumed... and then I've watched them be completely devastated when said relationship doesn't work out.

Because we are desperate, we believe that these relationships (when successful) will fill the void.
But what if our desperation is misplaced? What if, no matter how perfect your relationships might be, you're still lonely, or insecure, or desperate for more?

There's a worship song that most of us have been singing for years and I get frustrated by it. Aside from the repetition and the slowness of it, I don't think we really grasp what it means to be desperate for the Lord.... because we're too focused on being desperate for things of this world.
Desperate: feeling, showing, or involving a hopeless sense that a situation is so bad as to be impossible to deal with
We know how to be desperate with our loneliness... but do we know how to be desperate for Jesus? Truly desperate? And I realize it's probably not a learned thing, but more of a realization that He is what matters and that without Him, we truly are hopeless. Or, do we find glimmers of hope in other things... like the possibility of a date?

I'm guilty.
There are moments when I truly realize my depravity, but I'd say the large majority of the time, my desperation is geared toward everything but my need for Jesus.

I had a friend tell me once that he wanted to be desperate for Jesus- to know what they really meant. I understand that now. I want it to. I need to know how much I need Him... all the time. I need to stop being desperate for other things.

What are you desperate for?
Truly and honestly....?
Be willing to go there with yourself.
And maybe you're in a place of realizing how desperate you are of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but if you're not... maybe you want to go there with me now.

May we be a people who don't easily forget just how truly desperate we are for Him, and may our hope stem from Him and the life that He offers. May everything else not be the things that we hope for or hope in... but just things we get to experience/enjoy on this side of eternity.

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Pushing the Limits

The comment:

I've set boundaries in my previous relationships with guys, but they never seem to work out. I, well we, usually push our limits and the next thing I know we've gone passed our "set" boundary. This leaves me sleepless feeling so guilty and sinful. Things in the past can't be changed, that is so hard. Is there still hope for a second chance? What can i do to see I don't find myself in this predicament again? 

There's always hope for a second chance. I wouldn't be here if there wasn't.

Sexual boundaries are always a fun topic- we all want to know as much as we can about sex, we want to know how far we can go before it's 'too' far, and we want to have the freedom to do it without the guilt that quickly accompanies it.

My answer for you is pretty simple...but it doesn't make it any easier.

You get to choose.
That's really all there is to it. In any moment, with any guy, you are ultimately choosing what you want. You get to choose whether or not you put yourself in situations that you know you'll have a hard time saying no in. You get to choose if you actually stick to the boundaries that you've established with your boyfriend/girlfriend. You get to choose how you respond if you 'mess up' and how you proceed from there.

Things that can help? Finding someone who has similar values as you in this particular arena is very beneficial. If he/she honestly wants to remain within the boundaries that have been set, accomplishing this will be easier if they are actually on board. If they say that they are, but are teasing, tempting and pushing the limits constantly, they might not have been that honest with you in the first place.

I've also found, in my experiences, that the more you frequent places of sexual temptation, the more tempted you'll be. Meaning, the more often you make out with your boyfriend/girlfriend, the more likely it is that you'll want to do it more and the more likely it is that you'll push the limits. I realized that in past relationships where physical limits were stretched too thin, it was the relationships where our alone time was spent wrapped up in each other's arms. It was all I thought about during the day... when the next time I could be in his arms was going to be.

On the contrary, there have been more recent relationships where the physical aspect was a much rarer occurrence. It seemed that the rarity allowed for our relationship to blossom in other ways because thoughts of sex weren't all-consuming. Every time we were alone it wasn't with the goal of getting all close and personal-- there was something much deeper to our relationship than that.

Accountability is always a helpful thing-- going to places where you know others will be. Don't invite him/her over when you know you're home alone for the night. Choose to go to his place instead, where his roommates are. Ultimately, if you want to be alone with them because you want to make out with them, you're going to find a way.

And this is where it always comes down to you choosing.

Trust me...I've definitely been in the boat where I didn't care because I wanted to make out and so I made bad decisions. But, I didn't have to... I just wanted to. I've also been in the boat where I've chosen what was good. And it's better. It really, really is.

It's possible.
The Lord doesn't tempt you... and there's always a way out... if you want to take it. I think there's always a problem with not really wanting the way out.

So, you get to decide it's worth it.
Decide that purity matters to you...and then live in it.
Decide that you're going to believe God is full of grace and second chances...and then live in it.
And, if you don't want purity right now...?
I pray that you would want it... heck, I even pray that you would want to want it.

And then be a person who stands firm in what you believe, no matter what.

It is possible. 

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Icing on the Cake

I've spent the majority of my life expecting that good things should happen to me, or that people should admire/like me, or that life might simply be easy. My expectations were off, and it took me a while to see it.

I've spent the last few years very aware that I actually don't deserve any of these things (I even blogged about it several months back!). I probably took this to an extreme, actually. When hard things happened, when mean things were said, when my heart simply hurt...I adopted a mentality of, 'I don't deserve anything better, anyway'. Sometimes I felt like a battered wife who refuses to believe that there's anything better meant for her.

It's quite contrary to what I had been used to. Previously, I had been a fighter. I fought for justice, I demanded equality, I probably teetered on the side of demanding things in my favor over everyone else. I deserved the best, the greatest, the most important...because I was me.

It was pride that drove me.
It was selfishness.
But I didn't want it any longer.

So, instead of a sweet humility to replace it, I filled the void with self-deprecation. I didn't deserve good. The gospel penetrated my soul in a way it never had before. There is no one righteous...not even one. Not even me. No matter how hard I tried, no matter what I did, what I said, what I thought, how much I prayed, how much I read my Bible...I couldn't attain it. I didn't deserve anything better. It was only by the grace of God that I am saved, and anything beyond that I didn't need. I already had more than I deserved by the sheer volume of what His grace means for my life.

I lived in this for a while.
I didn't want to ask for more than what I had because I didn't want to be selfish. I didn't want to think I was more than I was because I didn't want to be prideful. I didn't want to step into who I had been...and so I fearfully shied away from anything that made me believe that I deserved anything more than what I already have.

I wrestled with desiring more, but feeling guilty for it...
And just recently I came to an epiphany. One of those epiphanies that you sporadically have throughout your life, but you sort of forgot that you ever had it in the first place.

The issue isn't in the desiring more... the issue is in the demanding more, the thinking that I deserve more. Because, I think the truth is that I don't deserve it. I don't deserve good things. I don't deserve salvation. I don't deserve friends and family who care about me abundantly. I don't deserve job security, or financial security, or a comfortable lifestyle. I don't deserve a family, or a husband who loves me unconditionally. I don't deserve a healthy body or a capable mind.

So what if, instead of demanding that I receive these things, my attitude is that of one receiving blessing? That in realizing my depravity... in realizing how much I don't deserve these things, my attitude is one of thanksgiving? Instead of rejecting my desires, instead of rejecting the good that comes my way, instead of feeling guilty... what if I approached it with a completely different mentality?

What if, for once, I believed that God is actually good and then I trusted Him to act within that character?

I don't know where you're at in your journey of faith.
I don't know if you think that you deserve to be happy... or a thousand other awesome things to come your way.

I don't think you deserve happiness.
But, I do think that you'll get to have it. Maybe not always, but I think there will certainly be times of it. And, instead of expecting and demanding happiness... what if we were just thankful for those moments? What if we were just thankful for the good that happens to us in this life, because we are so very aware that we don't deserve it? What if we lived in deep gratitude of a God that has already saved us from eternal damnation and everything else in life was just icing on the cake?

Tonight I got to taste a little icing.
You know what?
It tasted a lot better when I didn't even expect or demand to have it.
'Cause, gosh, I certainly didn't deserve any of it... but I believe I serve a God who is good, a God who wants to bless us abundantly more than we could possibly imagine.

I'm going to let Him.
I'm not going to demand it or expect it or think that I deserve it...
But, I'm going to let Him.

And hopefully my life will be a life of gratitude and thankfulness, instead of a life of expectation and disappointment.

That seems better to me.
It seems right.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Feeling Forgiving?

The comment:
This summer I was very hurt by someone, and am really struggling with forgiveness. Knowing that I can say I forgive the person as that is what God asks of me but not wanting it to be a lip service or something just said. I want to feel it and to know that in my heart there is forgiveness for the pain, not sure how to get to this place and I've been holdin on to the anger, resentment, and pain. Despite all this the person has moved on in life and either has no idea I'm mad or hurt or doesn't care, which only brings more feelings to surface. Where to go when I can't seem to move on.
I feel you in this.
I've struggled a lot with forgiveness in the last year, wrestling with what it actually means versus what I think that it means. Honestly, there hadn't been many things in my life that seemed 'unforgivable' until recently and so while the easy answer had always been to forgive, this became a more challenging thing to actually do.

I think that I have to detach forgiveness from emotions. Like a lot of things in life, I think we operate primarily on emotion when it comes to forgiveness. I don't think that's how it works though. I think there are going to be things in life that deeply hurt us every time we rekindle the past, but that we can still choose forgiveness. I don't think this makes it lip service, necessarily.

As believers, our commandment is clearly to matter what. Forgive 70 times 7. Forgive them, even as they beat you and stone you to death. Forgive them, even as they crucify you...because they do not know what they are doing.

It's funny because our dictionary would say that forgiveness means to 'stop feeling angry or resentful...'.  Honestly, I'm not sure this is something that's humanly attainable. I think that miracles can happen, and that we can certainly feel the release of these emotions very quickly... but I also think that time is a healing agent. As we are further removed from a certain situation or a certain person, we begin to see things a little begins to hurt a little less. But, I don't think that feeling angry or resentful means that we need to act within that realm.

If you've hurt me, if you've wounded me...I must forgive you. I must act in forgiveness. What does this mean exactly? It means still loving you. Which then begs the question of, 'what does it mean to love someone who has deeply hurt you?'.  It seems this can look really different, depending on the circumstances. For, when I look at what love is, it seems that this doesn't have to be as up close and personal as we might have initially thought. It seems that I can love you well...and then, if you hurt me deeply, that I still might be able to love you well, it just might look a little differently than it did. I think this is okay.

But, I probably also think at the crux of truly loving someone we expose ourselves to the possibility of pain, rejection, betrayal, abandonment, denial. After all, isn't that how Christ loves us? Despite the fact that we suck? Isn't that the way He forgives? ...and isn't that the reason His grace is so amazing?

Clearly I still wrestle with this even as I type.
Here's where I currently reside:

--We must forgive.
--We must love.
--None of this is about us, but has everything to do with something bigger, something greater, something more beautiful than we might possibly imagine.
--When we choose forgiveness and love EVEN WHEN we have been hurt, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, denied... we are truly living out the gospel.

So, where do you go from here?
You wake up every morning and you beg that the Lord would give you the strength to choose forgiveness, yet again. And, no matter how you feel, you seek to love those who have hurt you, those who persecute you, those who hate you, those who want nothing to do with you. If you aren't around them still hope for them, you still pray for them, you still honor them with your lips.

Somedays you'll truly feel like you've forgiven them....and somedays you'll think you made it all up. Walk in the decision to keep forgiving them, no matter how you feel.
Be faithful in this and know that it is worth it. Desire what is good, and press further into it--even when it feels unfair and even when it comes at your own expense.

Forgive them.
For they know not what they do.
...and even if they do know?
Forgive them anyway...and let them see Jesus in you.

* * *

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Those Types of Christians

I feel like I roll my eyes at Christianity a lot. Maybe sometimes it's actually more of a cringing that occurs. 

It's not often that I look at it and think, 'That's what this supposed to be like.'
I'm honestly not sure if this is because I'm overly cynical and desire perfection, or if it's because we're just missing the mark. Either way, I sometimes struggle with wanting to be a part of it--not ever because I'm ashamed to bear the name of Christ, but because I'm ashamed to associate myself with others who claim to bear His name. 

I started reading a book this summer entitled They like Jesus but not the Church, by Dan Kimball. It was actually one of those reads that I had to keep putting down because I felt so convicted and I couldn't do anything to change my current circumstances, so I chose to read sparingly. Needless to say, I'm still reading it. If you're interested in a good read that challenges the status quo, I'd recommend it. 

It's a book that reminds me of the way that Christianity is portrayed to the world. It's a book that reminds me of my calling. It's a book that moves me to go beyond my comfort zone and into a place where God desperately wants to work on my heart- a place of selflessness and urgency, a place of hope and redemption for all, a place of no judgment or fear. It's a book that reminds me that boldness is required and I can't get through life skirting the edges of the unknown without ever entering into it. 

What if their taste of Christianity is only what they see in the movies, read in the tabloids, view on facebook posts? What if they only glimpse they've ever caught are the ways things get handled in politics, the tele-evangelists late at night, the judgment and condemnation?

What if they've never met a Christian in person before?

What if they've never met a Christian before because we're too busy and our calendars are filled up with bible studies, youth groups, sunday school, church, small groups, friday night fellowship, potlucks, mission trips, camps, conferences...

What if they've never met a Christian before because we're too scared of temptation, of being led astray, of being exposed to bad things, of being seen by others who might think less of us...

What if they've never met a Christian before because we're convinced they must come to us so we never even think of going to them...

What if they've never met a Christian before because we're more concerned about our own well-being than we are theirs...?

I don't know where you spend all of your time and I don't know who you spend all of your time with. I do know that things have to change though. I do know that even beyond us merely meeting those who may not know the fullness of who Jesus Christ is, that there's a greater calling to love them and to love them well. Beyond shaking their hand, beyond saying hi to them every time you cross paths, beyond sitting next to them in class....there's a urgency to know them, and to let them know you in return. 

To know them not just because you have a quota to reach, but to know them because you truly love them. To care about them, their hearts, their lives, their day-to-day struggles and interactions. To care about them in a way they've maybe never been cared about before. To care about them in a way that places them above yourself....above your own needs, your own desires.

Can we get there?
Can we be those types of Christians?

'Cause in my head, that's what it's supposed to look like. 

I think this is what I'm most excited about as I leave this place.
Living this out.
Being real friends with people from every walk of life...being real friends with people who are different than me. Loving them, being loyal to them...and, above all, sharing Jesus with them. Not because of an agenda, but because He's of utmost important to me...and that's what friends do. Share the things in life that are important to them. 

I hope you're excited about this, too.
I hope you're already doing this.

And I guess I hope, more than anything, that our standard for Christianity is always defined by Jesus Christ and by Scripture that we would hold ourselves closely to that. 

'Cause that's the type of religion I don't roll my eyes or cringe at. That's the type of faith that is life-giving and's the type of thing I'm proud to be a part of.

There must be more than this...
and I intend to get there.

* * *

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

High Fives & Break-Ups

A few years ago I went on a bullet trip to a wedding 6 hours away. It was one of those 'too many people smushed in a small car without air-conditioning on a hot summer day' type of trips. Memorable. 

It was a random group of people and so, while we rode, I read Elisabeth Eliot's Passion & Purity  out loud to them. Why not, right? Why not, on the way to a wedding, read a classic Christian book about trusting the Lord with your relationships? So I read, we discussed, and I read some more. 

We freshened up just in time for the wedding (complete with a little Bahama Bucks), and enjoyed our evening reconnecting with old friends and watching two of them commit their lives to each other. The thing that stuck out to me most about this wedding had nothing to do with the wedding, though. It had to do with one of the guys I was riding with. 

He was currently in a relationship, although his girlfriend had actually stayed behind. At this particular wedding, his ex-girlfriend happened to be a bridesmaid. The second he saw her come down the aisle was the second his heart almost stopped beating. I didn't see that or hear that...but I vividly remember the conversations we had that night as we journeyed back 6 more hours in a car. 

He still loved her; his ex-girlfriend, that is. So now he was in this funny predicament (and by funny, I mean awful) where he was dating a girl that he was coming back to, but very aware that he only wanted his ex-girlfriend. He was alert for that whole drive back, carrying us safely through the wee hours of the morning back to our homes...not saying much, but the turmoil within him was evident. 

The next day his girlfriend came running up to me, more joyful and excited than I'd ever seen her. 'Debbie! Debbie!!!  We broke up!!!'


Now, I had pictured that conversation going a couple different ways, but no part of me was prepared for the jubilance that I encountered that morning. She was giddy...and it was good. It was genuine joy that consumed her. 

I didn't exactly understand it then. It was even weirder when, a few hours later, I saw the two of them walk by each other and smile widely and give each other a high five. It's not exactly the way I envision two very recent ex's interacting. 

But, I get it now. 
I get that there's a freedom that comes when you get out a relationship with the wrong person.
I get that there's this even greater trust in the Lord that can arise in the midst of heartache...and that somehow, the Lord's faithfulness in this area of life far surmounts the pain of the loss. 

I wish I knew how to convey that to others in the midst of heartache or loneliness. I wish I knew how to completely infuse them with the truth that He truly is faithful and there's no need to worry about finding that special someone. 

I wish we could all be at a place where we high five our ex's because we just know that the Lord has our back and not only are we excited about what that means for our own lives, but we're excited for the person that we claim to deeply care about because we truly want what's best for them, even if it's not us. I wish we could humbly accept that and be willing to move on, and be willing to push deeper into something better. 

Be willing to really trust the Lord with this area of your life, even if you feel like things are never working out. Even if you feel old and you're still single. Even if you've never dated anyone in your entire life. Even if you're in the middle of a relationship that you're unsure about. Even if you're heartbroken and lonely. 

He is faithful. 
Let go of all you're holding onto regarding relationships and trust Him. 

You might just be surprised. Your ex from long ago might see you again at a wedding and not be able to stop thinking about you. But, since no story typically happens the same way twice, don't get all giddy and excited and read into something, or take it as a 'sign' from the Lord that I wrote about this and you just saw your ex at a wedding. 

Be chill. 
Be patient. 
Enjoy the ride. 
'Cause anything you try to fabricate on your own isn't going to be half as good as what the Lord has for you. 

So... trust. 
Sometimes I think it can really just be as simple as that. 

* * *

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Friday, August 17, 2012

If you just Dream

I got to speak at our camp church service on Sunday a few weeks back. Since I write better than I talk, I wanted to write out things much more in depth before I said them. Ideally I could just stand up there and read. I wish that I could engage people in my words just by reading what I’ve written to them....unfortunately, that doesn’t fly. The second you start reading is the moment people start checking out. You can watch them do it, too.

So, no. I did not read.

Instead I wrote and processed through the thousands of things I wanted to convey to our summer staff this year. I really think they just stemmed from two big things:
1.     Following our Dreams
2.     Sharing the Gospel 
I think I have a lot of regret from my college years. A lot of regret because there I was, immersed in a culture of so much diversity and I stuck with what I knew all too often. I went with what was comfortable. I didn’t allow myself much room to dream, and when I dreamed, I often froze in fear when I thought about doing much about it.

Here are a few questions I asked them to consider that I'd now like you to consider:
1.     What are your dreams/passions?
2.     What are you doing about them?
3.     If you don’t have dreams/passions, why do you think that is?
4.     How does the gospel fit into you dreams/passions? Or, better yet, how do your dreams/passions fit into the gospel?  
I then showed this sweet video of me as a little girl with my blonde-haired mullet throwing a temper tantrum. I was ticked because my broken-armed brother wouldn't let me use the broom and I very clearly 'needed' to use it in that moment. I began screaming and crying and jumping up and down. I'm proud of that moment.... Mostly, I showed it to unveil a bit of how I typically respond when things don’t go my way… when I don’t get what I want.  Sure, it might not be the literal jumping up and down and the deafening screams... but, even if it's just in my head, I probably throw a bit of a fit. 

So what is it for you? How do you respond to things not going the way you'd like for them to?
--do you avoid?
--do you run?
--do you pretend you never wanted it in the first place?
--do you get angry?
--do you believe that God has ‘shut a door’?
Or do you fight for it?

How often are we people who push through, who really persevere… and become conquerors?

For once I felt like I was in the same spot as many of my summer staff… facing the unknown. Maybe a few of them know exactly what they want to do next, or what lies at the end of their college graduation… but the vast majority of them seem plagued by the future.
I don’t know what God wants me to do with my life’ seems to be the cry that echoes among them. ‘I wish He would just tell me and then I would go’.  Or, even if they have a next step, there’s the constant worry that maybe they're doing the wrong thing. Maybe you can relate to them. Maybe you feel like you’re being selfish in doing what you want to do, maybe you’re unclear on what God really wants and you’re just following your own heart.

I guess I wonder how much the sharing the gospel is incorporated in our vision of what’s next. And, if we’re doing that, I wonder how much it matters what’s next.

And, if that’s the case… why wouldn’t we do everything we can to follow our dreams? Why wouldn’t we do everything we can to pursue our passions, our gifts? Wouldn’t it be worth it, no matter the cost? Because, if spreading the gospel is the crux of our dream, no matter what form the dream takes… it’s always worth it.

I also wonder how much we think we have to wait for our dreams. Once I graduate college, then I can …But, I wonder how much we’re just waiting …. And putting off…. And waiting… because it’s safer.

Why wouldn’t we start now?
And since the gospel is the crux of our dream, why wouldn’t we start sharing now?

I just want us to be willing to dream be willing to do radical things for the sake of the Gospel. I want us to not be deterred when things aren't easy or when we fail. I want us to be willing to face rejection and disappointment because we're pursuing these things that we are passionate about and at the core of it all is Jesus. 

I want us to be willing to dream about our immediate future, even in the small things. I want us to be willing to reevaluate, to live out the Gospel no matter where we are or what we are doing. I want us to be aware of where we spend our time and instead of being so absorbed within ministry, I want us to be people who actually do ministry--you know, like actually hang out and love people who don't know Jesus vs. spending all of our time with those that do. 

I challenged the staff to tell each other their dreams--even the loftiest, most ridiculous dreams that they might have all the way to the smallest most seemingly insignificant ones. I urged them to be open and real and to start pursuing them immediately.

Living out the Gospel through our dreams, gifts and passions. 
It seems like a pretty beautiful thing to me.
No, not easy. Beautiful.
Hard, messy, trying and failing, trying again and failing, trying again and succeeding... but persevering because it's worth it. He's worth it. 

And then you will save both yourself and your hearers. 

Take pains with these things. Be absorbed in them. 
Let nothing stop you

1 Timothy 4:9-16

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Unloved & Unwanted

The comment
For the past year and especially this summer because of my job maybe, I've struggled a lot with feeling lonely and unloved. Most of the time when I'm hanging out with people I struggle the whole time and have to force myself to stay there because it's better than being alone, but sometimes all I can think about is how they probably don't want me there, or just don't care that I'm there at all. I struggle to share my burdens with people when I can't bear them alone. I do it anyway because my head knows its okay and good to share those things and people like being confided in as well. But in my heart I am constantly worrying that I'm inconveniencing them or they just don't want to hear it or I'm being selfish for not talking about them instead. I can't go anywhere to hang out unless I know for sure I'm invited, and whenever I approach two people talking I always ask if they're having a private conversation or if I can join. This has been plaguing me and I know affects me daily. I just love people so much and want to show them how much they're wanted but I don't even believe that they want to be loved or wanted by me, that they would even be blessed by it. I feel like I've been walking through life all summer brokenhearted, and waiting, expecting people to abandon me any second, even after they've shown me love.
I'm racking my brain for a kinder way to say this, but I'm coming up I'll just say it: this sounds miserable.  You're probably aware of that already, as it's been your reality for at least the past few months, if not longer.

I have a tendency to live in misery, too. I have a tendency to carry around my past hurts and current fears and let those be the things that I filter everything else through. It quickly becomes the lens in which I view relationships, myself, and even the Lord. Unfortunately, what I'm then creating for myself is very far from what is true and what is good.

The frustrating part is that there's probably some validity to why we feel like this. People have hurt us, we haven't been wanted, our desire to love others hasn't been received or reciprocated in the way that we might hope... and thus, an insecurity is born. I think it's then a choice we have to consistently make to decide if we want that insecurity to fester and grow, or if we are going to bring it to a halt.

I think there's something important to having an awareness of how you are viewed/received by others. There are social norms and cues to abide by (like checking to see if two people are, indeed, in a private conversation)...but I think than can be a really healthy mentality to adopt here. Instead of immediately jumping to a conclusion about how those 2 people want nothing to do with you, I think it's important to recognize that they might need to have a conversation that only involves the 2 of them and it just has nothing to do with you. There's a different between taking it personally and just letting it be okay.

I feel like I take everything way too personally and everything eventually becomes about me. It's something I'm working on myself. Just because someone is critical of something that I had a hand in, it doesn't mean they think I'm a terrible person. This is often where I immediately go in my head. Likewise, it seems like it could be the place you immediately jump to the second you feel unwanted or undesired by someone/something.

I hate this for you...but I think there's hope and freedom to be found.
I think it's going to take a lot of self-control and a lot of surrendering thoughts on your part. It's going to take a lot of speaking truth instead of lies. It's going to take a lot of loving people regardless of how you feel like they will (or won't) receive it. After all, it's easy to love people when you know they want it and they'll reciprocate it. It becomes one of the most challenging things in the world to act in love when you don't think they care.

I guess I think that when you are being obedient to the Lord and walking confidently in what He has commanded you to do, that eventually the other stuff will fade away. People will stop being the audience and your desire to please Him will be the one thing that matters. It will cause you to love unswervingly, no matter how people respond. It will cause you to be vulnerable and honest...because in your humility, others will see Him.

Keep forcing yourself to be around people....keep sharing your heart with them....keep finding ways to put others before yourself...keep walking in love. It's not your job to decide whether or not someone will be blessed by your love for them. It's not your job to decide if it's worth it to try and extend it to them. It's just your job to do it.

Abide in Him, and you will bear much fruit.
And along the way you'll run into resistance, you'll run into heartache, you'll run into people who just don't care. At some point, we have to get over our fear of man...and continue doing what we have to do.

And instead of misery, we find joy. Our tears are turned to laughter and our mourning is turned to dancing.

So, instead of fear and worry....I hope you'll join me in striving to choose joy, laughter and dancing.

May we be found faithful before the Living God--and may that be the thing that matters.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bipolar Thoughts= Women

Today I remembered a conversation a few of my counselors were having at the beginning of the summer. It was a terribly disjointed conversation as they attempted to accomplish a group development piece together. So, in between long silences and trying to achieve their goal, I only caught bits and pieces of what was actually being said.

Here's what I recall:
Guy: (rather incredulously) Wait, you mean that a girl wakes up one morning and thinks that she looks good...but then the next morning she wakes up and suddenly thinks that she's fat and ugly?!
Girl: Yeah! ...Guys don't do that?
Guy: No... 
It was a hilarious conversation to eavesdrop on as more and more girls chimed in, trying to get the males in the group to understand their thought process. It was a lost cause. As more people became involved in the discussion, there was a resounding agreement that men feel pretty consistently the same about themselves each morning and think it's ludicrous that a woman will change how she feels about herself on a day-to-day basis.

And we wonder why we struggle to communicate between genders...

It's pretty crazy, though. As a woman, I could definitely identify with this day-to-day struggle. Shoot, I might even admit that it's a 'within-each-day' struggle as I leave my house feeling pretty fly, go to work, catch a glimpse of myself in a different mirror and realize how atrocious I actually look. It was actually quite surprising to hear the echo of men who don't have that happen to them. I probably thought it was this natural thing we all dealt with. Turns out it might just be more of a female thing...

So while I can laugh at this conversation and how/when it all transpired, I don't want to downplay the severity of what this really means for us women.

It means we're crazy. Seriously.
Think about it.

Between yesterday and today what changed about you? Between today and tomorrow what will change about you? How much of the things that you see in the mirror are actually things that we're making up in our heads?

I bet you didn't gain 10 pounds overnight. I bet you didn't develop giant bags underneath your eyes in a few hours (unless you cried and cried and cried- and even then, it's temporary). I bet your hair doesn't really look as different as you might think. I bet that zit isn't as red, those wrinkles aren't any more noticeable, those gray hairs don't stick out more than they did yesterday.

So why do we operate within that mentality? Why do we allow for those to be the things that dictate how we feel about ourselves? Why does it even matter?

I'd like to challenge us all to step into the truth about who we are, versus the roller coaster of emotions that typically determine our view of ourselves. And while we can talk a ton about inner beauty and depth within, I also think there's a certain level of necessity to being okay with who we are on the outside... a certain healthiness that comes with even liking what we look like and how we are created.

Instead of allowing ourselves to wallow in self-pity because we're convinced we became obese overnight, I want us to walk freely into what reality and truth tell us. Or, be willing to own up to the fact that sometimes you might have a bad hair day and it doesn't define how anyone else views you, let alone how you should see yourself.

Reality? You (unless you did something extreme to your appearance) probably look exactly the same as you did yesterday. Truth? You are infinitely more than your external appearance.

Claim it.
And so even if I don't have the solution to not even having the ridiculous change of thoughts/emotions on a day-to-day basis...I think there's a lot to learn as we seek to choose to believe truth even when our emotions are telling us something completely opposite.

I pray that today you would be content with what you look like--that you wouldn't be consumed by it...and that you would move on to something deeper and more meaningful. Someone will be much more turned off by your heart than they will your perfect curls if you've spent the majority of your life only trying to perfect the outside.

So regardless of if your opinion of how you look changes on that day-to-day basis... I urge you to walk steady, being the consistent woman of love and integrity that you desire to be.

Because that matters.
That's what changes lives.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fatty, Fatty 2 by 4

Have you ever resigned yourself to something?

You know... resigned. Given up, conceded defeat, accepted that something undesirable could not be avoided?

I have. In quite a few things, actually.
I misunderstood what I was doing and while I thought I was merely being a realist, I was, in fact, resigning myself to a worse fate.

It happens with habits a lot.
I often resign myself to the fact that I'll never change certain things. One of my more recent ones was biting my nails. I've literally chewed on my fingernails for the greater majority of my life, thinking it would be an impossibility to ever maintain anything other than my stubby, gnawed-on nails. One day I decided to stop. For whatever reason, unlike any other time before, the drive to stop became greater than my desire to chew. Success.

Was it really that easy? Kind of.

It happened even more recently with my weight.
I had gotten to the point in life where I had resigned myself to the fact that I was only going to gain weight from here on out. It wouldn't matter what diet I did, how much I exercised, how much I cared... my size would only increase. It seemed inevitable.

It wasn't until my my 'big' pants starting fitting tighter, that I realized that one of two things needed to happen: I either needed to lose weight or buy new clothes. The former seemed cheaper. For whatever reason, unlike any other time before, the desire to lose weight became greater than my desire to eat uncontrollable amounts of food. Success.

Was it really that easy? Kind of.

While these are very external, shallow things, it's made me realize how much we settle for less than what we truly hope for. It's made me realize that more is attainable through self-discipline and self-control. It's made me realize the value of allowing ourselves to hope for better than what we've resigned ourselves to, to make changes, and to watch dreams become reality.

This mentality has extended into other areas of life that I formerly felt defeated in. It's extended to relationships, to faith, to future plans: the impossible seems more realistic than ever before. I don't have to resign myself to anything anymore. There truly is hope, because I've now experienced it in a way I never have before.

I mostly just want to encourage you that it can happen for you, too. That there really is a reason to hope. There is a chance that things can be different. You don't have to resign yourself to worse fate than what you desire. You can change. You can be different. The seemingly impossible is more attainable than you might ever imagine!

I don't want to carry the tune of some motivational speaker that drones on with the 'you can do it' chant of self-help. I just need you to know that whatever 'it' is for you doesn't have to be that way. Whether it's an addiction, or hopelessness, or an eating disorder, or relational trauma, or identity struggles...there's this balance between being truly okay with who we are at the core, but then still striving for the better.

I think, for the first time in a long time, I just feel content with who I really am...but, I'm still chasing dreams and goals--knowing that those aren't the things that define me, but they're still good. There's a joy to be found that wasn't there before. There's a greater trust in a God who is so faithful to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine... and I want to hold Him to it.

So- don't resign yourself to anything.
You can do more than you think.
Be determined.
Seek self-discipline and self-control. Pray fervently that that fruit of the Spirit would captivate you as you move forward in a world of hope and transformation.

It exists.
I promise.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Compliments for Me?

The end of a camp experience usually brings about a flood of emotional goodbyes as we attempt to say all the things we're not sure we'll ever have the chance to say again. It's as if these final moments before departure are the only seconds we are promised and we want to exist in a world of no regrets...we never want to look back and think, 'I wish I would have told him/her this...'

I know I experienced it just a few days ago. As my summer staff departed, I wanted them to leave the summer knowing that it had been, indeed, a job well done. I fumbled over words as I tried to convey the depth of my gratitude for their hard work, longing for them to know that they mattered and that everything they sacrificed this summer was worth it. I needed them to know that they were truly cared about.

Not too surprisingly, the gesture was often returned. I found myself receiving many a praise and thanks from my staff...and I found myself nodding and smiling as they lavished words of kindness and blessings upon me.

Per usual, I felt each word knock against the door of my heart and slowly drip into a puddle at the doorstep, patiently waiting to enter. 'Not now', always seems to be the response I give. It's not time to receive these things, it's not time for them to be allowed in. It's not time because I'm not sure if they are true, if they are real, if they are genuine.

For a split second (and for the first time in a long time), I allowed myself to wonder what if...
What if these things that they are saying are true? What if they are genuine? What if...? And as this questioned penetrated my mind, I felt myself slowly losing control. I felt the sobs that were burrowed underneath begin to rise up, I felt the puddle at the doorstep begin to seep into the tiny crack in the just barely opened door as the words attempted to penetrate my heart.


It wasn't time.

So while I haven't exactly opened the door to the floodgate of good, encouraging things that await me...I've realized a few things about myself.

  • I haven't gotten any better at receiving things from others (which means I'm probably not that great at receiving them from the Lord, either).
  • I'm terrified of what it means to really believe that people think these things. 
I bet some of you can identify. 
I bet some of you, like me, don't want to admit that you ever have anything truly good to offer to people...or that you've affected someone's life in a positive way... that you've been a part of them being a completely different person. 

I bet that some of you don't want to admit that you matter to anyone else.
Because, it seems, the moment we start admitting that is the moment we start making ourselves vulnerable, it's the moment we start letting others truly affect our hearts. 

But what if...?
What if we all started to believe that we do matter to others? That, perhaps, you're capable of being a vessel of good...of true life-change? 

Even at the risk of disappointment and hurt... isn't it still worth it? 
What if we opened the door, even if it's just a little at a time, and allowed ourselves to believe that we might actually have something of value to offer to the world? 

Think about the last time someone said something kind to you or about you. 
Did you really believe it? 
Do you still believe it?
Or did you find every excuse for why they said what they did? Did you discount it? Or did you actually let it infiltrate your heart? 

I hope you did. 
And if you're more like me... well, I hope that together we can journey into what it means to open up that door. To believe that on the other side of our hardened hearts there's a world of beauty and joy... a world of hope and meaning. A world of love that can overflow our cups... instead of the self-destruction and despair we tend to bring ourselves through the doubt, second-guessing, and resistance to good things.

I'm going to start opening this door.
I have to.
For as terrifying as it is, that glimpse of what it meant to truly believe....? I want it. 

I must go beyond my skepticism and cynicism....beyond the place where I fear people only live and speak out of obligation....and then I must exist in a place where I believe that people actually mean what they say, and they do what they do because they truly care about me and love me. 

That seems like a better place to be in. 
Join me there? 

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Pushing Play

I could probably use your help as I jump back into the blogosphere post summer. I could probably use your help as I take my finger off the 'pause' button of blogging and hesitantly settle my finger over 'play'. It's time.

I don't know if it's the long hours, the contradicting emotions presenting themselves behind every corner, the lack of sleep, or simply a case of writer's block...but my thoughts feel disconnected and scattered.

I saw some sweet things this summer, and was a part of God moving in some big ways. People left camp different than they came--whether they were campers, group leaders or summer staff. I'm still sorting through the ways my own faith was challenged and stretched and what that means for me as I leave this place. I'm still sorting through the questions, conversations and words that were shared as we strove for excellence and over-exceeded the limits of what was humanly possible. I'm still sorting through what was good and honoring to the Lord and how to continually push further into those things instead of things that only gratify my flesh.

So, in the process of sorting...I'm not sure where that leaves me in terms of writing.

This is where you come in!
I'd love to hear your questions, thoughts, struggles as I resume where I left off in May. I'd love your input on the things you want to read about and things you need to process through.

Mostly, I don't want to be caught up in writing things that only pertain to my thoughts/feelings as I go through this big transition in life. It's bound to get repetitive and boring. I'd like to write about the things that you want to read about...things that inspire you, motivate you and bring you to a better place. Things that remind you that we exist in a world of second chances.

What is it for you?
What's on your heart lately?
What questions plague you?
What things do you struggle believing?
What's been bothering you about yourself/others?
Why do you currently feel hopeless?
What do you wish were different about yourself or your circumstances?
What sin are you entangled in?
Who has hurt you lately?
What are you running from... and why?

I want to dive back into this dialogue with each of you, but I'll need your help to get there. Feel free to comment below or, like always, send your stuff to

Can't wait to explore the unknown with you this fall.
I hope you're willing to go to uncharted territory with me-- 'cause I plan on being more brutally honest and open than ever before. So...  are you ready?

I'm pushing 'play'.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A New Song

I recently remembered a phone call I received from a good friend several years ago.

It was one of those friends that you don't have to talk to very often to feel close to. It was one of those phone calls where you feel helpless because there's nothing you can do or say to make their situation any better. His dad had just died.

I remember tears streaming down my cheeks as he told me where he was at in the process of mourning. And while there was still such sorrow, there was this inexplicable joy that was undeniable in his tone.

More than anything, I remember him telling me that it was time to sing a new song. That while there was heartache and sadness, there was still the hope of new and different...there was still the hope that the while one season was coming to an end, there was the promise of better and good right around the corner.

I find myself uttering those words a lot since then.
I find myself clinging to that idea a lot....especially right now.

As summer wraps up, I find myself in a position that I haven't been in for a long while. A season of my life is ending. A chapter has finished. It's time to sing a new song.

I don't know if I've had the time to process through the emotions that come with the change. Mostly I feel ready to jump into the unknown, but occasionally sorrow sets in as I realize the things I'm leaving behind.

I know I've been thinking a lot about my response to things ending, though. That while sometimes I can't change my circumstances, there's a lot of value in how I respond and react to things despite how hard and terrifying they may be.

Instead of being angry, instead of distancing myself, instead of sadness...what if I respond with hope of the endless possibilities that lie ahead? What if I finish well, and continue to love even through the heartache? What if I find joy in the beauty of singing a new song?

I don't know where you're at in life right now. Perhaps the end of summer means something new is just around the corner for you as well. Perhaps your circumstances have you in a place of significant change. Perhaps the changes mean good-byes, letting go, moving on.

I hope, if that's you, that you can join me in approaching the change with hope. That together we might be willing to admit that there can be so much good, even when it means that something that we care for deeply has to die. That it is possible to sing a new song...and that new song could actually be a better song...even if it stings a little right now.

This time I don't get the choice in singing a new song.
It's what lies before me as the next few weeks unfold.
The choice now lies in the singing of a better song... and this I plan on doing.
With everything I am, I'm determined that the chapter just completed is not the best chapter in the book and that with each turning of the page, it just gets better, and better, and better.

That's something worth hoping and striving for.
That's something worth singing about.

Ready or not...

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