Monday, February 29, 2016

Do we let everyone in?

Do we let everyone in?  

The past few days I have been pondering over this question...A LOT.  Mostly because I feel like in the past year I have spent a lot of time allowing myself to be authentic, and let people in.  Especially the last 6 months I have really made an effort to not build up walls, to plant myself, and to allow myself to enter into friendships that are new and exciting.  Sometimes though it is scary, and sometimes I feel like maybe some of the friendships aren't exactly as authentic as I would hope.  

What's the balance?  

Do we let everyone in, break down the walls if people aren't willing to do the same with us?  Do we continue to be vulnerable even when others aren't?  

I am not sure.  I find myself lost in this place of wanting to be authentic with everyone, but not wanting to give more then what has been revealed to me.  I mean why do I want to put my heart and soul out there if the other person just shows a fraction of who they are to me?  

Then I have to take a moment and ask myself what's the higher road to take?  Is it to only give of myself because someone else is willing to do it too?  Or should I just keep giving because the only way to break down those walls, and show someone that you are really there is to just keep loving them authentically...even if they don't return that authentic love.  Even if they can't at the moment.  

Does this apply to everyone?  Should it apply to everyone?  

I sometimes think that there are some things that not everyone will understand.  I sometimes think that to be vulnerable with everyone, well it might cause more harm then good.  There are some parts of us that we can't share with everyone.  There are some parts of us that can only be understood by a few.  I have come to believe that there truly are those that connect with us on this level, this level that is just too deep to understand.  It isn't necessarily because you have all the same interests, ideas, or beliefs.  No, it is more because you choose to just be yourself.  I think most of the time these people you have an instant connection with.  You can choose to foster that connection, or you can choose to just let it drift away.  

In this lifetime we come in contact with so many people.  Everyday we meet new people, everyday we see the same faces over and over again.  How do we cultivate relationships/friendships that make a difference in each other's lives?  

I think we have to come to the point where we can be honest, authentic, and vulnerable with those that we connect with.  I think we have to choose to cultivate those relationships.  We have to choose to not give up on people.  We have to choose to let everyone in.  

Authentically loving people where they are means that not everyone is going to be ready to share their whole story.  Authentically loving people means that you understand that life is messy, and you let them know you are there for them, whenever they need you and in whatever way they need you.  Authentically loving people means that you sometimes have to just let them come to you, because you've tried your hardest to let them in, and they don't want to accept it.  

I don't think that every single person we connect with is going to truly meet us on the level of authentic living that we crave.  I think that sometimes one person is ready, but the other person isn't.  I think that has to be okay.  

What I don't think is okay, is to stop letting people in just because they are not willing to be as vulnerable, or share as much as we wish they would.  I think to stop being there for others goes against valuing people.  I think that sometimes we have to sacrifice our own desires for authentic friendships in order to help someone else break down walls, and learn to lean.  Because at some point in time we all have to learn to lean. 

Do we let everyone in?  

I think we do.  I think we have to if we are actually loving people the way Jesus did.  I think we have to if we are opening up our lives to live out grace and mercy the way Jesus did.  We have to let others in, no matter what kind of walls they have built around themselves.  We have to try to take the bricks down one by one.  I think that is what it takes to be in community, I think that is what it takes to authentically love.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Why God? And other thoughts...

I feel like I have been on this giant roller coaster ride for the past few months.  Some days I feel  amazing. I feel exactly where I am supposed to be, doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.  Then other days I feel like I am barely swimming, and getting by.  I feel like I am lost in a chaotic world that wants to only see me fail.  I feel like I don't know how to live in the weak state I am in.  That I am going to completely fall apart at any moment.  I feel lost, because am I doing what I am supposed to be doing?  Am I living where I am supposed to be living?  Am I friends with people that are meant to be in my life?

Sometimes the answer is a definite YES....

But sometimes I question, doubt, and fear.  

Sometimes I look at my life and wonder why it is SO hard.  I wonder why we have to go through SO much!  I HATE that so many of my friends have had parents that have died or are dying from cancer.  I hate that with a passion that is beyond my control.  It makes me really angry.  It makes me want to question the goodness of God.  It makes me doubt my Creator.  

It makes me  

The thing is that I have to be honest that is how I feel sometimes.  I have to come from a place that recognizes that there is suffering.  A  place that recognizes that there is so much pain and hurt.  A place that recognizes that I don't even understand all the pain and hurt others have gone through.  I don't understand because my pain isn't their pain is my own.  

How do I see goodness in death, in suffering, in pain?  How do I see the sovereignty of God in the midst of all that is going on in my own life and those that I love?  How do I not question that God is working it for His good?  In my humanity, in my weakness I have to question...because I don't understand.  

I know that He meets me there, though.  I know that God welcomes my doubt, my anger, my fear.  He welcomes it, because in those moments, I am most aware of Him.  In my moments of weakness....of not understanding anything that is going on...that is when He is able to show His love the most.  

He works through those doubts, fears to transform me.  To make me more of who He has created me to be.  In my suffering, in the suffering that I feel from those around me...He is glorified because He is what I trust...He is what sustains me.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Lost Legacy...

I feel like there are a lot of cultural expectations that are new to me.  Expectations that are causing me to reexamine where I am in life and where I want to be.  

This past weekend I went to a Women's Conference that I thought was going to get me out of the funk I was in.  I thought it was going to help me get past all the junk I had been dealing with- the doubts and fears that I oftentimes find creating havoc in my mind.  

The truth is that moments of the conference created even more havoc in my mind.  The truth is that I came away feeling like my life isn't worthy because I am not a wife or a mother.  I don't have a legacy to leave behind at this point.  I don't have the struggles of making a marriage work.  I don't play the role that a majority of females in their mid-thirties play.  I'm not a wife, I'm not a mother.  I don't even really have the prospect of that happening in the near future- as much as I would like it to.  
Most days this fact doesn't bother me.  Most days I know that my influence of teacher, friend, and confidant is enough to leave a legacy.  But then moments happen within those days when I feel like I'm not enough.  I feel like because I can't claim those roles that my life is less fulfilling.  

I've had to take a lot of moments to examine why it is that I feel this way.  To examine how I can focus on what I know to be true, instead of focusing on the lies that the enemy wants to bombard me with.  

These are the questions I find myself asking....

                 Do I give up hope of ever filling those roles?  

                 Do I allow the church to make me feel less of a person because I don't fill those roles?  

                Do I just sit back and say this is the way our culture is and there's nothing I can do about it?  

My answer to each question is a simple....No.  

I look at this moment in time as one in which I either resign myself to being a part of the minority of those still single in their 30's, that are constantly getting overlooked and ignored.  Or.... I do something to change the way my area of the world sees me.  I do something to embrace where I am, and help those around me embrace it too.  

I can't just sit back and resign myself to feel unworthy, to feel devalued, just because I don't fit into the normal rules that have been dictated to me.  

So, I look for ways that I can change the expectations.  I look for ways that I can make a difference for those who find themselves in this same place.  I ask God to help me be content with where I am, to know my value, and worth.  I find my way on this journey, not with my eyes cast down in shame...but facing it head on.  With dreams and plans, that the future singles in their 30's and beyond won't have to feel quite so exiled.  That with each generation we get better at welcoming everyone no matter what role they fill, or don't.   No matter who they are.  

I look to my God and grasp a hold of the truth that He created me exactly as I am.  That He alone knows the role I am meant to fill right now, and in the future.  I grasp a hold of the truth that I am ALWAYS enough.  


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lent 2016

I think the first time I actually participated in Lent was one of my years in Thailand.  It was kind of amazing.  I was able to truly reflect on Jesus, Easter, sacrifice, and love.  Ever since I have had ups and downs of practicing Lent.  There have been good seasons, and there have been tough seasons.  

Lent 2016 I am at a point where I need to just take a step back and evaluate my busy life.  I just need to take time away from everything and reflect on sacrifice.  Focus on what this season brought into our lives, and grow closer to that reason.  

As I was talking with my students about Lent today, and what giving up something means, we talked about how if you give something up you need to actually replace it with something else.  For instance if I give up FB (which I am doing) then I need to replace it with something that is going to help me grow in my walk with God.  

I read a great article the other day that really helped me to focus on some things that I want to incorporate into my life during this season.  

So here they are:

Apologizing:  I want to be someone who can admit when she is wrong.  I want to be someone that is quick to apologize when my words or action are not authentic.  I want to be about loving instead of judging.  

RAK:  Random Acts of Kindness that don't involve money.  I love getting notes.  It is probably my most favorite thing to receive and I feel like I can turn the tables and make this time about showering love on those in my life with notes of appreciation.  With authentic words of encouragement, and random acts of grace and mercy. 

The book of John:   Instead of reading FB posts I am going to read the book of John as many times as I can during these next 6 weeks.  I am going to let that be my focus.  I am pretty sure I will learn a lot. I read an article that suggested this.  Just think how well I will know the book of John after focusing on it for at least the next 40 days.  
Show Love:  Sometimes I am not able to say the words.  I want to be intentional with those in my life.  I want them to know and feel that they are truly loved by me.  I commit to making sure that people leave my presence feeling loved.  

Prayer:  I want to pray without ceasing during this time.  I have some things that I won't be doing so that I can have time to pray.  To pray for those that I know are struggling, to intercede on the behalf of those that are currently suffering.  To be on my knees in prayer for the world, and its leaders. 

I want Lent to be a time of growth and change.  I want my focus during these days to be completely on the one who has changed me.  The one who came here to bring me life.  I don't deserve what I have been given, but I am thankful.  


Authentically Hidden

Sometimes you have to take a step back from the world, from the pain, from the feelings and evaluate what got you to this point.  You have to take a step back and just breathe in the air, let it out and look at the things that hurt you, but didn't break you.  Sometimes you have to stop allowing the voices, the circumstances and the words to further cause you harm.  Sometimes you just have to walk through the desert to find the lush green grass in the valley.  

This past week has been really hard for some reason.  A lot of it has to do with forcing myself to evaluate whether I should stay or go.  A lot of it has to do with allowing myself to really look inside of my heart and head, and question my motives, my validation and ask myself where I am getting them from.  For I fear that my motives and validation have stopped coming from God, and instead started coming from those around me.  

It isn't a good place to be in.  In fact I am not even sure that I know how it happened in the first place.  I find myself putting all of my worth and value in what others think of me, and I can't do it anymore.  I have to find my value and worth in the love of God.  I have to find that person again.  It is okay that sometimes that person gets lost.  It is okay that sometimes she has to fight her way back on top.  It is okay that she sometimes can do nothing but sit down and cry because the expectations haven't been met and people are in fact just human.  It is okay that sometimes she doesn't feel valued and loved except by her Creator.  It is okay that she sometimes doesn't feel worthy of even His value and love.  It is okay.

The truth is that it is okay because she knows, I know that there is hope on the other side.  I know that these feelings will pass.  I know that I am valued and loved.  I know that one rejection isn't enough to set me back a decade.  I know that I can and will grow despite circumstances and people that want to bring me down.  I know that even though I want to run, I will thrive if I stay.  I know that there are days that crying will be all I can do. 

In this moment of time I want to hide away.  I want to just be in my own cocoon and not come out of it.  I want to be able to be sad for awhile.  To grieve those things that weren't meant for me.  I want to be able to praise God with tears streaming down my face.  I want to be able to work through the hard things.  To get to the lush grass of the valley and look back at the barren desert that I just walked through.  I want to be able to learn as I walk.  To thirst as I walk.  I want to be closer to who I am supposed to be, but while that transformation is happening...I think I am going to be authentically hidden for awhile.  Hidden in a place of love, grace, and creativity.  Awaiting a time, when I can bloom once again.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

A New February...

I was talking with a friend the other day, explaining that I was feeling like I wanted to just pack up and leave.  Talking about some things going on in my life.  She reminded me that this time of year I always feel restless.  As I pondered her words, I realized that she was right.  February is usually the month I start looking for something new, pull away from what I have been doing, and retreat back into myself.  February is the month that I usually get lost in myself...and try to substitute whatever pain I am feeling with a lot of distractions.  

As I was contemplating this I realized that I have in fact been feeling this way every February for the past 8 years.  What created this pattern?  Why the need to get so restless every February?  As I was explaining how I felt to some friends yesterday, like if I don't plant myself somewhere soon...well I will in fact begin to prepare to run away.  It would be running this time.  It would be running away from the pain that in my head and heart I somehow feel will inevitably come.  

So, where does this pain come from, and why am I just now 8 years later realizing that it created a cycle in my life?  Much like the Israelites, I have allowed myself to continue in this cycle.  

Eight years ago I lost a friendship.  I lost a friendship that had meant more to me then any other friendship.  Along with losing that friendship I lost the community that I had planted myself into.  It hurt, it was hard, and I wasn't at the place where I could easily be authentic with those around me.  Instead of opening up and letting people in I shut them out, and I ran.  It maybe wasn't right away, but I ran.  I have kept running.  Every time I got close to being in a community like that again, I left.  Continuing a cycle of broken friendships, and unfulfilled connections. 

Looking back now I am sure that I was called overseas, yet I know that part of me has used that calling to run when things get tough, or when I feel like I am getting too close.  I know that  part of what God is working in me is to stay, and allow people to love me even when I fail.  Even when I don't meet their expectations.  

Eight years ago I lost a really good friend, who had become a huge part of my life.  Even though we stayed in touch for a little while, February 1st will always be the day that I realized that we can't put our hope and trust in people because they will let us down.  I had thought that I would be in that community forever, that I had found a place to belong....and it turned out to not be what I thought.  
 Then on top of that my Grandpa passed away and I truly lost a man that I had come to rely on for strength and dependability in my life.  I think this loss just added to the loss that was already occurring.  Creating more pain and hurt. 

As I look back over the past eight years I realize the pattern that has become my life.  I get close enough, and then when there might be a chance that people might reject me, I leave before they have the chance.  I feel restless in February because that is when I had my first real loss.  That is when my world got turned upside down and I allowed someone else to determine my worth and purpose in this world.  That is when I allowed someone in too far that they broke me.  

I am sure that for most people it wouldn't take eight years to realize the experience of what that was has continued to shape me and make me into who I am today.  But for me I needed to come to this place.  I needed to come to the place eight years later, where I found people that I was willing to be hurt for.  People that I want to be in community with.  People that I never want to leave.  It has taken me eight years to be able to get to this place. 

I choose to let go of the cycle that I have allowed to be created in my life.  I choose to let go of those expectations that I put on that friendship so long ago.  I choose to not allow myself to feel any less value because of that experience.  For I am created, loved, and valued.  

I choose to allow myself to mourn what might have been, but know that there was purpose and something bigger than myself in control.  I choose to embrace the person that I have become, and be thankful that my feelings will not get the best of me.  That the purposes God has for me are far greater than what I can even imagine.  

I choose to embrace the community I have been planted in and not allow my self-doubt, fear, and past to dictate my intentional friendships in the here and now.  I know that God has me here for a reason.  I know that the road/journey won't be easy.  I know that sometimes I have to fight the urge to run.  

But most of all I know that God is bigger than any of the reasons I get restless during this month.  He is bigger then anything that causes me to fear, and He is in control of everything that will happen.  

So...I embrace my life, including my weaknesses.  I let go of the pain that I have been holding on to and I look forward to what He will bring me through during this time.  

I say yes to a New February....and less restlessness, more authentic love.