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In Favor of Flesh & Bones : A Farewell

I’m on a quest to discover the art of speaking less and doing more. These days, I’m crazy about the idea of being completely present in every aspect of my life – good or bad. And for me, that means spending less time writing about my life and just living it instead.

I’m pretty good at writing out these grand ideas and plans and lessons, but after the “Publish” button is pressed it becomes less about the part of myself I just transcribed onto a screen, and more about how many people will read it/like it/comment on it/share it.

I started writing in this space for me. It took me months to even tell anyone I had a blog. And while I’m much farther along the journey of self-discovery than I was two years ago, that twenty-one-year-old girl had better motives for writing than this girl of twenty-three does. This has become about you and what you think of me. Don’t take this the wrong way but I don’t want to care what you think of me. And I don’t want to write for you.

A wise man once said that good writers don’t write to please others, but to express their souls. These days, my soul is craving real people, real conversations, real hugs, real celebrations, real pain, real questions, and real answers (or real commiseration over the lack of answers). Much as you all have encouraged me in this process, a virtual community is not the same as a flesh-and-blood community. We all know that, right?

There’s also the fact that I’m all about the challenge, and this has become too easy. My palms don’t get sweaty and my heart doesn’t race anymore before I publish a post. Being vulnerable while sitting across from you? Now, that’s terrifying in so many ways. So I’m choosing that. I’m choosing to stop filing certain thoughts away in my “Will Blog About This Later” folder. I just want to say them in the moment, difficult as it may be.

Besides, you all don’t want to hear what my heart has to say these days anyways. They are things along the lines of smiling at strangers, and feeling all warm and trembly in the presence of another. My current state of cheesiness would be unbearable for everyone. Naturally, this is my last act of kindness for you:)

Fear not – I’m not giving up writing for good. There will be lots of words scribbled into my journal on a regular basis, and I’m working really hard on this fabulous story that’s begging to be told. And I’ll still be reading all the blogs I follow religiously, because some people are just so incredible at this whole writing thing.

Right now, I’m only about twenty views short of a total of ten thousand views. To a big shot blogger, that number means nothing. To this girl who’s hesitant to call herself a writer? It means the world. Thank you all for every view, every share, every comment, every text message. You’ve assured me that the thoughts in my head are worth sharing, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

I’m off to live a story worth telling. Maybe I’ll come back and tell it here. Maybe I’ll tell it elsewhere. But I hope you find your own adventure and go live it with abandon, too. And while you’re at it, slow dance to this like no one’s watching – I’m dancing over here too.

Love.

 

And Then the Fever Broke

I told my heart that we were fine, that despite the occasional waves of sadness we were going to be okay. I told it that if we smiled a lot and laughed a lot, we’d eventually stop feeling like crying. It shook its head at me and my delusion, grounding itself in reality. So I ignored it. For weeks. And the other night, it exploded. You know that feeling when your chest literally feels like it weighs a thousand pounds and you can’t breathe and all of a sudden you’re wailing into your pillow for no good reason?

Except I had good reasons – I had just chosen to ignore them. I’m really good at feeling only what I want to feel. And what I want to feel is the good, light as a feather, bubbly feelings. Even the quiet, whispery feelings are welcome so long as they don’t bring with them the dark, unwanted emotions I’m always running from. And crying? Only acceptable as a by-product of joy. None of that wussy, dissolve-into-tears-when-life-gets-hard-because-it’s-good-for-you nonsense. You admit that life sucks, then you dust yourself off and keep moving. No time to feel anything other than determination.

The last few weeks have been long and lonely, despite my plastered-on smile. Apathy became my best friend – if you don’t care, you don’t hurt. But I cared, and I hurt, and eventually I broke. Today, after three hours of nonstop journaling and pouring out my frustrations and letting myself feel all the feelings I didn’t want to feel with the One who gave me the ability to feel, the fever broke. I asked Him,

“Why am I constantly seeking external validation? Why can’t I truly rest in who You say I am? Why isn’t that enough? Why can’t I let You be enough for me? I don’t know how to do that, do I? I have to prove my own worth, my own value, and You’ve tied my hands so I can prove neither. Would I really become a person obsessed with proving to herself and everyone else that she is worthy of love and affection? Have I still not realized that I can’t prove that?”

Sometimes, He is silent and seemingly distant. But not today. I asked a lot of questions and He had a lot to say. When you narrow down the list of things you want to a whopping two, then present them to God, and He grants you neither one nor the other, you could respond with trust and faith. Or you could throw a fit. Or you could become slightly depressed and silent. And when you eventually take your frustrations to Him, you know what He ends up saying?

“You’ve been trying to define your own identity instead of discovering it with Me. So if I gave you either one of those two things right now, you’d hang your identity on them. You would become the girl who works there or the girl who’s dating that guy. Not the girl whose heart is at rest in who I say she is regardless of where she finds herself.”

Sometimes, I wish He didn’t speak quite so directly to the root of the problem. It’s so much easier to blame Him than to take responsibility for my sin. But He wasn’t done talking. He proceeded to reprimand me:

“You say you want My best for you, but really, you want your best for you. I don’t ever give you second best – what I give you everyday is My best. But because it’s not your imagined best, you choose discontentment.”

Ouch. He wasn’t kidding about that “disciplining the ones He loves” business. That one caught me by surprise. Today – this bland, uninteresting life – is His best? But if it were indeed His best, I’d be getting my second degree in Mental Health Counseling and working with women rescued from the sex industry and bouncing off the walls excited to go to work everyday and dating a Ryan Gosling lookalike whose love for God was contagious and whose style was impeccable and yadda yadda yadda.

Just because I have an overactive imagination that conjures up my version of the “perfect” life doesn’t mean God isn’t good to me. And just because I tell God that I want His best for me and then slyly insert my picture perfect life into the “God’s Best” folder, doesn’t mean I’ve fooled Him into thinking my best is His. He still wins. And His best is still better. And His best is right now. If I don’t see where He has me right now as His absolute best, nothing will ever be good enough. My imagination gets wilder with age, and it will always come up with something “better”. Maybe, like Paul, I have found the secret to contentment?

In the wake of this breaking and bleeding and healing, I’ve made a commitment: to not complain, not even once, about not having the two things I want the most for the next month. (In fact, in a moment of nothing but sheer madness, I told God to not give me either of those things anytime soon because I’m most certain I would idolize them immediately). Instead, I’m keeping a journal of everything I’m grateful for each day. I want to exude thankfulness and peace – to look for the little joys in every single day. I want to find rest and joy, not in a circumstantial change, but in a deep trust in who He says I am. And if you happen to encounter me anytime soon and hear me make some grumbly protest about my life, please [gently] slap me across the face in love. I can take it.

In true Fatherly fashion, he scolded me and then showered me with more love than I expected: He gave me this gorgeous sunset on my right and a rainbow on my left. At the same freaking time. It felt like a giant celestial hug and I finally let those tears come. Turns out, I didn’t lie to my heart. We really are going to be okay. 

Half-Cakes & Entitlement

“I feel like I’ve worked through my relationship with God pretty well. I don’t doubt the things I used to, and I’m now 100% confident in his affection for me. My problem is humans. They’re fickle and unreliable and unsafe.”

He just laughed at me, probably for a whole minute. It wasn’t the reaction I was expecting – I was being completely serious. But he chuckled and said, “Well, that’s a funny thing to say.” And then he said something else that I’ve been carrying around in my heart for the last few weeks; something that keeps coming up when my [unreasonable] expectations of other people aren’t met.

“You’re thinking of this the wrong way. If this is a cake, you’ve cut it in half making one side ‘God’s side’ and the other side ‘everyone else’s side’. You say, ‘I’ve got the God side figured out, now I just need the other side to complete my cake.’ God’s love and acceptance isn’t half of the cake – it’s the whole cake. If you’re expecting to find the right group of friends or the right guy to complete the other side of the cake, you’ll never find it. Everything else other than who He is is icing on the cake – a blessing to be thankful for, not something you’re entitled to.”

I still heave a loud sigh every time I go back and read that portion of my rapidly scribbled journal entry after our session. I didn’t think that one of the first things my therapist would tell me was that I needed to lower my expectations. But here I am, two weeks later, still processing that one thought. Still unsure how to adapt to that method of thinking.

In relationships, I expect authenticity, grace, genuine concern, maturity, consistency. In reality, I’m bathed daily in His authenticity, grace, genuine concern, maturity, consistency. Any other expressions of these qualities should be considered a surplus, not a source of sustenance. I get frustrated with people quickly because the expectations I have of them are less about healthy relationships and more about looking for sustenance where it can’t be found.

Somehow, I believe this way of thinking makes you a more grateful person. If I don’t think I’m entitled to certain things, and if I live with the awareness that I already possess the things I so desperately crave, then everything else becomes a gift and the absence of certain things doesn’t leave me with an emotional deficit.

At least that sounds nice in theory. I’m still struggling to see the whole cake instead of the unsatisfactory half-cake mirage I’ve been looking at for years.

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