Monday, December 11, 2017

Forces that push against me...

It never fails that after I have an Epic adventure where I connect with people on this spiritual level, and break down some of the walls I had built up something happens to put me in this state of emotional blahness, and I want to build those walls back up, and not let people in.  Because usually when I break down walls, somehow I end up getting hurt, and I don't like getting hurt.  I don't like it one bit. 


The thing is that sometimes being vulnerable and loving hard is the only real way to understand God's love.  It's the only real way to move past shallow conversations, and become intimately involved in understanding a person to their core.  We don't often move into that intimate relationship with people.  I think a lot of times we are too scared, and too afraid of what it could bring...because what happens when they leave, or hurt us?  Then we feel broken and afraid.  We feel like we can't trust, and that we will never be able to trust again. 


We are supposed to be learning more about God from each other.  How can we do that if we never move into a state of vulnerability in relationships?  How can we do that if we always keep people at arm's link?  God's love accepts everyone.  No matter what color, size, marital status, sexual identity, class, position, or popularity.  God's love doesn't care, He is for EVERYONE.  But so often I get lost in the thoughts of the world, where my worth is determined by those around me.  I get lost in my expectations of others and how they treat me.  So often I lack vulnerability in order to protect myself from love. 


I had some epic moments this past weekend, where I felt so loved, and thankful.  I opened up and let that wall be tore down a little bit more.  Then I had a couple moments where my vulnerability and emotions got the better of me.  In those quiet moments I wanted to run and hide.  I wanted to cease to hope in future things, and I wanted to change my course so that I would once again be protected by the cocoon I often cover myself with. 


I'm not going to do it though.  I am not going to get hurt, and run away, because there's so much to do here.  There is so much that I have to be a part of.  I am going to be vulnerable.  I am going to love hard, and I am going to give of myself in order to move past shallow conversations, and unintentional friendship.  Knowing God more through other people is worth it to me.  It is worth getting hurt, it's worth breaking down walls.  It's worth people trying to ruin me, because the thing is that at the end of the day I know who I am and what I'm worth. 


I've had this conversation with a couple people recently, and I am in this state of once again hating being single.  It feels really awful to me, and I can't seem to get out of the funk that I am in.  I feel like somehow not having ever been married, and having kids I somehow missed the boat, and it makes me feel less than.  I know that I have had experiences in my life that not everyone has had.  I know that these experiences have allowed me to meet people, to grow and learn about cultures in other places.  It has shaped me into who I am.  I know all of these things are true, but I still feel like somehow not having experienced that love of one other person who loves you no matter what...somehow it makes me feel like I am missing this huge part of God. 


I don't want it to keep me from knowing God fully.  I don't want my singleness to be a hindrance.  I also am sick of hearing people say well just stop looking for it.  That is like telling someone who craves to have a child to stop wanting one, or someone who would love to have a glimpse into a free life to stop longing for that.  We were made for companionship, right?  We were made to have someone in our lives, to share life with, to reproduce, and to understand God's love through that person. 


I don't know what the right answer is, but I know that in the midst of community, or vulnerability, I find myself being full in a different way.  I find myself learning about love, and wanting more of it.  I find myself wanting to let down walls that I have never before wanted to see crumble.  I find myself opening up, and telling others about my faith in a way that I never wanted to before.  I find myself enjoying life, and worshipping throughout my day. 


So, maybe there is just going to have to be this hole that goes unfilled.  Maybe one day it will be filled and I will understand why it had to stay open so long.  But for now I choose vulnerability, love and stepping outside of the box that I like to so often hide in.  Right now I am going to choose to serve and see God in the people I meet.  To be a part of something greater, the chance at true intentional community... not just the outside appearance of it.  Maybe God is preparing me for something else, but maybe what he has been preparing me for is here, and I need to embrace it. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Advent, Serving and 2018....

I don't usually get so excited about a New Year this early, but this year I am excited.  I am ready to be done with 2017.  It was a year of a lot of change, some good, some bad, some still ongoing.  Have you ever just wanted to go back and make a different decision.  Like just one different choice, because you know that one choice opened you up to so much more hurt and pain than you really needed.  But 2017 was supposed to be my Year of Risk, and boy did I ever accomplish that!  I risked a lot, I might have risked too much... but it never helps to regret things, right?  I am stronger, and wiser because of decisions I made this year.  I know what I don't want, and that was something that I was unsure of at the beginning of this year. I know how I want to be treated, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that I will never again date just to date.  It isn't worth my time, my heart, or my reputation.


But the thing is I can't live with regrets.  I can look back and wish that I had done things differently, wish that I hadn't said yes and put my focus in a different direction.  Wish that I had looked around a little bit more, and had seen what was standing right in front of my face.  Things might have turned out differently, but I also wouldn't have learned the lessons I did.  The truth is that through the past year I have learned to depend on God in a way that I never have before.  I have had to decide where my focus was going to be.  I have poured out tears of joy and sadness for the loss I have experienced.  But I have also been able to heal.  I have been able to heal from all the times that I didn't think I measured up.  I have been able to grasp a stronger hold of who I am, and am supposed to be.  I have been able to search inside of myself and understand that there is so much more to this life than being the most liked, wealthiest, or most well-known. 


This past Sunday was the first Sunday of advent.  As I sat listening to the sermon, I was once again amazed by what I was hearing.  You see it wasn't just the same old sermon that you hear about the first Sunday of Advent.  It was this view that took me to a place I had never been before.  To think of the radical way that Jesus changed the world when He came to earth.  How he mixed up everything that everyone had thought to be true.  I can't even imagine being around for a time like that.  To have everything you've ever thought to be true, your world is upturned.  Shouldn't that be how I live my life?  My world being upturned everyday!  Answering any call that He gives me, because it is that important for me to be living my life for Him.  I don't!  I don't at all most of the time.  Most of the time Christmas to be is jingle bells, mistletoe, and glitter (lots of it!)  Most of the time Christmas to me is family and friends, singing carols, and occasionally serving here or there.  But really Christmas is about a radical change.  A change so big that it turned the world upside down.  How do I just sit back and quietly observe that kind of change?  Shouldn't it penetrate my heart, shouldn't it cause me to make my focus count? 


It should, and it is.  I have been thinking about my word for 2018 a lot lately.  This is something that I have done for the past few years. I mean I still have a list of resolutions, most of which I fail at in the first 2 months.  But my word, it drives my year.  When I think about my life, and what I want my focus to be on, I just can't get out of my head how my life shouldn't be about me.  I just can't stop seeing that baby in the manger.  I just can't stop wondering what my life would look like if my life was radically different. 


So... my word for 2018 is serve.  I have spent this year pining after a family, kids, and even though I am not done with that dream... if it continues to be my focus then I am going to lose sight of where my eyes should be.  So, I focus on serving others.  I am going to go out of my way to put those around me first.  I already know it is going to be hard, it is going to be time consuming, and there are going to be days when I want to quit.  But you know what?  It will be worth it.  What does my life mean, if it isn't serving others?  I don't know what it is going to evolve into, but for now it means putting myself out there into situations where I have to give of myself.  Situations that require me to stretch outside of my comfort zone, and just be. 


I might fail, actually it is a pretty strong guarantee that I will fail.  But you know what?  I will be a better person because of it.  I will be more loving and kind.  I will understand other people's stories more, and be able to know what they have gone through.  Mostly though, the end goal is that I will be grow in my faith, love and knowledge of Jesus.  I am so thankful that He didn't come into this world to be served, but to serve many. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Forgiveness, Thanksgiving, and December...

I can't believe that another year is coming to an end.  Another Thanksgiving passed me by in the blink of an eye.  Filled with laughter, good food, and more memories.  It seems to me that every year I have more and more to be grateful for.  My family, my friends, my adventures, and just being able to work the jobs that I do and support myself.  I am thankful for a roof over my head, and a place where I feel safe.  Not everyone has that.  In the quiet moments when I find myself complaining, or being grumpy, like today... I just want to wake myself up and tell myself to get over it.  I get so caught up in the small things that don't matter, that I forget to be thankful for the ones that do. 


I am so thankful that I am not stuck in relationships and friendships where I don't feel valued, respected, or loved.  Sometimes in life we keep giving, and we only realize that we have given all we can when there is nothing left to give.


  This Thanksgiving I was thankful for moments with my family, co-workers and friends that helped me to see the good that is in my life.  I don't know what the future holds, I know what my hope for the future is, but I am so thankful for this season. 






The sermon last Sunday struck me as the past few have been doing, because it was like the pastor read my journal and then decided to preach straight to my heart.  In those moments I get reassurance that God loves me beyond what I even will ever comprehend.  He does want His best for me, no matter how much I think I have messed up, or how unworthy I think I am.  He wants me to have my heart's desire.  I think for the longest time I have just thought that I am past the point of being able to get what I want, because I am so unworthy of having it.  I think that I thought that I have just made too many mistakes and I keep on making them, and I will never be deserving of my deepest desires.  But the thing is that we are never so far removed that we can't be brought back in.  Our choices are what makes us able to kneel once again at His feet, cry tears of repentance and accept those nail scarred hands.  I have been making a conscious effort to not give in to temptations, and conversations this week that I know are going to lead me down a path that does nothing but destroy me.  Every day I look up and regain my focus.  Some days are easier than others. 


I want something that I had convinced myself was too good for me to have.  I convinced myself that I wasn't worthy to be loved and treated with respect, and so I allowed myself to give in to things that I shouldn't have.  I allowed myself to be treated the way I thought I deserved, instead of being treated the way I was created to be.  When you examine the depths of your heart, and realize that somewhere along the way you have lost your focus, and lost your self-respect you have to re-examine what it means to live life for Christ.  I still feel undeserving most days, but I also feel like this time will be different.  I'm not willing to settle for second best, I'm not willing to give in just to be with someone.  They are going to have to be so hidden in God that they will have to seek Him just to find me. God's going to have to make it the clearest He ever has in order for me to allow anything but His best for me to come into my heart and life.  It's not going to be an easy road, but it is one I am willing to walk down, because the alternative just doesn't have the pull it once did. 


In the past couple of days I have had to do a lot of soul searching and forgiving of myself.  I have had to give myself the grace that I so often forget to indulge in.  I have had to allow myself to know that I am worthy to be loved the way He meant it to happen.  I am worthy to know what it is like to have a relationship that is built on the foundation of Christ.  Not just in appearances, but in the everyday hum of life's celebrations and disappointments.  That's what I want, and I refuse to have anything less than that.  But I just have to believe that my God is big enough. 




December is almost here, and it makes me realize how self-focused I am most of the time.  So, I decided that I am going to go out of my way during the month of December to be focused on putting Jesus above all else.  Probably that should be my focus anyways, but I find myself getting distracted by emotions, feelings, hopes, and wanting things that aren't for me to want right now.  So for December I focus on giving, not getting.  I focus on experiences, not things.  I focus on love, and togetherness, instead of constantly pointing out faults and differences. 






Maybe life won't slow down much, but at least this last month of 2017 will be unforgettable! 

Friday, November 24, 2017

When Friends Leave

Why do I continue to do these things to myself?  I ALWAYS read things the wrong way!  It is like I am cursed or something.  The only time I don't read things the wrong way is when I shouldn't even be reading them at all.  I have pretty much come to this conclusion that I am TOO much for everyone.  Like I seriously think there is something really wrong with me.  Am I ever going to be loved?  Am I really this awful person that isn't capable of meeting someone who wants me and only me?  Do I really need to spend my life alone?  I mean is that really what I am called to?  Aloneness? 

Maybe I come on too strong?  Maybe I am too much.  Anyone that I have ever spent a lot of time with, it seems like has left me, rejected me, or walked away.  It seems like maybe I am too much.  Maybe there is a reason.  Right? Maybe I have done too much, and I don't deserve to be loved.  It's too late for me, right? 


This all feels too much tonight.  I am tired,  and hurt, and confused.  I hate being confused, and I hate feeling like I did something wrong, when I don't even know what it was. 

Ugh. 

Boundaries....

Sometimes I think that if I had learned better boundaries, I wouldn't be in the mess I am in, and have been in as I wade through life.  We have to have boundaries with people.  We have to be willing to say this is okay, and that isn't okay in life.  I was talking with a friend the other night, and discussing how as we are growing up we learn that the Christian thing to do, is to always forgive.  That we have to forgive 70 X 7.  Right?  Isn't that what you grew up learning?  I did too.  I grew up thinking that the minute I told someone no, or didn't allow someone to continue to treat me in an unkind way I wasn't doing my Christian "duty."  I grew up thinking that I had to put everyone above myself no matter what.  I had to sacrifice my own happiness for other people.  This has led to people pleasing, and never really being able to say no. This has led to someone that goes out of her way to make sure that other people are comfortable, to give even when I honestly do not have the time or money, and to let my heart get broken over and over again.  

But the thing is that sometimes we have to put up boundaries.  I am not talking about walls.  Walls aren't what God calls us to.  He wants us to connect in ways that tear down our walls, but we still have to be able to protect ourselves, and not allow people to continue to hurt us over and over again.  One of my greatest weaknesses is letting people in and then allowing them to hurt my core.  I take their communication with me, or interest in me to heart, and allow it to determine my worth.  Rejection is a thing that I honestly have the hardest time with. Comparing myself to others, and allowing myself to feel rejected at the slightest change in someone else's behavior or friendship.  

I read into behavior and I give until my giving seems to push people away.  I know that I am sometimes too needy, that I want too much, and that I can be super sarcastic which is sometimes too much.  I am sometimes too much.  

How do I love the way I have been called to, but also have boundaries?   Boundaries that will allow me to not see something as more than friendship, when that's all it is.   Boundaries that will help me to not overshare information that could one day be used against me. Boundaries that will help me to be the person I should be to lift others up, instead of pushing them away.  Boundaries that will help me to see someone the way Jesus does, instead of comparing my every weakness to theirs.  Boundaries that will lead to me understanding others, and focusing on them, but also knowing that I have to take care of myself.  

In sacrificing for others, are we called to give up who we are and how we feel?  Are we called to let down every wall, and not have boundaries?  Do we just keep letting people in, even though they continue to hurt us, and not put us a priority sometimes?  I think that the answer is no.  In order too live a life that is full of love, we have to be willing to sometimes let people know what the boundaries are.  I am not going to allow myself to have a broken heart because you want to lead me on, or send me mixed messages.  I am not going to allow myself to keep getting damaged because you want to pop in and out of my life whenever you feel like it.  

Boundaries are hard for me, but when I think about how to live my life in a healthy, positive way, I know that I need them.  I need them so that I don't look at things in the way in which they shouldn't be looked at.  I need them so that my heart doesn't continue to be broken.  Most importantly I need them so that I can spread love the way I should.  It's hard, and  I won't ever get it right, but I am going to keep trying.  

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why Marriage Sermons Usually Turn Me Off

I'll let you in on a little secret that you might not already know.  The majority of the world is married.  It is true, and it didn't used to bother me at all.  I was the girl that was going to college to get a degree, and travel the world, sharing God's love.  I didn't actually care too much about getting married.  I mean if I am perfectly honest, I think that I thought it would just happen, that one day I would just look up and my prince would be riding in on a white stallion, and beckon me to come do missions with him, or whatever was my current life goal at that time.  I definitely had crushes throughout high school and college, but nothing that was profound enough to turn my heart away from what I felt called to do.  Then, I turned 30, and I no longer felt like I could just be nonchalant about marriage.  I had to focus on it.  That's all the church talked about, that's all people my age talked about.  My friends were definitely starting to get married by this point, and I felt the pressure of needing to be married. 

So I started really seriously dating at this point, and not making the best of choices.  I wasn't really sticking to the values that I had held onto when I was younger.  Even in my late 20's, I was set on holding tight to certain values that as soon as I hit 30, it was like I just gave up.  Along with that I felt like the church and my family kind of gave up on me too.  Maybe it was my life overseas, maybe it was that I was opinionated, maybe it was that I didn't fit the perfect mold of what a woman should look like.  But for whatever reason, I wasn't married, and there weren't any real prospects either. 

That's when I started noticing this trend in the church.  Sermons about marriage.  Ugh.  Or sermons that only mentioned married people.  It is very few churches that I have found that include the single population when they are preaching.  I even went to a women's conference not too long ago where one of the speakers that I highly admire, said something like "one day when my babies get married."  It just struck me super hard, because what if they don't?  Right?  We as a culture, especially as a Christian culture have created this place where singles are seen as less than. You can say it isn't true, but it is.  If you think about the way that you treat singles, it is to put them aside, and give them all the things that the "families" can't do.  So, it doesn't really surprise me that every time a sermon would be about marriage, or even remotely relate to it in some way I closed myself off.  Not because I didn't one day want to be married, because that is a desire that is deep inside of me, and probably won't ever leave.  No, I closed myself off because it was easier than opening myself up to the hurt and pain of feeling the hole, or feeling less than that those sermons usually left me with. 

This past Sunday for the first time in my life I heard a sermon about marriage and what can kill a marriage and it penetrated my heart.  It made me examine who I am as a woman, a future (hopefully) wife, and mother, and I honestly learned so much from it.  I can't say that I will use everything from it, but it didn't make me cringe, it didn't make me feel like I should have skipped out on church that Sunday.  It made me understand that I want that even more.  The hard times, the sacrificial love, the devotion to someone outside of myself.  Those are all things that I want.  But you know what it made me realize even more?  It made me realize that our culture's idea of marriage is so messed up.  Oh, I am sure that I have heard it before, but for some reason this time, it really hit me.  First of all coming from a home of divorced parents.  I know exactly what it feels like to have your family change your senior year of high school.  I know what it looks like to understand that things don't always work out.  I understand what it means to know God's grace. 

So, for the first time in my life I listened intently.  I grasped the words, and I understood how God uses marriage, even broken ones to show us sacrificial and undeniable love.  I think that we oftentimes just get caught up in the wants and needs of ourselves that we forget about the people around us.  We look at the greener grass on the other side and we wish that we could be there experiencing that, not really caring about how hard or long the journey might be.  I am not sure that there is too much more that I learned from the sermon, other than to know that God made marriage.  There was a time in my life when I thought that it didn't matter.  I thought that if God truly wanted marriage to be something that we did, then shouldn't He make it possible for everyone? 

Here's the thing though.  I have learned things in my 36 years of singleness that I could have never learned if I had married right out of high school or college.  I have seen places, and met people.  That doesn't make me less than, and that also doesn't mean that I am supposed to be single forever.  What it does mean though is that I have to take what God has taught me, and continue to use it to be molded into someone that is able to love without holding back.  To be able to put a husband first.  Sermons about marriage don't have to show me what I am missing, they can lead me to who I need to be, so that one day I will be able to love with everything I have, and learn things that I wasn't able to learn being single. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Waiting...

There aren't a lot of times when it is clear to me that God is asking me to wait.  Most of the time it probably should be clear, but I just ignore the signs.  This time though, God has been pretty clear.  I was looking through my journaling from a couple of years ago at this time.  It was a time in my life when I was seeking out some direction about a specific situation, and I felt like God was telling me to wait.  Instead of waiting though, I think I just kept trying to make this thing happen that I wanted to happen.  Instead of waiting for God's timing I just kept pushing, and reading into things, that really if I would have just waited it would have gone a lot smoother, and might not have had the outcome that it did. 

So, here I am two years later, in a similar situation, except for this time I know that I need to wait.  Why is it that when feelings and emotions are involved we want to jump in head first instead of taking the time to pray and know that it is the right thing?  For me it is a lack of self-control, patience, and trust.  I know that I want to trust God with my life, with my desires, and with my future.  But there is this part of me that doesn't trust Him to fulfill everything I want Him to.  There is a part of me that gets lost in the need for things to happen in my time instead of His. 

It is hard though, right?  It is hard because we are human and waiting is not a fun thing to do, especially when it seems like this thing if it would happen would totally be the right thing.  But what if I need more time, or the situation needs more time?  What if the person that I need to become is going to be the person that would be better in this situation?  I have to believe that the waiting is molding me and making me into who I need to be for that given moment of time.  I have to believe that when it is time, then I will know it. 

So, I wait.   It is not an easy thing to do everyday, and I know that I don't always wait with perfect patience or peace, but it does help to know that He's got me.  He knows my heart, my circumstances, and the desires that play into who I am and who He created me to be.  Sometimes we don't even know what we truly want without time.  Sometimes we get lost in trying to decipher this or that, when really it is just about kneeling at the cross, and being willing to do whatever it takes to wait for His timing. 



Verses that help me wait: 


Psalm 27:13-14
Psalm 37:34
Isaiah 30:18
Romans 12:12