Sunday, September 30, 2012

Death Sentence

This summer there was a trial.
It involved a conniving man who had committed murder and a high school girl who had stolen medicine to keep her dying sister alive. The campers were the jury.

It was a simulation of a trial that we put on every Monday night at camp. It gave the campers a chance to decide for themselves who was guilty and who was innocent.

I acted the part of the girl on trial. Every week I gave my testimony to hundreds of campers and let them decide my fate. Every week, while there were a few groups that proclaimed my innocence, the majority condemned me. While I was a good person, I had still broken the law. While I was going to church, sacrificially giving my money to people in need, breaking the law only because I was desperate to keep my sister alive and in the spur of the moment, when I didn't have the money, I took the medication and ran...I was still guilty.

The other guy on trial, one of the guys I worked with, was a jerk. He was clearly guilty and clearly an idiot (especially when he attempted Aussie accents). He was a murderer- there wasn't ever a question in any camper's mind.

We both stood on stage, waiting to hear the camper's verdict. This was the point during the night where I would try to muster up tears. Oftentimes, the large fan overhead in the pavilion would hit my eyes at just the right angle and cause my eyes to tear up a little. This helped, but it wasn't yet believable that I was a high school girl in terrible distress. Groups would trickle back in and hand their verdicts in. There was always laughter, pointing, casual discussion and, usually, a jeer or a comment in our direction about how guilty we were.

While, yes, the trial was fake and everyone in the room knew it, I couldn't help but think that it wouldn't be much different if it was real. I remember being astonished at how quickly these campers were to judge us, to decide our fate...based on only a few facts. I remember being thrown off by the cruelty of their words and the disapproval in their eyes.

Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers...

These words would run through my mind every time at this point in the evening. I wasn't any different from these campers. I felt like I had caught a glimpse of what it was like to be Jesus on trial. Only He had done nothing wrong. In the crowd there was accusation, judgment, scorn, ridicule...and I can't help but think my voice would have been one of them.

The tears flowed easily at this point. For as much as I felt the scorn of others from some silly simulation, I knew it was only a taste of what Christ had endured for me...for us.

The verdict was in. We were always guilty. *applause, cheering*
The punishment? Death.

For the murderer, this sentence was met with more applause and cheering. When my sentence was read, there was often a shout of disapproval. I was dragged off stage, weeping and begging for my life.

The whole idea was to paint a picture for these campers that no matter how good we are and no matter how bad we are, we are all deserving of death...we are all sinners.  It's only because of the blood of Jesus Christ that our sins have been atoned for. It's only through grace that we have been saved.

I think I forget this sometimes.
I think I forget my depravity and my absolute need for Jesus.
I think I forget that no matter how good I am, no matter how bad I am... Jesus still takes me back.
I think I forget that there's nothing I can do to earn salvation.
I think I forget that it's already been done.

This must matter above all else.
There can't be anything else that gets in the way.
The gospel must be the centrality from which everything flows.

It's time we start living that way.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Too Extroverted to Tango?

The comment:
Why do extroverted girls become introverts around guys? I am talking to a group of friends hanging out, chillin', laughing... then along comes a guy that I do not know- it's cool- there may be not interest on my part- But my mind goes blank of how to interact with them- I care too much what their impression of me is- therefore forfeit every part of my true identity and fade into the abyss,  my hide away- aka I run, leave, don't try and become a hermit in my loneliness.
I mostly just think you're scared.
Of what...?
Probably a few things. I don't know all the elements of your past, and so I'm not sure how your past wounds and hurts play into your interactions today but it's quite apparent that they do.

Here are a few immediate things that come to mind though:

  • What if they like you and you don't like them back? No one likes to tell someone else that they're not interested. It's awkward and icky and there's the chance that if your extroverted self is extroverted around guys, they could get the wrong idea. It's probably happened before... as extroverted girls can easily send guys the wrong message without meaning to. The world would be a whole lot more simple if you could always be yourself and not worry about how your actions might affect others, huh? This would be the fear of confrontation. 
  • What if they like you and you maybe, sort of like them back? Not actually like them, but are interested enough to entertain the idea of more in your head...which naturally will come out with your actions. You'll eventually find yourself flirting with them and laughing with them and, before you know it, you might even start dating someone you're not entirely sold on... just because the attention was nice in the beginning. It's hard to get out of these once you're in them, and so it's easier to not even mess with the possibility from the get go. This might be defined as the fear of getting involved in something you don't really want. 
  • What if you like them and they don't like you? Sometimes the extroverted-ness (I know it's not a word...) moves you into a place of being overly flirtatious with a guy that you truly are interested in. You find yourself doing and saying things that you wish you wouldn't...but you can't seem to help yourself. You're not necessarily meaning to do/say them in front of this guy, but when you're really yourself, you kind of just let it all out and lose any sort of filter you might have had. There's the fear of letting him see who you really are and him rejecting you. Vulnerable city? I think yes. 
  • What if they like you and you really like them back? Sometimes, when you put yourself all out there, a guy just might embrace the fullness of who you are....and he just might want to pursue you and love you for the rest of your life. Could it be?! I know it's hard to believe, and I know it's hard to accept...but sometimes we aren't who we truly are because we walk in fear of believing that God would ever want anything good for us (especially in this area of life). Or maybe we're fearful of commitment...or maybe we're fearful that love actually exists and the ramifications of what that means for us is absolutely life-altering. 
There might be a few other ways fear could be driving you... but, I think, at the root, the issue is fear. You let the 'what-if's rule you and control you, and, as a result, you lose part of who you are every time you interact with the opposite sex. 

I always thought that I needed to be a certain way in order for a man to ever want to date me. I needed to be calmer, I needed to be a little less weird...maybe even a little less awkward. And then I watched friend after friend get married off (friends who are weird and crazy)...and I watched them be the fullness of who they are with their husbands. Now I've just realized that I'm going to be who I am and a lot of guys won't like me or want to date me...and that's okay. I'm quite sure I don't want to date most of them, either. But there will be one. One who will choose to love me...despite everything else. I'm still hopeful for that...and I'm not altering myself in the process. 

I'd encourage you to do the same. To walk in the assurance that it doesn't matter and there's no need to be fearful... that you might live in the fullness of who you are, no matter who surrounds you, no matter who walks in the room. You might have some awkward conversations of letting a guy down gently, you might feel rejected, you might end up in some pseudo-relationship that you don't want (try and have some accountability in this, though). It's all okay... it's all refining...and it's all freeing. 

Be you. 
It'll be the one of the most attractive things about you. 
And, you never know. Maybe he'll like you and maybe you'll really like him back. 
You won't know until you're you, though. 

* * *

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Peace is for Everyone

I had dinner with an old friend tonight.
Old friends are hard to come by these days. In the midst of new territory and new faces, it's good to be in the presence of something familiar every so often.

He's the kind of friend that you might not see for 8 years, but the time doesn't change anything. The kind of friend who makes you feel like you're ravishing and beautiful. The kind of friend who listens intently, the kind of friend who cares deeply, the kind of friend who laughs with ease. He's the kind of friend who is open and honest, which, refreshingly, allows me to be open and honest back.

Tonight he told me that he senses a true inner peace within me. That when I say I'm good, he really knows that I mean it.

It's actually been funny because now that I've been a way from people I know for several weeks, the questions I most commonly get are along the lines of, 'How's your heart?' or 'How are you doing spiritually?'. I've come to dread such questions because I feel like my response is supposed to be one that's negative, or else one that's full of complete exuberance.

But lately?
Lately I've just felt good. Not great, like I'm on the top of some emotional roller coaster...but I'm nowhere near the pits of despair either. 'Good' is usually the type of response you get when someone doesn't actually want to tell you what's going on. It's the non-committal answer you give to someone when you're walking by and they ask how you are and you don't really think they care and you certainly don't have the time to tell them anyway... and so you say, 'good'. You all know the 'good' I'm referring to.

But this time, my answer is truly good.

I think I know why, too.
I think it's because I'm not over-analyzing everything like crazy right now...especially my spiritual life. I'm not beating myself up because I'm not reading my Bible enough or praying enough... and I'm not trying to figure out all the things I'm doing/thinking wrong and allowing myself to wallow in the fact that I'm absolutely imperfect. I'm not spending my time wishing I was somewhere that I'm not.

For the first time in a long time, I feel truly content enjoying exactly where I am right now. There's no room to dwell in the past, and I certainly have no certainty with what I'm doing in the future...and as a result, each day is just good. Why wouldn't it be?

I know there are a lot of you out there like me...those of you who tend to over-think, over-analyze, pick everything around you (including yourself) apart. There's always room for you to be better, to grow, to not be complacent...especially in your walk with the Lord, right? Sure... BUT... I'd urge you to allow the Lord to refine you in His timing, not yours.

In the past I felt this urgency, this desperation to get things smoothed out within myself as soon as possible. Lately... there's been a release. There's been an assurance that it's okay to exist as I am and to simply trust that the Lord is going to bring me to and through things and I don't have to go in plunging into my darkness on my own. It'll be brought to the light... when it's time.

You might say I'm waiting on the Lord.
And while I wait?
I'm good.
I don't always know how to answer the questions about where my heart is or how I'm doing spiritually... but I know that I have nothing to complain about today. I don't know what tomorrow will bring--perhaps calamity, perhaps conviction, perhaps something entirely different. I'm not going to go searching for it though. Not right now.

May the peace that passes all understanding also rest with you right now, in this moment. Don't go searching for the 5,000 things you need to fix within... because, most assuredly, you'll find them. I'm not so convinced anymore that that's what this journey is about though.

Be still.
Rest easy.
Let go.
He is our peace.

* * *

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rotting in Your Prison

Tonight feels important. 

Not for me, perhaps.... but maybe for you? 
I've been told often that one of the things people find refreshing about me is my honesty. I'd probably be lying if I told you I was always 100% honest with you. No, I don't blatantly lie... but, I know that I don't lay it all out there for you. I'm always honest enough to get by. Always honest enough to where people are thankful for my willingness to go 'there', but, in reality, I know that I haven't gone quite as far as I could have. This time, I don't feel like my honesty is as important. 

Tonight I read someone else's honesty though. It is inspiring, but it also reminds me that sometimes my life is quite trivial. While I've known pain, I don't know if I've known it to the degree that many of you have. While I've experienced tragedy, I don't think it quite measures up to the despair some continue to feel on a daily basis. While I've screwed up plenty of times, nothing really feels 'unfixable'. 

Comparing our crap to each other to see who comes out in worse condition isn't the point here. I think I was just reminded that while I can casually be living life, there can be a world of hurt surrounding me that I'm oblivious to. 

I feel like the last few years, especially, have introduced me to territory that I'm absolutely unfamiliar with... and it's stuff I don't always understand or know how to relate to. But it's stuff that's real and stuff that people who are dear to me have struggled with (or are struggling with). Stuff like self-destruction- both in the form of suicidal thoughts and cutting. Stuff like eating disorders. Stuff like sexual addiction. Stuff like affairs and unfaithfulness. Stuff like drug and alcohol addictions. There's more. There's always more. 

I don't always understand the severity of these things. I want to... but there's a part of me that ignorantly thinks that if this is something you don't want to do, then don't do it. It seems like a simple, easy solution. Only... I know that it's not. I know it's more complicated because, as much as we don't want to do things, we simultaneously want to. 

So, there's instant war within. People begin fighting, what probably feels like, an endless battle and they're unsure of who the victor currently is. They are struggling and they are desperate for a way out...they are desperate for freedom. And because sometimes the freedom and victory feel too far off to ever possibly seize, they hang their heads in defeat and immerse themselves back into the pits of despair, into the claws of addiction and self-deprecating thoughts. They stay with what they know, because what they know is...known. There are no surprises here, no need to live up to anyone else's expectations. In some twisted way, our own prisons have become safe. 

There's often a lashing out at God...whether it's to question His existence at all, or to merely throw insults His way, or, more than likely, doubt His goodness as you pull yourself back up again from rock bottom. Is He there? Does He hear your prayers? Does He care? If He's there, if He hears, if He cares...then why is all this the way that it is? 

You want answers. 
You demand answers.
And when you don't get them, you feel your faith being chipped away a little at a time. Some of you have already gotten to the 'Screw You' point... you've dropped your cross and you are no longer following. Some of you are hanging on by a thread, dragging each foot in some direction...hoping that just once God will come through, that He'll prove you wrong. Some of you just don't care anymore...and you're just doing whatever numbs the pain. 

I don't necessarily have answers. 
I feel like I could spit a mouthful of words at you've already heard before and it typically doesn't do much good until you're ready to hear.

I'm sorry you're hurting. 
I want to offer you hope.
I want to offer you freedom from the walls of your prison and assure you that it can be different for you. I want to tell you the stories of those who are living, breathing, changed lives...people who have found hope, who have found redemption, who have found out that the chains that bind can truly be broken. Are you ready to hear? 

There is more for you than this. 
I'd love to talk to you further about it, too. 
Your heartache, your addiction, your abuse, your despair... it doesn't have to be yours to bear alone. And if you don't want to talk to me, I really urge you to talk to someone

Stop whatever it is that you're fighting against and talk to someone. No matter how ashamed you are, no matter how worthless you feel, no matter how much you tell yourself that no one else cares... you must take this first step. 

This is a blog about second chances.
I wouldn't be here if I didn't fully believe in such a thing. 
They aren't just for me.

There is hope.
Break the chains. 
Do you hear me? 
* * *

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Do I just stop?

The comment:
We had a lot of serious convos and had fun too, but every time we hangout like this I always end up wondering if I should have even gone in the first place. It's not that I don't care about him or like being around him, because obviously I do but if it's also making it harder, do I just stop? I don't want to be the one to say anything first but I also don't want to keep waiting. Do I try distancing myself from him and if so how? Like I don't even know what that looks like. And at the same time I don't want to because we do have so much so I feel like I would be missing out if I did.
This is every single girl's perpetual nightmare, it seems. Meet guy, become friends with guy, hang out with guy often, realize that you like guy (a lot), never really know how guy feels about you. I probably can't even recall the number of times I've been in this scenario...but, I think the number is too many.

How to proceed when you find yourself in the midst of this situation is always a tough decision. One never intentionally puts themselves in this spot, I don't believe...but, inevitably, it happens. I think that maybe females are incapable of getting close to men without developing some sort of intimate connection to them. When we form the intimacy, our hearts automatically link that to romance and love.

Can we be incredibly close to men without wanting to date them? Probably sometimes, but (at least in my experience), there seems to always be a moment where we at least question and wonder about the possibility of being more. We may not even be physically attracted to the guy upon first meeting him, or even for months into our friendship, but when we've shared our heart with them and they've shared theirs with us we wake up one day and suddenly see them a bit differently. Before us is no longer our best friend, but a man that we could envision spending the rest of our lives with. It's someone that we are real with, comfortable around, knows us and likes us. It's a the type of thing they make movies out of, right?

Guys don't seem to follow the same patterns as girls, though. They can genuinely be close to a girl on an emotional level and never even go there on the romantic level. It doesn't even cross their mind. They care deeply for you, they are there for you...but it's platonic. Not always, but, a lot of the time.

So, I guess the tough decision comes back to you. In my experience, and in my conversations with guys, I've found that if a guy is interested in you he will do something about it. He may not be super speedy about it, but he will let you know if he's interested. My guess is that you aren't being super secretive about your feelings toward him, either. Meaning, you probably don't need to do or say anything to make him aware that you'd be interested in more. He knows. And, if he doesn't know, it's probably because he just hasn't thought about it before because he's not interested in you as anything more than a friend.

Sucks, I know...
BUT, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Are you in this friendship solely because you want to date him? Or, do you genuinely care about him and care about being his friend? If your end goal (be honest about this) is to date him, you should back off immediately. If you're in it because you care about him, then here's where your first sacrifice comes in. Regardless of how you feel and what you hope for, I'd urge you to keep being his friend without ever letting those romantic feelings interfere with your friendship. 
  • Can you be okay just being his friend? You may really care about him and his friendship above a romantic relationship, but it doesn't mean that you're able to be his friend. If it's become something that's all-consuming and distracting, if it's become something that stirs up insecurity and should back off. If your emotional and mental health are suffering so much that it affects your entire life, you should reevaluate the friendship. He should not be your number one priority. To figure out if he might be, mentally walk through your life without him... would you be okay if that happened? 
  • How much can you handle? You may care about him, you may be okay without his existence in your life...and so you may think you can proceed in simply being friends with him. Maybe you can. Only you can really decide how much you can handle. Only you can decide how much time you should spend with him and how much of that time is spent causing more harm to your heart than good. Be willing to set up boundaries for yourself, if necessary. Don't initiate hanging out with him, don't initiate texting conversations...and even beyond initiating, you also hold the power to not hang out or to not text back. If you have to see him at various functions, enjoy the time you see him there, but be careful about extra time you spend with him-especially time alone together. This is one that requires major self-discipline because, like you said, you want to hang out with him and be close to him. So- this one is your call! 
If distancing yourself from him seems to be the next step, you don't have to make a dramatic exit from his life (although, sometimes that's a strategy women have been known to use to get guys to realize how important we are to them--don't do this). If hanging out with him less causes your nights to be lonelier, find other things to fill your time, find other people to engage in. This will leave you less likely to spend those nights fighting the urge to text him back, or go watch tv over at his place. 

So, in a nutshell... my advice? You get to decide. Is the risk worth it? 
I guess, in the end, I always think that you'll eventually get over him and be okay. In the end, I think you'll just be thankful for the friendship that you have that you didn't mess up by telling him that you liked him, while simultaneously demanding to know how he feels about you. In the end, he may just swoop out of nowhere and confess his love for you. 

No matter which way it rolls, your heart is engaged at this point. Any way you go is risky and painful, whether you try to check out completely or dive further into knowing what it means to love him at the expense of your own feelings. 

And, in the end, it's always okay. 
There's always hope. 
* * *

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Secretly a Cylon?

"Russell was perfect. What's wrong with me? Am I self-sabotaging? Am I secretly a Cylon?"
"You just didn't love him."
"But what if it's me? What if I have some idea of love in my head and it's just totally wrong?"

This is why I like watching television. In the midst of a ridiculous sitcom, like New Girl, there are some really introspective moments that so many of us can identify with. Jess has just broken up with her boyfriend and above is a brief dialogue with her best friend that we get to witness.

There have been moments where all of us feel like this, to some degree. Are we really just destroying ourselves, without even meaning to? Are we living our lives in such an illusion, hopeful of an ideal that simply just doesn't exist? What if I, too, have an idea of love in my head and it's just not what love is at all? What if I filter everything through that ideal and I push the good in front of me away because nothing measures up to this false reality I've created in my head?

It's worth taking a look at.
I've battled with this same issue a lot- not always in regard to love, but it's reared it's head up in regard to community, family, friendships, jobs, ministry, etc. etc. There's always a way things should be that doesn't line up with how things actually are.

Been there?
Do you feel self-destructive in the way you handle situations?
I used to pat myself on the back for my criticism. I was glad that I wasn't willing to settle for something less than perfection. By golly, if community is supposed to be a certain way, why would we ever want it to look different? If love isn't supposed to be like this, why even waste my time pretending?

My quest for my version of perfection in all of these things made it impossible for me to co-exist with others (in relationships, friendships, community, jobs, family, etc.). Because, as time went on, I realized that they also had their own version of how things were supposed to be. They had their own values, their own priorities, their own dreams... and just because they looked different than mine, it didn't mean that they were wrong. That was a hard lesson to swallow.

What if my idea of how things should be are wrong?
Or, even if they aren't necessarily wrong, what if others have opinions/thoughts/ideas and theirs could also be right? Am I open-minded enough to allow for that to be the case?

And I think this is where the self-destruction can end.
A realization that my ideals don't need to always be the thing that prevails. That my quest isn't about finding perfection in all these various aspects of life... but it's about something greater than that. That my end goal isn't to have the perfect husband, family, love, job, community, friendship in the way that I've deemed perfection to be... but perhaps it has much more to do about surrender, sacrifice, and letting people simply be.

Instead of looking at what things are not present, looking at what is. Instead of disappointment in the things that are lacking within community, being grateful and amazed by the things that are true blessings that already exist.

It's a shift of perspective.
It's a willingness to admit that your version of perfection may not actually be perfection at all.
It's a willingness to admit that, sometimes, the idea of love in your head might be totally wrong.

There's so much hope to be found in this. There's so much freedom.
And, instead of destroying all the good that already exists, you can embrace it and truly allow good things to happen to you....instead of pushing it away because you think it's supposed to be better.

Maybe, when we stop always looking for better, we can realize that the good before us is better than we could have ever hoped for...


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Thursday, September 20, 2012

When the Spirit says DATE!

The comment:
I also for the first time am beginning to pursue a girl in the hopes of making a relationship that is pleasing to God. I've never been one to date; I've never even really had a girlfriend. However, I feel compelled by the Spirit to make a change and put myself out there like I never have, and to do so in a way that puts her interests first, no matter what that means (even if it means being zoned as a friend). It's very weird because I've never experienced anything like this before, unless it was a major life choice that the Spirit was leading in a bigger-than-usual way. Talk about being uncomfortable with saying that. Its sound uber cliche and could easily be passed off as rationalizing. Is it? I don't think so, but thats part of the tension.
Maybe you are rationalizing it... but, maybe you're not. Only you really know your motivation and your heart, try as you may to convince the world, the Lord and yourself. I'm actually quite amazed at how good we can get at believing things that simply aren't true and pawn it off on 'God telling us to'. I'm not saying He's not, but 'following the Spirit' can sometimes lead to shady things when we aren't constantly going back to Scripture with the things we are sure we've been told.

Another tricky part of this situation is that once you've gotten the notion to pursue someone in such a fashion, you need to make sure you're not in it to get something out of it...and, at least for me, that becomes next to impossible. I had a similar experience to yours a few years ago (check it out, if you haven't).

As much as you can convince yourself that you'll do whatever it takes to be there for her, to put her needs ahead of've already established that there is the hope of making a relationship. Perhaps you meant friendship, but, even at that rate...what if friendship isn't what you get out of the whole ordeal? What if you literally get nothing in return? What if you get worse than nothing? Again, you can ask yourself what-ifs all day...

My point is that you already have expectations, whether you want to admit that or not. When you have the expectations, you can't help but put those upon other people. In the end, if things don't result in a relationship, you'll probably be disappointed. I think that's okay. I think that's what reaching out to others often looks like. I don't know how to tell you to love selflessly and to never expect anything in return... I don't think that's natural to us. Do we still have to do it? Absolutely...

Shoot- and ultimately, I give you props for pursuing, especially when it's a completely unknown territory for you. It seems quite rare that men are willing to put themselves on the line for a girl without first knowing if there's any sort of interest on the other side.

So basically, my thoughts in a more concise nutshell:
  • In following the Spirit: are the things that you're doing in line with what Scripture says (Scripture not taken out of context, that is). If you weigh each action, each word and it is line with what the Word says...keep walking into it. Keep pursuing. 
  • Think about what it really might mean to put her interests first. It's a promise, a commitment. And maybe you're not making it to her (please don't...not yet, anyway), but the depth of what you're talking about goes much further than a 'Oh, she's not reciprocating at all, I must have heard wrong...' If you decide to pursue this, and if what you've said above is your true heart behind it, you must be all matter what. Even when... 
  • Be a man who is bold and confidant. Maybe the Lord's just urging you to walk in that boldly and this girl is the first of many that you will honor and respect and you (and they) will learn a lot about godly relationships through the way that you're being obedient. Be ready to learn a thousand lessons along the way that will be different from what you originally thought you might learn. It's a fun adventure! 
  • She may not be the one for you. Please don't let the first thing that you tell her in a DTR be that you really feel like the Lord is leading you into this specifically. If she's not feeling the same way it can cause both of you to unnecessarily question whether or not you're hearing from the Lord at all. Perhaps approach it from more of a, 'I feel compelled by the Spirit to make a change and put myself out there in a way I never have before...and you've really caught my eye because...'. 
I'm excited for you to branch into new territory. Perhaps you'll lead the charges of breaking through whatever barrier Christian men seem to encounter when they think about pursuing Christian women. 

Romance never goes the way you expect it. 
Be thankful for that, even when it sucks. You'll understand in the end.
Just don't blame it on God if things don't work out with this specific girl. And sometimes, my friend...sometimes I think it's okay to pursue a girl just because you think she's cool and you'd like to get to know her better. I don't think you have to feel the Spirit's leading in a major way to feel okay about taking this step in life. He has given you a sound mind and wisdom (oh, and desire...) for a reason.

I hope you find a lot of freedom as you move into a bit of change for yourself.
I know it will be good. 

* * *

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mom Wins

I hate it when my mom is right.

In fact, I probably fear that she's right a whole lot more than I typically give her credit for. She's recently gotten in the habit of pointing to the new growth on her head, emphatically reminding me how gray she is and telling me that it ain't gray for no reason. I usually roll my eyes, but secretly I'm thankful for not only the woman she is in my life, but also the woman she is becoming. She's a cancer warrior... a survivor.

This story isn't about cancer though. It's about her being right.
Growing up, my mom frequently told me that she couldn't wait to see me have a daughter that was just like me. It was always said in the midst of an argument or while I was clearly being selfish, stubborn, indignant, etc., etc., etc. (which, yes, was almost all of the time). This is one of those things that I sincerely hope she's wrong about. I don't think I want a daughter just like me...

Anyway, as you're most likely aware, I've recently left my job and while I'm still doing a few things hourly for them, my financial situation is no longer what it was. Working at a camp allows you to cut corners on a few things (rent, utilities, oftentimes food), and while your salary isn't anything to brag about, you're also not paying a lot of the expenses that 'normal' people have to.

In the midst of this transition, insurance became a fun topic of discussion. Honestly, I have a hard time caring about insurance because I've never really needed it. I never grew up going to the doctor (partially because my dad is one), but I just didn't have many reasons to (aside from the time I got my finger smushed off). The last 6 years have been quite low key as far as my medical expenses have gone. Why wouldn't that trend continue on?

I'm currently insurance-less.
I'm also, now, getting surgery tomorrow.

Several days ago my throat starting swelling and my jaw started throbbing, and while I've felt similar pain here before, something was a bit different this time. I choked down some ibuprofen, sure that this would pass, and enjoyed my merry day.

Each night I'd go to bed, hoping that I'd wake up the next morning and feel remarkably better. Each night I'd wake up several times, unable to swallow and with pain in the back of the right side of my mouth. Since I was adamant about not going to a doctor or a dentist, I searched and searched until was able to get a sufficient self-diagnosis.

No big deal... just my wisdom teeth. And just an infection that I should get looked at immediately...
While I had great plans to get rid of the infection on my own, I knew that unless I got antibiotics  I wasn't going to feel better. I also wasn't so worried about actually getting the teeth taken out, but the money that it would require to do so.

This is the part where my mom comes in, as evidenced below:

It wasn't so much the latter part of our conversation that struck an 'a-ha' chord in me... but, she made a great point that I rolled my eyes to at the time (can't you just taste it in that 'Ha.'?). Ultimately, the pain had gotten pretty unbearable, so I finally sucked it up, found a dentist within walking distance, made an appointment and went (I only had to walk part-way in the rain, don't worry).

"You're definitely going to need those out soon."
I know.
I know. I just don't want to spend thousands of dollars to do it, okay really nice lady??

I was referred to the Oral Surgeon with an consultation scheduled for that same day, and there was the promise of getting me into surgery before the end of the me plenty of time to heal before my next travels.

My mom's words rang in my head again. Don't you hate it when that happens? She had a point.

I did have the money. The money isn't mine to hold onto. Here is provision staring at me in the face and all I can think about are the what-ifs of my future. What if I need that money to go to grad school? What if I can't find a job once these next few months are over? What if I get into some other financial trouble with my car or my health and I need that money

What if...? 

Dang, we can sure play that game for a while, can't we...?

What I realize? I have been taken care of for today... and I don't need to worry about all the what-ifs of tomorrow. Shoot, maybe my mom is right and I'll meet a rich, single man to help out with finances. But, if not... I'm not worried. Because my God is a God who provides.
And so today...? Today I'm just thankful.

Let's not forget it.
Even when we have to spend money and our bank accounts dwindle.

And, in the meantime, maybe I'll walk away tomorrow with some sort of memory like this to cherish forever.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fat & Skinny are the Same

Even the skinny girls think they're fat.
Have you ever noticed that before?

It's maybe one of my pet peeves. Maybe not so much that they feel like that, but that they make comments in front of me (when I'm clearly larger than them) about how fat they are. Well, who am I's annoying that they feel that way at all. Annoying because I want to shake them and say, 'THIS is not something YOU have to worry stop it already.'  Because out of all the things in the world to be obsessed over, their invisible fat shouldn't be one of them. And I'm not sure how much they realize that when they call themselves fat, it makes me feel like they are calling me obese (even though they aren't and I'm obviously reading into the situation...).

I did have one skinny friend who was the opposite of this, actually. In fact, I caught her shopping in the maternity section on the day of her rehearsal dinner because she wanted clothing that wouldn't cling to her body in such a way that revealed her skinniness. It made me laugh and love her all the more.

It doesn't always work this way, though. The most beautiful girls tend to think they are ugly, the skinniest girls tend to think they're fat...and the ugly girls still think they're ugly and the fat girls still think they are fat. It's this universal problem that, surprisingly, we all seem to have in common, no matter what we look like.

I've tried to wrap my brain around it so many times. I've tried to wrap my brain around the fact that women seem to always come back to 2 huge issues: how we look and men. Why...? 

Why are we so obsessed with looking different than we do? Why are we so obsessed with seeing every small imperfection within us and instead of embracing it, we try to change it....or if we can't change it, we either hide it or beat ourselves up for it. Do we care about what our bodies look like because we care so much about men and we know that they care about what our bodies look like? Is that the deal?

It's rather exhausting, don't you think?
I wish I had some great advice to give you, but I think this is one of those times where I could spout off a bunch of truth and you'll take it worth a grain of salt because, while I may be able to identify with you, I don't know what's really going on with you in the specific place you're at in life. I don't know who has said what to you, I don't know whose standard you're trying to live up to, I don't know the ways you've been hurt or wounded, I don't know where you're finding your identity, I don't know what your expectations are of yourself or others. I don't know.

But, I do know that we're all involved in this viscous cycle of trying to desperately accept who we are as we were created to be while simultaneously longing to know we are beautiful, wanted, worthy and desirable. In our heads, no matter how much we hit them against the wall to try to knock it out, we believe that beauty means thin....and then a longer, more personalized list of things we accredit to the word. Until we achieve that, we aren't beautiful at all.

It doesn't matter how many people tell us something different, at the depth of our soul, we always come back to a place of despising how we look because it isn't what we wanted to look like. We are too often truly too unhappy with our appearance.

I guess my word to you is that no one else cares as much as you do. No one else notices...and even if they do, it doesn't prevent them from being your friend or not. If your eyes were bigger, your hair thicker, your hips slimmer, your stomach tighter, your legs longer, your boobs larger, your feet smaller, your face clearer...would it really change anything?

I think it only changes the way you feel about yourself...and I hate that the external changes are the things that bring a greater confidence within. Doesn't that seem backwards?

It's all stuff you've heard before: it's what's on the inside that matters, your beauty should not come from the external but from the internal...

At what point do we allow that truth to sink in? At what point do we focus more on the radical changes that need to happen within our hearts before we're ever worried or consumed by the external? Because, at least in my own life, the darkness within me is far uglier and more powerful than anything I look like on the outside.

I want to stop avoiding the internal because I'm too focused on the external.

So, I don't care if you're skinny, fat or something in the middle... I don't care if you're beautiful, ugly or plain and average. There is more on the line than how we look. We have to be willing to get over it, to move into the depths of our hearts, and allow ourselves to be changed there. We have to be willing to get over ourselves and see others who matter more than our diets, our make up, our hair-do... and live lives that truly matter.

What are you waiting for?

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Monday, September 17, 2012

All-Consuming Relationships

Sometimes, when you date people, you miss out on other things in life.

It's funny because so many of us spend a lot of our time wishing we were in relationships without realizing how tremendously consuming they can be. They take up our time, our money, our emotional energy, and sometimes they become our new identity....they interfere with our other relationships, our future plans, our schoolwork, our real work, our social calendar. Too easily they become all we think about, all we dream about, and all we spend our time on. Too easily they become these things even when we aren't in them.

I didn't date in college. Not because I didn't want to... because it just didn't ever work out. Now, looking back, I'm thrilled to be able to point out all the opportunities and all of the memories I had that were not infiltrated by one single college boyfriend. There was never a chance for me to choose a boyfriend over something else, and because of that, I think I was able to really enjoy just living.

So, without further adieu:
If I had dated in college, I would have (probably) never...

  1. had dance parties with my roommate in our dorm room when studying became too unbearable
  2. grown accustomed to eating large amounts of cookie dough while in the midst of heart-to-hearts
  3. joined a sorority
  4. volunteered to lead a high school small group
  5. led a drama team (complete with many an SNL rip-off)
  6. held two guys hands at the same time, without them knowing...
  7. created and starred in the hit show, Aspiron
  8. sung karoake in front of hundreds of strangers on multiple occasions
  9. gotten serenaded by a group of fine-singing a cappella men on my birthday
  10. made road trips to Arkansas and Texas any chance I could
  11. gone to Europe
  12. worked at an all-summer long camp 3 summers in a row
  13. gone to formals/dances with various guy friends
  14. joined leadership of a greek christian organization
  15. started prayer meetings/bible studies on Thursday night with the girls in my pledge class
  16. set up a tent for an overnight in our living room
  17. helped with D-Nows in other cities
  18. been a founding member of 'Go Nuts for Donuts!'
  19. helped with Special Olympics
  20. volunteered to help on a ski trip
  21. random acts of kindness in the middle of the night with a group of strangers
  22. did an internship for a college ministry where I co-led activities and outreach
  23. dressed up and done humiliating skits in front of many
  24. acted demon-possessed in the middle of a church service
  25. been 'miss-miss-missy-miss miss' in the 2006 Miss America Pageant. 
  26. made a meat pinata
  27. purchased 25 baby chickens
  28. graduated
  29. moved to texas 
  30. made a ton of fabulous friends that I was able to invest in fully and vice versa (both guys AND girls!)
I write all this, not to tell you 30 random things I've done in my life, but to remind you that if you're single and in college it can be one of the best times of your life. Shoot...even if you're single and out of college. I could make a list of the things that I've gotten to do in the last 6 years, too. 

Are any of these things that I couldn't do if I had been dating someone, or even married to someone? No, probably not. But, it's hard for me to believe I would have done many (if any) of these things. Why? Because it would have taken up the time I'd want to spend with him, I would have been too self-conscious and insecure about doing a few of them, I wouldn't have wanted to be apart from him for that long, etc. etc. 

I hope, even if you are dating someone, that you remember to maintain good balance in your life. I hope you remember to not let him/her become your only priority. I hope you remember to make memories with other important people...and maybe, sometimes, people you don't even know and might never speak to again. I hope you remember that there's much joy to be found outside of a relationship as much as there is inside one. I hope you remember your friendships, I hope you remember your obligations, I hope you remember your commitments. 

So, wherever you're at in life....single, dating, married...whatever... 
Remember the weight of things that matter with your time, your energy, your money, your social calendar, your work.
If you're single, don't get so wrapped up in the fact that you're single.
If you're dating, don't get so wrapped up in the fact that you're dating. 

There is more
Explore it. Discover it. Live in it. 
May your memories be as sweet and as meaningful, may they be as spontaneous and random as they are filled with moments where you know you did good, right, and selfless things. May your memories be filled with times where you gave, and gave, and gave....where you considered others better than yourself. 

Don't miss out because you're more consumed with one that doesn't matter as much One that does.  

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

I've been stretching a lot lately.

As I've entered into a season of nomad-land for a few months, I've realized that a large portion of my existence will be about meeting new people. I'm not very great a meeting new people. I feel awkward and sweaty and extremely aware of how my 6 years in the middle of nowhere mixed with my frugalness has left my wardrobe outdated and ...well, just different. 

I travel around to various places with my brother and sister-in-law and meet their friends and their own awkward acquaintances. Small talk doesn't usually work well for me in this arena as the first question out of their mouths is typically something along the lines of, 'Hi Debbie! Where's home for you?' 

It's a hard question for me to answer, as a few possible responses run through my head, which leaves me pausing just long enough to make a simple question turn into a hanging, uneasy silence. At this point, my mind switches from thinking about how to answer their question to wondering if they think I'm too much of a moron to be able to answer such a basic personal question...which then makes the process take even longer. It's a viscous cycle. 

After staring at each other for at least 4 seconds, I eventually start off with a clever, 'Well.............' and usually end up with one of the following: no where, I'm currently a nomad, my brother's place, I'm in-between things...

And then, sometimes (if I think they actually might care), I proceed to tell them that while I'm originally from Missouri, I've spent the last 6 years in Texas and now I'm currently spending the fall just traveling around, hopping from brother's house to brother's house (all east coast cities), stopping briefly in the pacific northwest (as if that's on the way) and eventually, hopefully, ending up overseas for a bit of an adventure for a few weeks.  That's all just the fall, though. For the rest of my life, you mean? Ah, that's a whole different question. 

When I said I'm not great at meeting new people, what I really meant was that I don't like meeting new people- especially when I begin every conversation with all the finesse you just read about. For some reason, I become this blundering idiot...the things I think sound great and witty come across as weird and not funny. There's the added on pleasure of meeting single men and not knowing how to be friendly without appearing too friendly, if you know what I mean. 

It's all caused me to wonder a time or two if I've always been like that or, to my greater horror, have my 6 years in isolation from the 'real world' turned me into being *gasp* socially awkward?! I hope not... 

All that to say, it's been good for me. I'm placed in uncomfortable situation after uncomfortable situation and instead of the sweaty pits that accompanied me a week ago, I have a new outlook on it. Instead of feeling like I'm being 'dragged' along, I find myself accepting the challenge of getting to know the random details of the people I'm now interacting with, of accepting the unknown of each circumstance and embracing the adventure that accompanies it. 

When I ease up and stop letting my insecurities/fears be crippling, I'm able to throw horseshoes with a group of doctors, play volleyball with MBA students, do crafts with a bunch of married/engaged women, drink coffee with international students, watch Florida beat Tennessee with kind souls... and have some really sweet conversations in the meantime. 

You already know by now that I'm a person who gets too comfortable, a person who is too easily scared of what I don't know. I don't really have an the option of staying within my comfort zone anymore though...and I don't even want to. 

At camp we followed the model below: 

We wanted campers to be out of their comfort zone and into their stretch zone, because that's when true learning and true change could happen. I think it's the same for us, only we very rarely have 2 camp counselors urging us out of our comfortable ways. 

I know I'm just a written voice in a little box, an unknown distance from where you currently sit... but I want to challenge you to evaluate where you're at in within these concentric circles. Are you living your entire life in the comfort zone? Or are you doing things that are maybe a bit uncomfortable, a bit scary, a bit unknown... are you stretching yourself? And if you're in the panic zone, we can talk later. 

Do something different today. Do something that's not typically 'you'. 
You may even discover that you like doing something you didn't think you did. It happened to me. I kind of think I might actually enjoy meeting new people. 

Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes. 
And perhaps you might spur others to step out of their comfort zones in the process, too. 
Perhaps change is essential and we won't ever get there unless we're willing. 

So, go, stretch. Get down and break a sweat. 
You ain't seen nothing yet. 

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just a Friend

Did you know that I'm a songwriter?

I used sit in the bathtub for hours, churning out song after song after song as I tried out my own poetic lyrics to my all-original melodies. The bathroom was the best for this because of the acoustics, so I cozied down in the hot bubbles, all set up in my very own studio.

It was the life of an aspiring 13-year-old girl. My first hit was sung amongst my family (especially my brothers), as they mocked the teenage angst that had clearly come out through my lyrics.

Why do you try
When you do cry
All alone, all alone

How long does it take for you
When you are feeling so wrong
To stop your feelings
Why do you try
When you do cry

I'd say it truly debuted during my first year working full-time at camp, though. I sang it over the microphone to a few friends when I thought no one else was around to hear me...but you can be assured that I was wrong about that.

As you can see, it didn't make a ton of sense (which is why we still laugh about it today), but the tune was also strangely brilliant and awful. I got a bit better. In the midst of my early teenage uneasiness, I also wrote a song about boys. I think it's a song you might hear on any country radio station.

Just a friend
how could he think
I was just some girl who he thought was
Just a friend

3 years later
I always saw him
with that special grin
he took the other girls away
but I knew I was
Just a friend

It was entitled 'Just a Friend', in case you couldn't tell. As tragically pathetic as all of this is, this second song seemed to become the soundtrack of my life. I always felt like just the friend. I remember weeping at the grande finale of Dawson's Creek because Pacey, the best friend, had won the heart of Joey. It gave me this strange hope that my ending could also be different.

I felt like a lot of my crushes had been wrapped up in guys who were also my close friends. We had crossed into the friend zone and there was no going back. While I saw our closeness as intimate and special, they were thankful for a companion who they didn't have to worry would fall in love with them. It was always a fun scenario when they found out they were wrong about that small detail. I tried my best to avoid ever letting them know, but sometimes... sometimes I just had to be honest. I usually always think this is the wrong move (especially in hindsight).

So... if you find yourself crushing on your best friend?
Don't even mess with it. While I've had some incredible guy friends and we've gone through the, 'You like me, but I don't like you back' phase...I think we'd be better friends today if all of that stuff hadn't come up between us. It goes both ways, really. Great guy friends who liked me and I wasn't interested at all... I kind of wish they had never told me.

'Cause here's the thing: the feelings pass. They do. It might take a long while, especially if you continue pouring your heart out to them and only them and putting yourself in situations where they are meeting needs that they shouldn't be... but, on the whole, they go away. You meet someone else, they meet someone else (which automatically means you should probably back off a little and allow their new relationship to flourish). You go separate directions. Sometimes you keep in touch, sometimes you don't. It's okay.

I assure you that I'm incredibly thankful I didn't have the opportunity to date all of my close guy friends when I thought I wanted to. Sometimes being just a friend is the sweetest thing of all.

Enjoy the friendship.
Let this be a season where it's just good...and don't try to make it into something it's not. He'll let you know if he's interested (if he ever is and when he is ready). Be yourself and be his friend (not the weird version of yourself you turn into when you want a guy to notice you).

That's it.

Just a friend.
It's a good place to be.

Maybe I'll even write a new song about it...

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Getting Dirty

I like getting dirty.

Not necessarily where you're literally covered head to toe and mud is oozing out of every orifice and you're still finding it behind your ears a few days later type of dirty...although sometimes that's fun, too. And, no, not necessarily the sexual type of dirty, either.

The type of dirty that matters.

The last week has stirred up some emotions in me that I had forgotten existed. I got to witness my eldest brother gearing up for a grand opening of a church plant. It required meetings, phone calls, early mornings, late nights, taking responsibility for things... and it's all volunteer. I got to sit in on a different church plant meeting with my youngest older brother (he's the 3rd of us 4 kids, and I'm the baby... just in case that got confusing) and his wife. As the church discussed starting out in a new location, they were soliciting the help of those who weren't afraid to get arrive early to set up, to stay after to tear down, to sacrifice time, energy, and money for a cause they believed in.

As I've also been sifting through a lot of old memories (photos, emails, journals), I started getting nostalgic thinking about my earlier days working at camp full-time. When summer staff left, all that remained were 10 people to do everything to keep a year-round camp running.  We were jacks-of-all-trades by necessity. I quickly came to consider myself a professional dishwasher and shower scrubber as we cleaned up and prepared for new groups to arrive almost weekly.  Camp had just finished its seventh summer and we were constantly relying on a few generous donors to help pay off our monthly debt.  We were never guaranteed our next paycheck, but we worked long hours in faith that God would provide. 

We weren't afraid to get dirty... in fact, it was required that we did. Camp wouldn't function if we weren't willing to do anything and everything (including emptying out the slop buckets at the dump when it was usually inevitable that the conglomeration of congealed gravy, eggs, mashed potatoes would splash on you--the worst was when it sometimes, somehow, got in your mouth...). 

It's the type of dirty that when you say you need 'all hands on deck', you literally mean that you need all hands on deck. Every person is necessary, every person plays a vital role. The type of dirty where you don't possibly slack off because you know your team is counting on you, and you know that your goal, your mission, your vision is so much greater than you. 

It's the type of dirty that feels more refreshing and renewing than anything else, because it's centered around the gospel...and from that everything flows. It's the reason it's all worth it, and at the end of the day, no matter how tired you're 100% convinced that your labor was not in vain. 

It's the type of dirty that's rewarding because of the fruit it bears. It's the type of dirty that flourishes, that gives life, that grows into something you could never hope for or imagine. 

I want to get dirty again. 
I want to work hard for the sake of the gospel. 
I want to help start things, I want to help things thrive... I want to do whatever it takes. 

I don't know when the last time is that you got dirty for the sake of the gospel. I don't know when the last time is that you sacrificed sleep, time, money for the sake of the gospel. I don't know when the last time is that you took a risk, that you took a chance, that you jumped into something you weren't sure would even be 'successful' simply because you thought the end goal was worth it...that you thought more people would know Jesus because of your efforts. 

I hope we'll all start looking for ways we can get dirty. 
Look for ways to help a struggling ministry, join a church plant, devote yourself to a team of believers that are unified in vision and passion...not because of what you'll get out of it, but because of what you can contribute to it...because you know that Jesus Christ is worth it, because you know He has given you gifts to be used so that He might be more glorified. Use them! 

Getting dirty doesn't have to look a certain way, just be willing to do it. 
Abandon everything else for the sake of Christ, for He is who we serve. 

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Monday, September 10, 2012

The Wait is Over

There are LOTS of single people in the world.

Let me clarify- there are LOTS of single women in the world. Lots of single, Christian women. But, I think most of us are looking around, wondering why we're still the only ones who are single.

Or, maybe that's just me... or maybe it's just the bombardment of engagements and weddings and babies lately. Does anyone else feel like that's all their Facebook newsfeed has become? That and politics. It's cool. I genuinely love rejoicing with my friends in their moments of celebration and excitement...I love seeing them glowing and stepping into a new chapter in life.

I can't help but feel a little left behind though. My best friend from high school is pregnant with her third baby. My best friend from college is a happily married doctor. Almost all my other friends are married, pregnant, or have at least one or two kids.

I feel old. And young. Old because I know I'm the same age as them and they are in a completely different stage of life... it's sometimes hard for me to not feel like I 'should' also be in a similar stage. Young because I mostly still feel like I'm in my early 20's, enjoying no commitments and doing whatever I please. It's a weird place to exist in.

As I continue to talk to single, Christian women (usually college-aged)...I can easily identify with their feelings toward relationships and marriage. It seems there's always an air of waiting, or a bold proclamation that Jesus is their boyfriend, or an apathy toward the entire subject.

I remember myself in college, wrestling deeply with a longing to really be pursued by a man who loved Jesus wholeheartedly but never having it happen. I remember thinking about it constantly, or trying to constantly not be thinking it about it constantly. My freshman year I had a conversation with a sophomore girl who told me that every time she thought about guys, she immediately began to pray. She had also given up talking to guys--it was almost like a fast. I wasn't too sure about the latter, but the praying thing sounded good. It sounded in line with the whole 'taking your thoughts captive' idea. So, I tried it. From what I recall, it was good while it lasted....but it only lasted so long.

And I guess that's my point. We're always trying to find these ways to cope with the waiting process, searching for things to fill our minds and hearts as we secretly beg and plead for the Lord to bring that guy along. 'Cause somewhere within us, even though we might disappointed and defeated with our current reality, we still hope that it'll happen for us. We still hope that God will come through and bring someone that we can share life with...even if it's just a small shred, right now.

Here are my current thoughts on the issue:

  1. Don't put your life on hold because you are waiting for the possibility of marriage. Don't fill your life with ministry simply because you think that the more you give, the more you invest, the more you love others, the more you've 'done your time' that means it earns you the right to a relationship...that somehow God will be indebted to you. He's not. As one blogger put it, Jesus is the end goal, not our means to a life we think we should have. 
  2. I don't know if Jesus is your boyfriend...or husband...or whatever else. I'm not sure if us viewing Christ in a romantic light is even Biblical. If, when you say that, you're simply saying that you want Christ to be all-fulfilling and all-satisfying--that you want Him to be your everything, I can buy it. Maybe the confusion is in how we interpret the word 'love', and while we are deeply loved by, sought after, and saved by Christ...I think that the love of Christ is very different than that of a romantic love that we often think of in a romantic relationship. An eros type of love vs. an agape type of love. 
  3. Your apathy might be a coping mechanism for a deeper loneliness, or it might just be a that you genuinely don't care if you get married. Be willing to dive deeper if need be, but don't over-analyze and make up something that's not there either. 
Bottom line?
Be honest about where you're really at. 
Does it break your heart every time you hear of another friend in another relationship because you desperately wish it were you this time? Be willing to admit that, to cry about it...and then proclaim that this isn't your reason for existence and then walk in that

Check your motives for declaring vows of singleness. Are you doing it because you think, deep down, that if you surrender your hopes/dreams for a relationship that maybe then the Lord will see your faithfulness and award you with a man? 

When I was younger, I used to always feel sorry for the older women I knew who were still single. Now I am one of those women...and it's okay. I wouldn't trade one moment of my single years and the things I was able to do for a greater purpose, impacting more lives eternally than I could have ever dreamed of. I hate that younger women probably feel sorry for me...but I get it. 

I'll keep pursuing Jesus, I'll keep chasing dreams...hoping that each step I take advances the gospel more. Perhaps one of those steps will someday include a husband and family. It's not what I'm waiting for anymore, though.

I hope you stop waiting, too. I hope you stop looking, searching, coping...and acknowledge that He is the end goal, even when you don't always feel like it. 

He is. 

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

When God Disappoints

We went whale watching the other day.

We were on a large boat that could hold over 200 people and, to be honest, I didn't have such high hopes for the adventure. I wanted to see whales jumping out of the water, fully extended so I could capture some sweet shots of them mid-air. In my head, that's what whale watching was...but things don't usually ever turn out the way I imagine they will, so I tried to have low expectations.

It was like the time I was in Hawaii and my friend and I randomly, spur of the moment, decided to go skydiving. We pulled up to small trailer at the edge of the island, were rushed into some harnesses, signed our lives away and stared at each other in disbelief that we were about to jump out of a plane. A few minutes later they informed us that we wouldn't be able to jump after all...the weather had gotten too bad. We did get to go a few days later, but we lost a bit of the luster that came with the spontaneity of the adventure.

It was like the time a few weeks ago when a group of us tried to go hang gliding. We had bought a groupon deal almost a year ago and were pumped to soar in the sky like a bird for a while. Instead of flight, we received lessons and a few good seconds of airtime as we learned how to move and adjust our body according to the glider and the wind. Still cool, sure...but it wasn't what we thought it would be.

It was like the time I was in India and I begged and pleaded with the Lord to heal this 5-year-old girl of her inability to walk, speak, function like a human being and nothing happened.

I could probably list a thousand other instances where I wanted to do something or be a part of something that seemed awesome, but for whatever reason it ended up either not working out at all, or it simply was a disappointing experience.

I started processing this a bit on our long boat ride out to see the whales. And as much as I know truth, I really found myself in this struggle to believe that God wants good for me...even in the little things. Or that I'm scared to tell him things or ask for things or admit that I want anything at all, because I fear it won't happen. Sometimes it's easier to pretend I don't want something and to be excited or thankful if it comes along.

In the grand scheme of life, I'm not sure it really matters that I see whales jumping, get to go on a skydiving or hang gliding adventure, or witness an actual physical healing. I think the thing that matters more is recognizing continued distortion of how I view the Lord. I say continued, because this is nothing new. At the end of the day, I don't know if I fully believe that God cares about being good to me. I don't know how to get there, and I feel like a 'bad' Christian because of it.

These are those times that people typically spout scripture at me and assure me that God is good. It's one of those times where I know that...but in the middle of riding out the see the whales, I found it easier to convince myself that I wouldn't actually see anything cool because cool things don't really ever happen to me.

And so we rode on...and on...and on. We circled around for a long while, and my projection began to seem more and more likely. No whales for us. But then?? There were some spotted in the distance. We pulled up closely and all of us ran to the side of the boat to capture a glimpse of the enormous beasts. I clicked away at my camera, catching a tail or two or the backside of a whale (which really just looked like a log).

Every time I got to a place to see or take a better picture, it seemed I had just missed it. A woman next to me commented, 'You're bad luck. Anytime you get close, they disappear.' Ha! I felt like she had just spoken the story of my life. Even in the midst of getting to see the whales, all I felt was disappointment... and I knew that somewhere deep in me, I blamed God for it.

My brother and I stayed on one side of the ship when mostly everyone else was on the other side. A few moments later, 2 whales (a mama and a baby) decided to come to our side. We had a perfect view.

And while I didn't get the picture of a whale in midair that day, I got this one...and I love it. As we lingered, we watched this babe and mom roll over, flap their pectoral fins, slap their tails. Apparently a lot of the behavior we got to witness was 'rare'.

It was here that the Lord reminded me that He is good...even if it's different than I want or expect. I think I learn this lesson a lot--and I might continue to for the rest of my life. Sometimes we just need reminders.

Things I know?
God is good.
Things I believe?
God is good.

And beyond just living like that, I want it to infiltrate the way that I when things don't necessarily go the way that I hoped, I might just genuinely believe that it's better.

As we struggle through the commotion in our minds/hearts over what it means to truly follow Jesus and how the external and the internal bleed into one another...may we find the joy of simply trusting that He is exactly who He says that He is.

And may there be no disappointment in that.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Expose Yourself

I'm kind of a beast.

Not the kind of beast who is strong and awesome at everything she does. The kind that is literally a beast. A hairy one.

I've been going through a bunch of old photos recently as I work on an 'on-the-side' work project, and I came across this gem:

Yes, that's a picture of one of my arms next to one of my guy friends' arms. Can you even tell whose arm is whose? I wish I could say the hair was always that blonde, but this was immediately following a summer of being out in the sun.

This is the one thing I've try to hide about myself more than anything else. In my list of things I always wanted in a guy, 'hairier than me' was pretty high up there. It was mortifying to watch people's eyes drift as they caught a glimpse of my arm and know exactly what they were thinking. I sometimes avoided little kids because while the rest of the world seemed able to resist saying anything about it, kids lacked the filter and, with disgust, commented on how hairy my arms were. Awesome.

I tried lots of things to fix it--Nair, shaving, waxing... my mom even felt so sorry for me she took me in for 3 treatments of laser hair removal. It didn't work. I gave up trying and decided to embrace my naturally woven arms. Keep in mind that this is just my arms we're talking about so far (although, I do relish the thickness of my head hair, ensuring that I'll most likely not go bald in my old age...).

One summer my hairiness taught me a very valuable lesson. I was a 3rd summer returning counselor, meaning I was a little cocky and thought I was 'too old' to learn anything new. I had a group of students that I had had before, and while not all the students were the same, I felt extremely comfortable with the leaders and several of the campers.

On this particular day we were out on a hike, and my co-counselor and I got the brilliant idea to create a complicated mess of a team challenge for the group. The group would carry a blindfolded and mute me to our next destination. It was brilliant because I could no longer talk or see or walk... but it was simultaneously terrible because I could no longer talk or see or walk.

As soon as we began, comments starting flying.
'Dang Hammer (because that's what I was called back then...)... you've got junk in the trunk!' was a favorite of mine that I remember from that day. Never before had I been insecure about the size of my tailend... until now. There was a wide array of complaining, moaning, and struggling to move just a few feet.

I stayed mute, and left my partner to lead the exercise. It wasn't long before I heard a commotion and one of our youngest campers was down for the count- defeated by heat exhaustion. My partner decided to run back to camp to get a vehicle to take the boy in. That left me alone, in all my camper's arms... not talking, seeing, or walking...because I wasn't entirely sure what all was even happening.

They kept talking and complaining...commenting about how heavy I was and how hard this task was. I wondered if they had forgotten that I could still hear everything they were saying. I was getting pretty frustrated, but everything ended when the following was said:

'Dang Hammer, you have a beard!!!'

Something internal snapped and immediately I was able to talk, see and walk again. I scurried out of their arms, very aware that a hot mess of tears was about to explode down my face. I was humiliated, called out on something I'm not even sure was true, but in that moment I felt exposed and naked. I took off down the road, leaving my entire group to fend for themselves with one sponsor. I ran back to camp weeping, no longer able to hold it all in.

Fortunately, I passed my co-counselor on the road as he was driving to retrieve the dehydrated boy. I didn't say much of anything, but one look on my face revealed to him how terribly upset I was. I kept walking back to camp and let him take care of the group. When I got there, the first person I saw was my boss. I went up to him, told him he should fire me because I had just left my entire group on the side of the road.

He was kind and showed much grace as we talked through the situation. I wasn't fired that day.

I tell this story because, while humiliating, this catastrophic event allowed for the Lord to work in a way that I never would have expected. As the group apologized to me, I was able to forgive. My co-counselor and I ended up washing their feet that night. Guess who put their faith in the Lord that night? The boy who had both commented on my junk in the trunk and my beard.

It's kind of surreal thinking about it.
The lesson I learned was all about how the Lord can use even the things we are most ashamed of, most embarrassed about...the thing we try to hide the most... for His glory. It was a life-altering moment of recognizing that even (what I think are) the ugliest parts of me can still be beautiful.

I've told this story a few times since then--all with this same desire and hope that others will seize this and not live in fear of being 'exposed'. There is nothing hidden that will not be made known, and I've found a lot of freedom in being able to openly talk about my biggest insecurities. There's been freedom as the Lord has used that and reminded me that it's not about me.

Shoot... wouldn't we all want our beards to be brought to everyone's attention if it meant that someone else knows Jesus by the end of the day?

So, what is it for you?
What things do you try to hide from the world? What things are you most ashamed of?
And what are ways that the Lord might be able to use that for His glory? 'Cause it can be done. Be open to it. Ha.. and even if you aren't? I imagine you'll find out, one way or another.

Also- I'm not saying go out and flaunt your biggest insecurities ('cause, don't worry, I now regularly shave my arms)... I'm just saying those things can be good and it'd be sweet if we could adopt a mentality of believing that even our 'ugliest' things really can be exquisite.

A little at a time.

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