Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Addicted, and what I am doing about it....

I would have never openly admitted that I was addicted to FB.  I mean I could control it right?  Until that moment when I realized that I couldn't.  I think it was when I realized that I was scrolling mindlessly through, or when I was wondering why this person liked that person's status but not mine that I realized I had to do something about it.  Then I had a conversation with a co-worker.  In that conversation he reminded me just how superficial FB can be.  It makes us think that all these people are our friends, that we have these close intimate relationships with 500 some people across the world, when in reality I probably only talk to a handful of them... and some I don't even remember how we became FB friends in the first place. 

So I deleted FB.  Actually I didn't just delete it, I deactivated it.  I will even go so far as to say that I didn't want to do the reactivate in 7 days thing, because I wanted to disappear for a little while.  It was about breaking an addiction.  I was addicted to checking it.  I was addicted to the number of likes I was getting.  I was addicted to letting everyone know exactly what I was doing.  In some instances it was way too much information. 

The best thing I did was deactivate FB.  It had become an addiction, even more than that it had become my idol.  The thing that I was putting above everything and everyone else.  The thing I was going to find my worth and value.  It was taking up more than 50% of my time, and if I am actually honest it was taking up more like 95%. 

Do you know what happens when you get rid of addiction and idols?  You get a clearer picture of the things that you were confused about or trying to understand in your life.  When I got rid of FB, I was able to pray a lot more, and hear His voice tell me some things that I needed to hear. 

I will admit that I almost replaced the FB addiction with another addiction that is far worse, but they both at the root of the problem stem from wanting attention.  Wanting to be loved and valued.  Wanting people to like me.  So, as I continue to search out ways to get rid of addictions, and idols, I look up, and realize that we all have them.  We all are addicted to one thing or another.  We all have those go-to's that we can't seem to get rid of. 

I think the first step is to acknowledge it though.  The first step is to say, this is a problem, and I have to do something about it. 

I'm not perfect, and I will never pretend to be.  I am sure that there will come a day when I need to deactivate FB again, but for now I look at the other idols in my life that are trying to steal my time.  I am honest with myself that there are plenty of them. 

I don't want addiction, and idols to hold me back, or cloud my vision for where I am supposed to be.  The minute I take my eyes off of my God, that's when I am going to lose His purpose and plan.  So, I keep pressing forward, recognizing my weaknesses, and my go-to stress relievers, and I take it one day at a time. 

For now I have been released by the hold FB had on me, there is something else I need to be released from, but I realize it is an addiction that has a great hold on me.  So, it is going to take a little more time.  But I have a God on my side, that won't let me fail.  That my friends, is what I put my hope in.  I'm never too far removed that He can't grab a hold of me, and lead me through that foggy, unclear mess. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Guarding Your Heart.... Research Begins

The past few years, well really if I am honest probably the past 6 years because I didn't even care about starting to date till I hit 30... I mean not really.  Anyways.. the past 6ish years I have struggled with guarding my heart, and what that means. I have watched friends get their hearts broken, I have watched marriages of people that I love and admire crumble, and I have seen people so guarded that they can't let anyone in.  It seems to me that there is this struggle we have, well maybe I am alone in it.  But this struggle between letting someone in enough to know if they belong in our lives, and not letting them in to hurt us, or go beyond where they should. 

In some circles it is referred to as "guarding your heart." 

I pretty much have heard that term used since I was in the youth group, but I am not sure that I ever really understood what it meant, or even now could put into words what that exactly means to me as a 36 year old, damaged, single woman.  How do I guard my heart, but still let people in?  Now I am not just talking about romantic feelings here, I mean even friendships, right?  Because we have to be able to set boundaries for others.  If we don't then people use up all of our energy, time, and leave nothing left behind.  I am all for being a loving friend, that is not what I am getting at here.  I just think that we have lost what it means to guard your heart.  Somehow we have to do better at teaching our kids, ourselves, and our communities this very important concept. 

I do think that in part it has to do with boundaries.  So... I am setting off on a journey of discovery.  I want to learn this year how to guard my heart, and how to teach others how to guard their hearts.  How to have healthy boundaries with people, so that I can love them the way they need to be loved.  So that I am without a doubt living my most intentional, authentic life. 

I don't think it is going to be an easy journey, in fact I think that there are going to be some tough moments, because we all like to think that we have this boundaries/guarding thing under control... when in reality we probably don't at all. 

I would love thoughts and input from others.  I have a quick survey to get me started, that I would urge you to fill out if you haven't already....  it will help me start this process......

If you filled the survey out thank you!  I appreciate you helping me take another step along this journey....

I am excited to see where it leads me! 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Not so Energetic New Year...

Currently my New Year's situation is me sitting on my computer, about to fix myself what will probably be my only drink of the night, in hopes that I can make it to at least 10:00 pm. I don't have high hopes that will actually take place, but a girl can try... right?  Tonight was supposed to be a night of prayer and worship with some friends.  I had planned it a month ago, and it was exactly how I wanted to ring in 2018.  So, getting sick on Thursday and being sick for the remainder of this weekend was not exactly what I had in mind.  Isn't that typical though?  When we find ourselves at the end of our rope, we keep pushing until we almost break from exhaustion.  I think that is where I was.  I have been going at lightening speed for the past few months.  Volunteering, working, working, hanging out with people, and then working some more.  It isn't all bad things, in fact most of it is really good, but I have found myself exhausted, and not getting to spend the time with God that I want.  Also not just getting to rest, and have moments of silence.  I need moments of silence sometimes in order to hear my heart, and know the choices that I need to be making. 

2017 was quite the year.  It was a hard year, it was a trying year, and it was a year of a lot of risks.  I have written about those risks before, but I just really feel like tonight I need to write more.  You see in 2017 I thought that I had to be willing to risk whatever in order to find that guy, in order to get that perfect job, in order to be happy.  I thought that until I really risked everything I was going to continue on this path of self discovery, and never be satisfied with the answer.  As I reflect on this year it wasn't necessarily about the risks that I took, but about being willing to take those risks.  I think some risks that happened were risks that shouldn't have been risks at all, but you know what we continue to learn from those, don't we?  What I think the biggest risks sometimes are the risks that we take in discovering what we are willing to put up with, and what we really truly have no room for in our lives.  For instance I know that I really don't have room in my life for people that make fun of others because of disabilities, race, political affiliation, or economic status.  I don't do well with people referring to another person by a name just because of the way they look, what they believe or where they come from.  I will never be okay with that.  But I was almost willing to risk those beliefs in order to have someone.  I was almost willing to risk my heart in order to live the "American Dream."  That in my opinion is not worth the risk at all.  I almost risked my safety in order to feel good for a little while.  Definitely a risk that also wasn't worth it.  We each have our own set of beliefs.  Some of us feel very strongly about them, while others of us feel strongly about the way others are treated rather than always adhering to a certain political party line.  As I reflect on this past year, I ask myself... Did I risk too much?  Maybe I did?  But all the risks I took helped me to become who I am right now.  I am stronger, braver, and more compassionate than I was at the beginning of this year.  I am a better person, one day I will be a better girlfriend, wife, and mother because of the risks that I took this year.  I have no doubt that there were things that happened that I wish wouldn't have happened.  I have no doubt that God was sometimes standing on the sidelines ready to step in if only I would have reached out my hand to let him.  But you know what I also know?  He was there every single time I needed Him to catch my fall.  And that was a lot! 

So I leave 2017 behind....  I leave all the hurt, pain, drama, toxicity, gossip, slander, and people that couldn't stay in my life.  I leave all of it behind, allowing what needs to change me to change me, and what doesn't to pass away with the year. 

I look at 2018, with renewed compassion and strength.  Opening up my heart to what is to come.  This year will be different, for I am not going  to risk my heart again.  I am going to keep it close.  I am going to dive into the Word, I am going  to meet God everyday in hopes that I will be able to glean more from Him, and understand Him more.  I am going to serve my community, my friends, my family so that they know that they are loved, and valued.  I am going to focus on His faithfulness, love and mercy, rather than my own feelings.  I know that there will be days when I will fail.  I know that just like this year there will be days when I make awful choices.  Choices that involve ex boyfriends, or guys that I should no longer talk to.  Choices that involve people that I know I shouldn't trust with my secrets.  I know that I am going to fail at being loving and kind.  The difference this year is that I know that I long for those things to happen.  The difference this year is that my focus is in the right place. 

May 2018 be full of intentional living for God.  May I take time to rest, read, and understand who He is.  May I make time for those close to me, and getting to know people's stories.  I believe the greatest disadvantage I can do for myself and my community is to be so busy that I don't have time to listen to people's stories, or that I judge someone before I know who they truly are.  We all have demons, we all have things in our lives that we keep hidden away.  I know I do.  I so often have things that I dread anyone finding out about.  So may this year be the year that those things no longer stay hidden.  May I be real, authentically real, and open up in ways that I never have before while keeping my heart hidden in His love and protection. 

I'm thankful for a new year.  I am thankful for new opportunities of growth.  I am thankful that I don't have to be perfect.  I am thankful that all of my faults are nothing in His eyes.  I am thankful that I am loved even when I get nothing right.  I am thankful for new beginnings, and the opportunity to be there for people in my community.  May 2018 be a year that I remember as the year I learned to serve with my whole heart, and God's overflowing, unconditional love. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Christmas Day 2017 Reflection

Christmas Day was actually over 2 minutes ago, so I feel compelled to think upon this year.  For the first time in a very long time, my Christmas was just filled with joy.  Everything about it was fun, and full of laughter and intentional living.  I wasn't caught up in all these emotions, and underlying stresses that tend to drive me most of the time.

Last year at this time I was in a very dark place.  I was broken, and unsure of what the future would hold.  I had basically been told that I wasn't very good at the one thing I know God has gifted me in.  It tore me up, forced me to look within, and opened my eyes to how we need to support each other instead of tearing each other down.  I don't care what kind of business you run.  It has taken me a year to get where I am today, to get over the damage that had plagued my heart.  So, as I look at all that Jesus brings to this world, I realize how much he has brought me through in a year.

You see here's the thing, something that I am not even sure I have shared with my family.  I didn't want to be alive.  I honestly felt like I wasn't doing any good, and that the world, my students would be better off without me.  I felt like I had messed up so badly that it wasn't worth trying to dig my way out.  I felt like God's people who were supposed to be there for me, had thrown me under the wheels of the bus, and wouldn't stop running over me.  I didn't feel supported, loved, or cared for.  I didn't feel like I had anyone to turn to.  My best friends that I had been relying on were no longer around.  I wasn't a part of a small group that was doing much as far as being there for each other, and I was also really good at pushing them away when they tried.  I was in this lost little world where I felt alone, and unworthy of any sort of grace or love.

Do you know how opposite of Jesus that is?  His story is so that very thing.  He came into this world, to save those that have nothing left.  He came into this world to give the lonely someone to hold on to.  He came into this world to show us exactly what love is.

As I sat listening to the sermon on Christmas Eve, I realized just how complacent I have gotten sometimes about this story in my life.  I never want to get tired of hearing Jesus' story.  I never want to get tired of feeling His love. This year has been so tough.  I have had to learn some pretty hard things.  But at the end of it all, I know that to live for Him... it's worth it.

Today I embrace this story.  I know that it has a part in my life.  I want it to change me, to mold me, and make me into who I am supposed to be.  I want it to guide me into deeper things.  I want it to be my foundation. I want it to be the thing that makes people wonder about.  I don't ever want someone to look at my life, and think that it looks like everyone else's. I've had a couple of people call me out on being on FB too much, and sharing too much.  The thing is that maybe I do, but a couple of years ago I decided to live my life in the most authentic way possible.  That means to me that I live life outloud, and real.  Maybe I put too much out there, but the right people will appreciate that, instead of critiquing it.  The right people will love me for it, instead of using it as tool to put me down with. 

I've learned some hard lessons this year, but lessons that I am totally excited to take with me.  I have learned how to let go of toxic people.  I have learned that you don't always have to open the door and let people in to the deepest part of you, it is totally okay to guard your heart.  I've learned that you can be the nicest person to someone else and they will still not have one nice word to say about you. I have learned that you need to think and pray before you move in to an apartment with someone that you don't know all that well.  I've learned that you can say you love Jesus, and still be selfish, greedy, and just out for money.  I have learned how to let go of someone that moved on, even when it was hard and I didn't understand.  I've learned that it's okay to have high standards.  I've learned that I can be led on, and it hurts when the other person doesn't feel the same way, but I can totally make it through as a stronger and better version of myself.  I've learned that falling in love isn't my main goal in this life.  I 've learned that I long for a husband and kids, and it's okay to keep longing for that, but focusing on Jesus while I do.  Mostly though, I have learned that God's purposes for me far outweigh anything I could ever imagine, and I am worthy to be loved and cherished by the people around me. I've learned that serving, and helping others is what makes me happy.   My goal in this life is to know Him and make Him known.  Hopefully I get to do that with a family of my own one day, but meanwhile I am not going to let that stop me from intentionally living with the people that surround me on a daily basis. 

His story.  It's my story too.  He didn't just come into this world to save one person.  He came to save all.  Each of us has our own story.  Each of us falls on a daily basis.  We speak harshly to a friend, we don't call someone back that is in trouble, we ignore someone that we have spent months communicating daily with, we aren't honest with our friend about our feelings, we lie, we steal, we gossip, we judge, there are so many things that we do to fail Him.  But you know what?  That is all a part of the story. 

As I reflect on this season, and another Christmas that has passed me by, I am so thankful that this year happened.  It was such a hard year.  It was full of heartache, pain, loneliness.  But it was also full of strength, joy, and grace.  I grew more in my walk this year, than I think I ever have.  I'm thankful for a time of reflection. I'm thankful for a Savior who meets me no matter where I am. 

I'm thankful for a story that I never get tired of hearing, or being a part of. 

I'm thankful for His love. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Breaking down Walls and Best Friending....

I always have thought it was cheesy when someone was like, "I married my best friend."  I have also never been the romantic type.  I won't really be the girl that swoons over someone, and is super clingy.  It's just not me, unless maybe I have had a couple of drinks in me, and then you will most likely get clingy, me.  I don't think this makes me weird, or on the verge of never finding love.  What it does make me is cautious, but in the past I don't think I haven't been cautious enough.  Something happened about a week ago that made me realize just what I have almost given up.  In my searching and yearning, I was willing to settle for someone who just liked me, not adored me.  I was willing to to put up with name calling, being belittled, and taken advantage of in the hopes of an everlasting future.  I was willing to just go with whoever because I didn't feel like I was worthy, and it seemed too hard to let someone past the walls. 

Then in  talking with friends, and praying I just realized that I don't want just anyone.  I want someone that tries hard to break down my walls.  I want someone that reaches out, and comforts me when I am feeling awful.  I want someone that is there for me no matter what kind of mood I am in.  I want someone who will call me on my bullshit, and not be afraid to tell me exactly what they think.  I want someone to do life with that loves people.  Not someone who is just out for themselves, but someone that is deeply rooted in loving others.  I want someone that will keep trying to tear down the walls, no matter how many times I build them back up, or what I do to push them away.  I want someone that pushes my buttons, and makes me laugh. I want someone who loves Jesus, and doesn't see organized religion as a flaky, awful thing.  I want someone that pursues me the way God pursues me, holy and purely focused on His relationship with God first. I want someone that will reassure me a million times that I am enough, even when it might be annoying that I have to keep asking.     So in essence I want someone who is my best friend.  Maybe I am kind of romantically cheesy after all? 

The dating world of 30 and 40 somethings doesn't really give way to finding a best friend.  Most of the dating sites, and even dates that I have been on, are ones in which relationships have to start quickly and there isn't time for getting to know each other in group settings, or without all the craziness of just being in a relationship for one thing.  We all have baggage, we all have triggers, and I think that I am beginning to realize that the kind of relationship I want and God has called me to doesn't fit inside this nice little box that I once thought it did.  It isn't about this instant connection, and hurriedness that I feel like I have put on myself in the past.  It isn't about trying to know in a certain time frame if this is the right thing.  It is about relying on God, knowing that He's got the best for me, and that in His timing everything will perfectly fall into place. 

There are many days when I want to lose hope, because I think that I can't even come close to finding someone that fits all that I want in a best friend.  But God as He often does has spent the last few months reminding me that there is nothing outside of His grasp.  If my focus is on Him, and my hope doesn't falter, He will give me exactly what I need, when the timing is His not mine.  As I continue to allow my walls to be broken, I let go of little pieces of brokenness that have been cemented in those walls for far too long.  One day, God is going to provide me with a best friend, and it is going to be someone that has come alongside me, encouraged me, and loved me as Christ does first.  It is going to be someone that searches God to find me.  I don't doubt this.  Even on the toughest days, I know that God's plans are bigger than mine, and if anyone can help others to break down these stupid walls, He can! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

How God's Calling Can Change

My first year of college was when I changed my major from Psychology to teaching.  I knew that I would be going overseas.  It was a calling I had gotten at camp when I was in 7th grade, and I knew that God was going to use teaching to make that happen.  I have never regretted changing my major.  I have never regretted getting my Master's degree in the same major (I have regretted the cost that's for sure).  I have never regretted my career choice, but I have here lately wondered if there is something more. 

I'm a good teacher, it is who I am.  My first summer at camp I was nicknamed Teacher Tawnya, because in essence my entire being longs to be able to get someone from point A to point B by showing them how to do it.  I don't doubt those gifts, although I did at one time.  I doubted, because I let people show me what I was worth, instead of living out what I knew to be true of who God made me. 

I want to think though that God's calling on my life is more than a career choice.  It is more then this degree or that degree.  For the longest time I thought if I left teaching that would be wasting my time and money that I had spent on obtaining that degree.  The more in tune I am to God, His will, and His call... the more I know that I am not limited by words on a paper.

Sometimes His calling is radical.  Sometimes His calling takes us away from familiar things, and puts us in a place where we know nothing... so that He can be the one glorified.  Every time I stepped into a new country, that's what He was doing.  It wasn't only that I was a good teacher, it was that I was a good teacher because I relied on Him in circumstances where I was so out of my element that is all I could do. 

My life doesn't look like what I thought it would at the age of 36.  I don't have kids, a husband, or even an ex-husband for that matter.  I'm living in Columbia, which is also not really where I thought I would be, and He has started to move my heart in some pretty crazy ways. 

I would say for about a month I have really been struggling with being single.  It has actually become an obsession that I just haven't seemed to be able to let go of.  If I'm honest with myself I think that it was because I finally realized that there are actually good God-fearing men out there... and I hadn't really believed that there were before now.  So, I have become discontent with being single.  So much so that I think I lost sight of the reason I am here in the first place. 

We put so much pressure on ourselves and our children to get married and have babies.  I feel like the church is the worst place for it.  We look at single people as less than, and we in essence force them to become the outcasts because they don't fit the norm of the typical 30 something  or 40 something lives.  You might think that there's no pressure, but how many times have you said to a single person, "Oh well, just stop looking, that's when I found my husband." or "God's timing is perfect,"  or "I know what you mean, that one month I was single, man that was rough."  If you are someone that got married right after high school, or even college, you are still married, and you have only been single for small moments of your life... please STOP trying to give advice to single people.  It is causing more harm than good. 

Back to the single obsession... So God and I have been going back and forth, because I want to be not single anymore, and I feel like over and over again I am hearing Him tell me to wait. 

I am sure you probably can imagine what this conversation  looks like if you have ever tried to argue with God about anything, it doesn't actually go very well. 

It was about 2 weeks ago, when God started changing my heart.  He let me see people in different ways, and helped me to understand that my purpose on earth for this moment in time is to serve Him.  It isn't to stay so focused on getting married, and having kids that I miss the people that are hurting right in front of me.  My focus being on myself, instead of looking into the eyes of those around me is causing me to miss my calling. 

You see I don't think that God wants me back in the classroom.  At least not anytime soon.  I think God wants me in my community.  He wants me to give of myself in a way that I haven't before.  He wants me helping out the single parents at church, whatever that means.  Getting a meal together once a week, taking their kids to events when they can't, or just being a listening ear when they need one.  He wants me to be the voice for foster kids, to lend a hand to those little ones that are too often without anyone to be on their side.  He wants me to encourage those around me, spend time with people not looking at my phone, and really just being present in people's lives.  For the first time in a long time I have a clear picture of what God has me here for.  I'm not so focused on myself that I am going to miss these opportunities.  I am not sure how these things will change me, or where I am headed next.  But I know this for sure....  my desire to have a husband and kids hasn't gone away.  But my focus on it has. 

One day I believe that God is going to bring that into my life.  One day when I am so focused on serving Him that I don't even realize the need for that, God is going to tell me that I don't have to wait anymore.  But for now His calling is to be present in my community serving, and loving others.  His calling is stepping outside of my comfort zone, looking up, and giving every person I meet a chance to understand the love of a baby born to hang on a cross.  That's the kind of calling that I have, and the best I can do with that calling is focus on it, and help as many as I possibly can. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Going to God with my Doubts...

Yesterday was pretty awful.  For some reason this week has been one of those emotional roller coaster kinds of weeks.  I have jumped to conclusions multiple times, written off someone that I probably shouldn't have, and compared myself to just about everyone around me.... allowing myself to come up with the short straw in every situation.  It isn't that I like feeling this way, it is just that sometimes I have to be stuck in this moment in order to grow, learn, and be ready for the next challenge. 

I have a prayer app on my phone, and it is what I listen to on the way to work. I absolutely love it, because it has music, scripture, prayer, and then more scripture.  It is the perfect combination of getting my thoughts focused where they need to be, so that I can start my day off the way I need to.  The app this morning talked about going to God no matter how we were feeling.  Going to Him when we don't feel like praying, when we are doubting that He wants to answer us, and when we are all up in our feelings. 

So, this morning I went to Him, and I let Him know that I was having some pretty big doubts.  Not about who He is, but about who I am.  It seems that my human nature is to focus on God for a little while, and then get distracted by all that is going on around me.  So much so that I compare myself to others, and lose sight of who God made me to be.  You see I have this crazy habit of analyzing EVERYTHING!  I literally go through every possible scenario in my head, and try to figure out what someone else is thinking.  Maybe I should check back into that Psychology degree after all! 

But God is calling me to stop my analyzing, and just let Him work things out.  I want to be in control, and I want things to happen in my timing.  But he is definitely telling me that I need to let Him have it.  Sometimes I try to build walls that even God can't see over, but the thing is that He sees everything.  He sees the moments when I love so hard that I give too much.  He sees the moments when I fail to be there for someone that needs me.  He sees the moments when I long to have my heart's desire received.  He sees the laughter, and tears.  He knows my name, He knows every step I will take, and all the doubts and fears that control me.  He just wants me to let Him take it. 

Why is it so hard?  Why is it so hard to see myself the way God does?  Because I am human, because I don't always get things right, and because I am my own worst critic.  The thing is that in God's eyes, he doesn't just see my potential.  He doesn't compare me to this person or that.  He sees who I was created to be.  He sees in me the seeds that will be planted, the lives that will be touched, the love that will be shared.  He also sees in me, my worst mistakes, and loves me through them. 

I can never build a wall up high enough to keep God out.  He won't let me.  I also know that I can push God away, and He never lets go.  One day I hope that someone comes into my life and shows me that no matter how far away I push them, they will never let go.  I am going to strive to be that person.  In those moments when I feel like not reaching out anymore, I am going to keep reaching out. 

God wants my doubts, fears, and uncertainties.  He wants them because then He gets to get rid of them.  He gets to show me more of himself through the people that surround me.  Every time I let someone in past the wall, then I am allowing them to see be in a place where God dwells most.  When we are vulnerable with our doubts and fears, that is when people are able to come alongside us, and help us the most. 

I know that my doubts and fears about myself create needs in me that are sometimes too much, but the good thing is that God sees that and continues to put people in my life that help me to see beyond those doubts and fears.