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. 

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. 



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


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

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Shaped by What I Love

Most of the time Sunday morning sermons have a way of speaking straight to my heart about what I am going through.  On a rare occasion they dig deep into my soul, and wake me up from the awful path I am about to step onto.  Today was one of those Sundays.  Whew!  When you get spoken to on such a specific level, in such a way that you have no doubt the words were to steer you away from the direction you were going... well you have to listen, don't you? 

The other night I had a little too much wine, I was feeling sorry for myself, and I also was tired.  I was tired of always trying to do the right thing, and then not getting what I felt like I wanted in return.  I was feeling pretty entitled when it came to God.  You see it was more of this if God is not going to give me what I want, then why should I worry about obeying the rules?  Or why should I care about what I am doing with my life?  If I am going to spend my life without a husband, then why not just give in to desires?  What does it matter anyways?  I have spent a lot of my life focused on doing right, and good... don't I deserve to have my dreams fulfilled?  If they aren't going to be fulfilled the way I want them to, then I am just going to try to substitute for something that will fill the hole for a little while. 

I was playing the it's not fair game a lot Friday night.  Maybe you know it.... "It's not fair that this person or that person has been married two times, and has 3 kids, and I don't have any of that.  It's not fair that that person has spent their life not following God, and they have everything they have ever wanted, a family and kids, and a great job.  It's not fair!"  Trust me about 1/2 bottle in, this conversation was pretty one sided, and pretty whiny.  It was also pretty self-focused. 

Conversations with people, and sermons have a way of pointing me back to where I need to be.  I feel like I had a couple conversations this weekend that directed me to focus more on God, and less on myself.  But actually that's not true, because in focusing on God I realize more of the weaknesses I hold, and the things I need to change about myself. 

So, I am sitting in church today, and what do you think the sermon is on?  Being shaped by what we love.  Talking about how we love the lesser things more, and the greater things less.  That was the first time that I was shaken a little.  Of course my focus, especially the other night when I made this decision to just give in to things, because it is easier that way.  Definitely I was loving the lesser more than the greater.  I was letting that desire be what rules my life. 

I am also having a really hard time finding my way in the current world we live in.  Not being so focused on this world, yet knowing that my job here is to be His, and seek goodness.  How am I going to seek goodness, if I don't truly understand what Jesus' goodness looks like?  It is such a confusing way to live.  Maybe I don't have enough that I am adamant about?  Maybe my need to offend no one is actually harming my voice of love for others? I don't necessarily think that the sermon today was something that is going to help me understand this, but it did spur me down the path of thinking about this more. 

Jesus lived the authority of the Bible, but I don't know that I have been living that.  I don't know that my life truly shows the authority of the Bible.  How do I live that out without becoming a pharisee, or a hypocrite?  How do I portray the loving kind of righteousness?  The Jesus kind of righteousness without turning everyone away from God?  Is there even a way to do that? 

One of the things that was said today is that "Righteousness is what your life looks like when you are living in  God's kingdom." 

To me living in God's Kingdom means being more involved in His word than other things.  My desire is to know Him more.  My desire is to not mess up this life too badly.  My desire is to constantly know how I need to change in order to love Him with all my heart.  So as I take a deep breath, and understand how He wants to change me, I open up my heart and mind to people that I need to learn from.  I dive into things and community that are going to bring me closer to Him, instead of farther away.  I try to say no to the things that cause me to be living in the world's Kingdom, instead of God's.  It's a journey and I know that, but I truly hope that my life is shaped by His focus, rather than my own. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Would I be Missed?

Do you ever wonder if you would be missed?  Do you feel like you are always the one making the effort in friendships?  Like what if I just stopped calling or texting, would anyone even notice that they hadn't talked to me for awhile?  Or would it literally be months before I would hear anything from them?   I've had best friends before, friends that I was able to call on any given day, at any given time and they would drop everything to hang out with me.  There are people that I would, and have done that for.  There are people in my life that I thought would do that for me, but I am not so sure anymore.  Maybe I am too needy, too damaged, too much.  Maybe I am too selfish, too dramatic, too outspoken.  Maybe I am not conservative enough, or too conservative?  Maybe I don't leave an impression on anyone's life.  Maybe if I stop making the effort, I will just be someone they knew once.  Maybe my life doesn't actually matter that much.  What good am I doing?  I'm not really sure.  I feel pretty disposable at the moment.  Maybe I am just that person that comes into people's lives for seasons, and never really stays.  As hard as that is for me to admit, it feels more and more true everyday.  One day I hope that someone comes into my life, and looks me in the face and tells me how important I am to them.  So important that they always want me in their life.  One day I hope that happens, the hope of that happening is starting to be less and less everyday.  I like someone who doesn't like me back, once again.  It is hard, it is messy and it sucks.  But you know what, it's okay.  Tonight is just a rough night, and I will feel better tomorrow.  But, for now I am going to put a lot less effort in, because I am tired of being the girl that always calls or texts first.  One day I want to be the one that is chased after.  Or at least is treated with value and worth.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Facing the Giants in Silence

Tonight I deleted the FB App, IG App, and Tinder App from my phone.  Yes I have been dappling in Tinder for about a month now.  It has had its good times, and not so good times.  Last night I wrote this blog about the desires of my heart, and how I just feel this hole not being filled because I am single and childless.  Then  today it was like God met me exactly where I needed Him to.  He spoke straight to that blog, straight to my uncertainties, and you know what His answer was? His answer was that I had lost my focus.  Now, please do not misunderstand.  Last night I felt every singe word of what I wrote, and tonight I don't feel like it was a mistake or those feelings are invalid.  I just feel like God showed me exactly what was happening. 

I was allowing my giants to be bigger than my God.  I was seriously allowing myself to focus on all the bad.  I was allowing myself to go down this path of longing and searching for something that just isn't where my focus should be.  I don't believe that at this time God has taken the marriage/kids desire away from me, but He reminded me of what I am here for.  He reminded me that when I look at what I don't have, instead of what I do, then I cease to worship Him in the way that He wants me to. 

I have made so many mistakes in the past month.  Tonight I went to the Instrumental Praise performance at church and I just cried.  I cried because I am so unworthy of all that I have.  I cried because I have been so focused on myself, and what I want that I have allowed myself to give in to things that I shouldn't have.  I cried because I haven't loved the way I need to, but I also cried because God sees all of that.  He sees every single step that I have taken away from Him, and He still opens His arms back up for me to run into.

Do you ever get so focused on expectations of others, that you forget truths of who you are.   Those tears were for that reason tonight.  The rejection and pain of never being enough.  It cuts so deep sometimes that I allow that pain, that rejection to be what defines me.  Tears they aren't always about weakness.  Sometimes tears help you find your strength.  As I listened and watched tonight I just cried.  I cried because I have chosen to look around, instead of up.  I have chosen to waste time on social media, and chasing people that obviously don't want me in their lives.  I have chosen to put those people before my God. 

We lose focus a lot.   Especially when that certain person gets a hold of us.  They come into our lives like a freight train, trying to run us over.  It isn't always a relationship, it sometimes is just someone that you connect with on this level that you didn't even know you had.  Then before you know it, they are the ones you are focusing on instead of God.  Wondering if they value you as much as you value them, and then you are so focused on that you forget that your purpose is to share Him with the world. 

You start making excuses of why it is more important to open that FB app, then sit down and open your Bible.  You start to check Tinder more often than you are connecting with God.  Swiping right or left, instead of silently taking those minutes to pray for whoever God has for you.  Now I don't think there is anything wrong with swiping right or left, but if that is becoming my giant.  If that is becoming my hurdle that is keeping me away from where God wants me, then it isn't what I should be doing. 

So tonight as I worshiped, and cried, and opened up my heart to what God wants.  I realized that He wants my focus.  He doesn't just want it in the spare moments of time that I choose to give it to Him.  He wants my social media focus.  He wants me to long for news from Him, the way I long for my phone to chime saying I have a new message.  So until my longing for God matches my longing to know the latest FB gossip, I am going to stay off of it for awhile. 

I will probably fail a couple of times, but the beauty in failing is that He is there to catch me when I fall.  He is there to knock those giants down, and He will never cease to be there to let me back in His arms when I look up and remember the truths of whose I am.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Girl Next Door

It seems here lately that I find myself writing a lot about singleness.  Sometimes I feel like I need to just let it go, and be okay with where I am and move forward.  Then there are other times when I realize that this is my story right now.  This is where I am, this is what I am dealing with, and it is okay if the best way for me to get through it is to write about it.  So, if you are not wanting to read a blog about some of my latest thoughts on this subject, then probably don't read any further.  Most of us write about what is going on in our lives.  Whether that is singleness, the loss of a relationship, infertility, or just major life challenges.  The weird thing to me is that we all seem to try to give advice, right?  We have some sort of advice to give on every single problem that someone is facing.  Married people, love to give advice to single people.  People with kids love to give advice to those trying to be parents.  It is what we do.  So, for a moment just imagine a world in which we listen to understand what the person is saying, instead of listening to respond and tell the person what to do. 

I had a wonderful day today, and usually at the end of wonderful days I have a lot of feelings and emotions that come out.  I am not actually sure why it happens that way, but it does.  I find myself thinking through a lot of things, and contemplating life choices.  Maybe God uses my full days to help me work through tough things, because on my not so full days, I can't always handle them.  Maybe? 

For pretty much my whole life I have been the girl next door.  Not the cute, pretty one, that was always getting asked out, but the one that everyone turns to when they need a friend, or they need someone to go out of their way to lend a hand.  I am that girl that would bend over backwards for someone no matter what because they are my friend.  Sometimes this causes me to read too much into friendships.  Sometimes it causes men to see me as a friend and nothing else.  Actually a lot of times it does.  It is hard being the girl next door.  It is hard never being seen as someone worthy of being chased, pursued, and loved by a man without them wanting something in return.  Why do we do it to ourselves?  Why do we allow ourselves to feel, when we don't know for sure that there will be feelings back?  Why are there so many decent, single, human beings in the world longing for relationships that they aren't able to find? 

I'm struggling right now to understand this.  I am struggling to understand how my desires to get married and have kids just have to be pushed aside, because it is not the right "timing."  I chose to move overseas.  I chose to live life in far away lands, but was it at the expense of never getting married and having kids?  I chose to live a life that was focused on God, and doing what I thought I should, and in some ways I feel like I am constantly being punished for that because I don't have a family to call my own. 

I don't know what it is like to lose the love of my life.  I don't know what it is like to have someone that I thought I was going to spend my entire earthly life with, walk out the door.  I don't know that heartache, because I have never had the chance to even feel it (and that's not a bad thing).   Because I am 36, single and kid-less, does that mean that I have missed out on that portion of my life? 

I know, I know what so many people are going to say.  It's God's timing... He's teaching you something through this.  I'm going to say, I have no doubt about that.  I know He is teaching me a lot, but I also know the longing I feel isn't going away.  Is there always going to be this constant ache, this void that never gets filled?  It hurts, it's painful, and please don't write it off as something that I should just get over. 

I am fine being the girl next door.  Because you know what?  That girl, she won't fail you.  That girl, she is always going to be a listening ear.  She is always going to let you pretty much walk all over her, because she loves hard.   That girl, she is strong, and courageous, because she has been hurt.  She has been hurt by never being the one.  She has been hurt by those that look right through her.  She has been hurt by those that want to tell her it is much better to stay single.  That her life means something, maybe just not as much as a single mother's life, or a family of seven's life.  But her life does mean something. 

Those may be the words that are spoken, to her, but those aren't the words that are spoken about her.  When she turns around and walks away after pouring out her heart to her married for 25 years with 3 kids friend.  Those aren't the words spoken about her when she says that she doesn't have time to volunteer for the latest church function. When the mother with 3 kids is looking at her like, "what do you even have going on."  Those aren't the words spoken when a friend talks to her husband about her husband's single friend and how they would be perfect for each other. 

Singleness isn't  something to be fixed, yet we all act like it is.  It feels like a sick brokenness that is unable to be healed except by marriage.  Not just any marriage, but marriage to this one person that is your soulmate.  Isn't that what we have taught our daughters and sons to believe?  Isn't that what we have allowed ourselves to believe?   We tell them that they are not complete without someone else.  We teach them that God created us for a partnership with one other person.  Then they grow up, and don't find that fairy-tale.  Or they grow up thinking that they have to have the perfect trophy wife/husband, when really who they need is someone that strengthens them and challenges them to grow closer to God everyday. 

I don't actually know the answer, but I know that there is a void in me that many people will tell me I am trying to fill with other things.  I know that.  I don't need judgement, or advice.  I just need understanding, and compassion.  We all have our things, right?  We all have those things that draw us away from God.  Those things that try to steal our joy, and peace.  We all have our crutches. 

Sometimes my faith in God comes easy, and I have no problem believing that the desire for marriage and children is going to be filled.  But others, like today I just can't wrap my mind around why me and so many others are walking around alone in a world full of people!  Faith doesn't mean never having any doubts.  I think that my faith is strengthened by my doubts.  So I keep doubting.  I keep looking forward, and loving those around me. 

I embrace the girl next door, because after all she is who I feel like God has called me to be for this time.  The girl that is there for those around her.  She is willing to give up time, money, or whatever it takes to show people they are loved.  Sometimes that means she loves too hard.  Sometimes that means that she makes mistakes, and has to apologize.  Sometimes that means she leaves a conversation not knowing where she stands, or what she even feels.  But mostly it means that she keeps walking down the path of faith.  Mostly it means that she never gives up, and keeps trying to be exactly where God wants her to be.  Sometimes that means that she gets hurt, she gets her heart broken, and she doesn't find the love that she is searching for.  But in the midst of that heartache, she grows in His strength and love, she deepens her understanding of what it means to walk by faith, and believe in things that she has yet to see. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Unexpected...

Do you ever get so caught up in thinking that all people are the same that you just lump people together that have similar views, and write them off.  I admit that I have done that in the past couple of months.  Someone in particular gave me a bad taste for those that don't think the way I do, and I kind of just started putting everyone with similar views in the same category.  It wasn't even something that I was trying to do, or even knew I was doing until the other day.  Then I realized that I had closed the door on something because of this lumping that was happening. 

We live in a world with so many different views.  There are conservative people, liberal people, in between people, those that believe in God, those that don't believe in God, those that preach God with the highest form of volume, and those that softly sing His praises.  It is so hard to know and understand exactly where we fit in and how to keep living life without lumping people together. 

I never want to be a lumper (yes I realize that's not an actual word).  I never want to see people with similar views and just pretend that I know everything about them, because I don't.  I don't truly know their hearts, until I sit down and have a conversation with them, even then it isn't for me to judge them.  I can try my hardest to speak love and truth. 

There are a couple of people (okay more than a couple) in my life that have very different views than I do.  We have the most important things in common, but when it comes to some of the nitty gritty that we all feel passionately about we don't see eye to eye at all.  About 5 months ago I met someone that couldn't ever be wrong.  It was an awful experience one in which I was determined that I could never possibly engage myself with people that didn't have similar thoughts on life, government, politics, and religion as myself.  Because this person could never see things from anyone else's viewpoint.  That's an awful place to live if you ask me. 

God started changing me like He often does.  In the past couple of months He has started showing me that maybe some things I think, are not as concrete as I would like them to be, and maybe I don't need to think that every conservative person is as hard-hearted as I thought.  Maybe there is a common ground, and maybe I could start opening myself up to that in ways that I had closed myself off before. 

When we lump people together we lose out, because we cease to see them as the individual creation that God chose them to be.  We instead see them as this big puzzle instead of just seeing the piece that makes up part of the picture.  When we lump people together we lose part of the grace and mercy that makes God who He is.  When we lump people together we miss out on having them woven into the fabric of our lives. 

So, here is to letting in those people that I don't always agree with.  Here is to opening up my eyes to learn and grow from those that don't see things the way I do.  Here is to breaking down walls, and not lumping everyone in the same category because categories aren't what defines us.  Here is to leaving behind preconceived notions and opening up to new experiences and risks. 

Embracing the unexpected....

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Church and a Drive

Originally when I planned to go to Kansas for this weekend, I didn't actually know just how much I would need to get away at this particular time in my life.  It isn't necessarily because I feel overwhelmed, it is more because I just feel like there are things happening that I am just unsure about.  Do you ever second, third and even fourth guess decisions you make.  Like, thinking through every outcome just so you can make yourself crazy with all the analyzing?

As I drove along the plains, there were so many things that I thought about and prayed over.  Last week I had someone tell me that I was fake, and that I post things on FB and then I am not like that at all.  So ofcourse with anything when someone says something to put you down, you examine it right? You take what they say and you keep what needs to be kept and let go of what might cause damage.  So the truth is that I am not always who I pretend to be on social media.  I have faults, I am opinionated, I judge people when I shouldn't, I choose to drink a little too much sometimes, I don't always stand up for my God the way I should, and I definitely don't trust God with all that I should either.  I try to post things that not only will encourage others, but will help me to live a better life.  In that I fail a lot of times.  I am quick to speak, and slow to listen a majority of the time.  So, maybe this person was right.  Maybe I am not who I pretend to be on FB, but also I will probably be the first person to say sorry.  I also won't go out of my way to cause hurt and pain on anyone no matter what they have done to me or said about me. I help people out, and try to be there for them.  I am sensitive, and love too much.  So yes, I have things to work on, but I also am one of the greatest encouragers through writing you will ever meet. 

So much of my journey this weekend, was letting to.  Letting go of words that have been said to me in the last couple of months.  Letting go of doubts that I have allowed to seep in because of people, instead of truths that I allow to overflow out of me because of God.  Letting go of friendships that need to be left behind and embracing those that are important enough to me to continue to pursue, and make sacrifices for.

Another part of my journey was giving something over to God that I continue to let grab a hold of me.  Do you ever have those things in your life that you want to happen so badly that you are willing to do just about whatever it takes to make them happen.  But you know that if you pursue it, instead of letting it be God's timing that you will end up making a big mistake.  So, I let it go, and I gave it over.  I allowed my heart and mind to be at peace with the fact that what is meant to be will find its way to me.  And I prayed a lot for this situation, and the person involved in this situation, and the things that I hope will come out of it.  Maybe that will bring the result that I want, and maybe God has something else for me. 

About this time in my journey I saw the church that I pulled over to take a picture of.  It made me remember that sometimes in life I get so caught up in feeling, doing, and feeling again... that I forget to just let the drive happen.  I forget that God's plans are bigger than my own.  I don't always know how to let His plans be my plans.  In fact a lot of times I forget to go to God altogether, but you know what that is because I am a work in progress.  God knows that I am not perfect, He made me.  He knows the cycles of mistakes that I continue to make, and one day He is going to break me of them one by one.  But for now each mistake, each sin is a bigger chance to learn and grow in Him.

I don't have to be perfect, I just have to be focused.  I don't have to know where my journey is taking me, I just have to have faith in the driver.  I don't have to make sure that I cross the finish line first every time, I just have to make sure that my pace continues to be steady and straight ahead.

So for now, I keep going, knowing that around every turn there will be lessons, there will be moments, and there will be things for me to change.  But my life doesn't lose its worth or value.  I am always loved, and as I pass along little churches along the way I hope I continue to see glimpses of how God is working and moving, and allowing me to let things go, and grow closer to Him every day. 

Sometimes I think that we come across as perfect to those around us.  Or we come across as trying to be better than someone else, when really I don't think deep down any of us actually feel that way.  I think that we want to be the best version of ourselves we can be.  Perhaps taking the time to hate a little less, and love a little more.  Taking the time to not be the driver, to not always be the first to speak, to let someone get all of their thoughts out before jumping in with a suggestion or judgment. Taking the time to get to know people on an intimate deep level, and allowing them to trust you at that level.  Isn't that the hardest?  Being able to trust each other with things. 

I could let the fact that I have trusted people with things that I don't want others knowing dig into me.  I could put myself down, feel really bad about it, and go into a dark place to hide away from that sin, guilt and shame.  But instead I embrace the mess that I am.  I allow God to fill that darkness with light, and I move forward on this journey.  It isn't a perfect journey, I get things wrong every single day, but I try my best to look up, see light, and keep going.  Vulnerability and trust, those are probably the two biggest things I am working on.  I let people in that I shouldn't these past couple of years, and I got hurt because of it, but I am also better for it.  I am better because I have learned a little more about sacrificial love, and what it takes to live with more of Him, and less of me. 

So, if you are feeling these things, I encourage you to take a drive.  Let God speak, let God listen, and be honest with Him.  He knows anyways. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

40 before 40 update.....

40 before 40 update....
I know you all have been dying to see this list again!  Ha!  But I have some things to add to it!  :)  I know, I know..... you can't wait!  My latest updates are in Purple!  :)

 #1  Attend a Renaissance Festival  This happened last weekend!  It was so much fun!  My sister and I had a blast.  I loved seeing everyone, and experiencing the renaissance culture. 

#2  Celebrate New Year's in New York City and watch the ball drop!

#3  Pay School Loans down   Yay!  This is on the right track, but still working on it! I am making payments each month.  Whew sometimes it is  so hard to only spend money on my loans!  I'm still taking donations if anyone wants to pay them off for me! 

#4  Go Skydiving 

#5  Get a tattoo  I have TWO tattoos now!  Yippeee!!!!  Love my elephant and owl!   I really want another one!!!!!!

#6  Drive the Pacific Coast Highway all the way down California

#7  See a show on Broadway

#8  Get to know 5 good wine and cheese pairings, and host a wine tasting

#9  Hike some of the PCT

#10  Get in the best shape of my life

#11  Go skinnydipping  I changed this one back ;)    No updates though. 

#12  Go to an Art Museum once a year (Yikes, I need to get on this one for this year!)  Oh man!  Anyone want to go to an Art Museum with me? 

#13  Visit Napa Valley

#14  Go on a cruise

#15  Learn how to cook Risotto  (going to try to get this done before August 30th)  I need to get on this! 

#16  Go geocaching

#17  Meet a hero (Mandy Hale, Glennon Doyle, Cheryl Strayed)

#18  Be open to new dating opportunities  (I did well with this!!!)  I am going to change this one.... Be open to new dating opportunities, but don't just take any of them, because some of them are CRAZY! 

#19  Take the ultimate U.S. Road Trip Not solo.... I need a friend or two....

#20  Read every book by C.S. Lewis  Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity are checked off!  Yay! 

#21  Learn to Knit  (Still working on this, but I am a great loom knitter)  Work in progress

#22  Take Spanish and be able to hold a conversation  (Ugh, not so great with this)  Hmmm.....

#23  Read 100 books  (Need to make my list) 

#24  Get a hair cut at a fancy salon

#25  Cook/Bake all my gma's recipes

#26  See a show at The Fox

#27  Read the Bible Cover to Cover each year

#28   Drink tea instead of coffee in the afternoon  Changing this  #28 Drink MORE tea!!!!! 

#29  Run the Bolder Boulder

#30  Watch every film on AFI top 100

#31  Go to the doctor/dentist/eye doctor as recommended  (Getting better with this)

#32  Complete a 1/2 marathon

#33  Write a short story

#34  Take a 24 hour solitude/no phone retreat 4 times a year  (I didn't do this at all)

#35  Pray everyday  (More work needed with this)

#36  Donate 2% of income each year to charity

#37  Try yoga

#38  Send 10 letters a year to friends far away  (I will do this)

#39  Make something crafty and sell it  (Yay!  I did this!  )

#40  Step out of my comfort zone at least once a day.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sometimes the fight is hard...

Yesterday I had such a great time, after a pretty crappy week.  So when I woke up went to church on little sleep and started my day I wasn't really expecting to feel the way I do today.  What happened?  Why do I feel so alone, and unable to cope with just common events?  It usually happens when I go to something that  I feel like I should have plenty of people surrounding me and I don't.  Tonight was one of those times.  Sometimes the most alone I feel is at a family event at church.  I had volunteered for two shifts so that I wouldn't have to go through that.  But then things got changed, and so I found myself walking around by myself.  Something that I can handle at pretty much any other time, except for some reason it hit me super hard today. 

I just left, and as soon as I got in my car tears just started streaming down my face.  It isn't that I feel sorry for myself, it is just that I have this deep ache inside of me that feels like something is missing.  I don't belong at family events, because I don't have a family.  I'm not a single mom, I don't have relatives or super close friends with kids.  So, I end up just wandering around aimlessly. 

So, I had to come home and think through why these feelings are hitting me all of a sudden.  It seems like every time I get close to thinking that singleness might cease to exist for me...I realize that I'm wrong.  And that is where this aloneness stems from.  The past month or so I have allowed myself to start to have hope again that there's hope of someone.  That I am not this awful person, that I am not unlovable. 

I know I am not the only one who goes through cycles like this, and I know that it is a cycle.  It will pass, and I will once again know that I am loved and valued, but for tonight I just let myself cry and pray, and feel lost in this despair of never being good enough. 

So, how do I get through this cycle.  How do I understand what God wants from me, and how to make the most of the life he has given me?  How do I get rid of feelings of doubt that I shouldn't have such high standards when it comes to relationships? 

Why does it seem like I always get things wrong?  Read too much into a text, or friendship?  Why is it that the ones I want are the ones that don't want me?  Why is it that I am single?  Oh sure we like to say that it is better to be single.  I have heard that from so many people, even this week.  I know and get why it is being said, but you know what?  Sometimes the fight doesn't seem worth it.  I mean the fight to not just give in to the urge to just go out and date like the world says you can.  The urge to just try on a bunch of losers to find the right one?  The urge to go out with someone that isn't spiritually where I need someone to be in order to not feel so alone.  Or the urge to not wait for God's timing.  Because right now I am tired of waiting.  I am tired of not having a best friend. 

How do I break this cycle?  How do I stop myself from allowing the lies that I am not worthy to keep creeping into my heart and soul? 

It starts with Jesus.  It starts with spending time praying, reading and journaling.  It starts with putting those things first instead of FB, any kind of social media, and second guessing every decision I've ever made.  But it also starts with realizing that no one's life  is perfect.  That we all have desires, and that one day I will be blogging about an event like today in a different context.  My desire for being with someone is another's desire to get one second alone.  My desire to have a family and kids is another's  desire to be able to see the world. 

I know God has me.  I know that His promises are true and real.  But I know that I have made a billion mistakes and I make more everyday.  I try too hard, or not hard enough.  I long for a best friend.  I long for the void of that best friend, that family to be filled. 

Somedays no matter what we say it isn't enough to just depend on Jesus to fill those voids.  It should be, but it isn't.  I want it to be.  Maybe this week that can be my focus.  Cut down on social media, and just look up everytime my heart and mind drifts.  Look up when I try to fill that void with things I shouldn't.  Look up when I am reading into something that doesn't mean what I think or hope it does. 

I won't give up the fight, because I can't.  I don't want to.  But maybe for today I take a deep breathe, step out of the ring, and let Jesus take the fight back.  That's the best that I can do, that's the best that he asks me to.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Aloneness, concerts, and shootings...

My heart is so heavy today for Vegas.  Even more so because of where the incident happened.  I have walked those streets, I have been in that hotel.  I have friends that frequent that area of the world often, and it hurts.  It hurts that there are so many people dead and injured.  It hurts because somehow it could have/ should have been prevented.  I am not going to get into gun control because I don't honestly want to, and I know that a lot of people are hot over that right now.  What I want to get into is thinking about other people.  It seems to me that we are so wrapped up in ourselves, and what we want that we forget to look people in the eyes.  We are so determined to point out what everyone else is doing wrong that we forget to see how we should be living and the changes we should be making.  My heart hurts for people that lost loved ones, and my heart hurts for that man who thought this was his only hope.  Who for some reason thought that this was what he was supposed to do.  What I want to know is could someone have changed his mind?  Was there something somewhere in his story that happened that if circumstances were different his path would have walked down a different road and told a different story. 

What if he just needed to know that he wasn't invisible?  What if he just needed to know that he was loved for himself, and not for anything but that.  What if he just needed someone to look him in the eyes, and see him?  We are so quick to be about ourselves.  We are so quick to use things to our advantage, to not stop and at least try to understand where the other person is coming from.  We are so quick to put ourselves first. 

It's human nature to be self-absorbed, and we have to constantly check ourselves and seeing if we are making mini-gods of our own needs and wants.  The hardest thing to do, is to put someone else first.  I am not an expert at it, but I do feel as though I put others before myself a lot.  Maybe too often.  It causes me to be taken advantage of more times than I care to admit.  It causes people to think they can run over me, and I just don't like living like that.  So, I continue to grow in sticking up for myself. I continue to try to put others first while still maintaining that I deserve to be treated with respect, and decency. 

It isn't enough to just live life, and let people do whatever they want.  We weren't made for that kind of community.  We were made to enrich each other's lives.  We were made to love beyond what even we know we are capable of, and we were made to make a difference.  We were made to help each other, be honest with each other, but most of all be kind. 

Last weekend I went to Roots N' Blues, I volunteered to get in free.  Then I spent the rest of my time there by myself.  I did talk to some friends that I knew along the way, but I was there alone.  I find that there are a lot of things I do alone.  Mostly because I love volunteering, and haven't yet found anyone who wants to share in that experience with me.  There were two ladies that I see just about every year.  They volunteer, but they put on their application that they have to be together or they won't volunteer.  In reflecting on this, I never want that to be my reality.  The minute I can't do things alone, is the minute I have lost some of who I am.  Sure I love company, even more when it is company that encourages me, strengthens me, and challenges me to be a better person.  But I don't always have people that have the same interests as me.  So, do I give up what I enjoy because I don't want to be alone?  Or do I just keep living and enjoying so that I can be the best version of me?

Life is hard and confusing.  There are moments like yesterday when I don't understand the world we live in and I just want all the horrible things to disappear.  There are moments when I don't want to have to deal with conflict, or hurt feelings.  But there are moments of greatness.  Moments of snapchats, that light up my day, text messages of encouragement that help me understand I am not as crazy as people claim I am.  These moments I treasure. 

So I will put one foot in front of the other today, I will be thankful that I am alive.  I will be thankful for the people that show me love.  I will be thankful that I have a place to rest my head at night.  But mostly I will be thankful that in the midst of loneliness, I never truly have to feel alone.