Saying Sorry

When my sister and I were young, we fought all the time. Between groundings and spankings, nothing seemed to work. My mom decided that she would try a different method. She separated us and had us write nice things about one another.

Apologizing has never been easy for me. I’m pretty prideful and carry a lot of wounds. I have operated under the idea that if someone hurts me, it cancels out my sin. If we’re honest, we all operate that way.

My relationship with my sister taught me how to lay down my pride and apologize. There were times I hated her but when my mom would force us to write nice things about one another, I realized I had ample things to say.

I’ve alluded to it in past blog posts but haven’t dared to say it out right. Two years ago, I was excommunicated from a church. I was asked to leave and never speak to anyone in the church again.

I remember that day like it was yesterday. I remember sobbing on the rooftop of my work. I remember the shock. I remember going back to work after I received the phone call from the pastor.

I was very sick. I have high-functioning schizophrenia and this was before I was diagnosed. I was out of control. In the span of three months, I had become obsessed with one of the pastors, removed from my community group, freaked out said pastor’s girlfriend and harassed the church with incessant emailing and texts.

I needed a doctor. I needed treatment. What I got was being removed from the church.

I felt too dirty, too broken to step foot in another church. Excommunication will wreck you. It will mess you up. It will terrify you of other churches. Even now that I stand on the other side of diagnosis and treatment, I am too afraid to fully submit to the church I’m in now. I’m getting closer though, which is reassuring.

I shared the details of the story with my doctor in the hospital, when I was lucid enough to explain everything. I sat there in tears, asking him what he thought. What could I do to fix this? He explained that my behavior was not my fault. I had been very sick and could not have been expected to be well-mannered. He went on to say that the reaction the church had to me was irresponsible.

I became a victim that day.

For over a year, I had been angry, sad and frustrated. My heart has ached for an apology that they refuse to give. And man, have I sat in a pool of self-pity.

But God kept pressing into me. Something wasn’t sitting right with me about what the doctor had said. Schizophrenia doesn’t change your personality; it amplifies what’s already there.

And then I was presented with the same triggers that had set me off when I was sick. I resisted them all but I felt every evil bone in my body. I felt all the hatred and jealousy and malice and control and striving that ran through my body while I was in that church. The only difference was that, because of medication, I was able to resist the urge to give in.

That realization broke me. What did it mean that I could be a victimizer as much as I had been a victim? I sobbed deep tears for the hurt I had caused. Because yes, my illness denied me an ability to say no to temptation but the person behind the behavior was still me.

I told God how sorry I was. For the first time in two years, I experienced true relief from the pain I had from what had happened.

I know that, at one point, the pastor had been reading my blog. He doesn’t know I know that but I do. My heart is grieved over the fact that reconciliation and peace is not a possibility here. But in the off chance that he reads this, I want to say how truly sorry I am for the pain I caused. Nothing will change what happened but I can be repentant here. I wish someday we could apologize to one another in person but I understand that may be unrealistic.

I think we all believe that if we’ve been hurt, we can’t apologize for our part in the mess of things. But I think part of loving people is in the saying sorry.

In the moment I told God how sorry I was, He whispered gently in my ear, You’re now ready for the blessings I have for you. You’re ready for the life I have for you.

I don’t know what that means. All I know is that I have finally, finally moved on.

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Easy.

Recently, I was talking with a friend about old loves and moving on.

It’s interesting. I’m in a season where I’m getting renewed clarity about my life, primarily when it comes to men. It’s like a vase that has broken and as I’m picking up the pieces of glass, I notice where the cuts are, the shine of the glass against the light and then I attach the glass back to the vase.

So we were talking about old loves and how difficult it is to move on. I’ve told her a few times about my first love but I made a point of explaining the process it took to move on.

Oh, man. I argued with God over him. I begged God to work it out. It got to a place where I would even take friendship over nothing.

It was during this time that I was on a journey of self-discovery. I had been in counseling, working through my issues with marriage and I decided that I would research the topic. Books helped but I wanted real world insight. I started asking couples their love stories and despite the vast differences between stories, I found recurring themes.

Every couple I spoke with had a oneness I had never seen before. And before you jump in and say, “well, duh, that’s a part of marriage”, I also interviewed engaged couples and saw this same occurrence. Elizabeth Eliot put it simply in The Mark of a Man, that a man will know the woman he is supposed to be with when he recognizes her as his rib, not that she is exactly like him but that she comes from him. This is obvious before marriage.

When I think back to past relationships, it was never like that. It was as if we were two pieces of a puzzle that almost fit but didn’t. And some puzzle pieces fit better than others but at the end of the day, it all felt like grasping at straws. Even with my first love, we almost fit. It was so close to perfect but I look back and see how hard everything was.

The other recurring theme was this idea of effortlessness. The relationships themselves may have had conflict and turmoil but it was like there was a magnet that kept bringing them back together. They weren’t struggling to connect or spend time together. One particular story that sticks in my mind was one I watched play out. These two friends started talking more and more and always seemed to find one another in a crowd. I actually remember approaching them one day and the girl gave me the dirtiest look. I promptly walked away. I laugh about it now. They’ve been married for three years.

I watched this girl recently trying to earn this guy’s attention. As I watched her talk herself up and honestly, grasp at straws, I realized you can tell right away if two people are going to get together. God really doesn’t make it a secret. I had flashbacks to past encounters with men where I thought things were headed in a certain direction but when I look at it now, it’s pretty obvious that nothing was going to happen. It’s like painstakingly obvious.

Because when a guy likes you, he makes it known. It’s not confusing or unclear. I think back to those times and realize how much time I wasted stressing out about guys that were totally friendly but interested in other girls.

Because there was always another girl. I was always late to the game and one by one, these guys dated and married the girl they had set their sights on. And I wanted so badly to be the girl that gets chosen. I wanted to be the girl he thinks of when he’s ready to date.

In the midst of getting over my first love, God told me He wanted it to be easy for me. He wanted dating to be easy. I fought Him so hard because I didn’t want easy. I wanted my first love.

But, as I told my friend, I am really, really grateful God is smarter than me.

Dear John

I don’t know about you but from time to time, I get these moments where I captivated by the Holy Spirit over something that apparently needs to be addressed. It usually comes out of nowhere. I usually cry. I move on.

I should backtrack. For eight years, I had massive feelings for a friend. About five years into this crush, I heard from mutual friends that he liked me. Me, being the bold person that I am, decided that I would tell him how I feel. It seemed like a sure thing that this would work out.

It didn’t. He rejected me. He was one of those guys that needs to hear from God before he’ll date someone. He said God didn’t tell him to date me so he said no.

I found out later he regretted it. I found out later that he wished he had said yes.

We stayed friends for several years after that. He was a source of support when I got really sick. I waited for him, holding out hope that he would make a move. I initiated every conversation, anxiously trying to give him ample opportunity to make a move.

He told me what a Godly woman I was. He told me how beautiful my spirit was. He said he liked how honest I was.

But he never made a move.

I stressed over this. But I couldn’t make a move again. I just couldn’t.

It was during this summer that I started to realize I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t put myself out there and get nothing in return. I sent him a message, telling him how grateful I was that he had been there for me when I got sick, that I would never forget it.

He said of course, that he would always be there for me. That he was happy that I was better.

But he didn’t make a move.

I made the difficult decision to let him go. I deleted him from my Facebook and moved on with my life.

But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. – 1 Corinthians 13:10-11

Walking away felt a little like dying. I’ve moved on from other guys before but it had never felt like this. It felt like I was growing up.

So back to yesterday. Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk at work when I was hit with a wave of emotions. I imagined myself having a conversation with him, explaining to him why I walked away. Why I ended our friendship. I felt his sadness, his regret. I felt myself moving on.

Recently, I’ve been going back and forth between making a move and waiting on the guy. My experience with him made me realize how much I need to know I don’t have to be the first one to say something. It’s not about being entitled. He made me feel like I had to earn his attention. It was like he was waiting for me to say something before he would do anything. It was unfair to me.

I’ve written a letter to him that I’ll never send. I’ve moved on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Growing up

I’m not very good at meeting people. I get tongue-tied and quiet. I’ve been wanting to meet more people, mainly because I’m trying to form meaningful relationships but I really connect more with people when we are doing something together. The first time I fell in love was with a guy who I connected with through serving our community. Give me a food bank and some trusty helpers and I will become your new friend.

Getting drinks, having dinner, etc. are not my idea of a good time. It’s probably why I don’t like dating very much. Give me a man who serves and I will swoon.

I was talking to my dad last week about a guy (I think) I like when I made a point of saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The point I was trying to make was that I have always done the same thing when it comes to guys. I fall head over heels, irrationally, think about him constantly and get to a point where I profess my affection for him directly.

I don’t flirt because to me, that’s more scary than just being frank about my feelings.

My first thought is not to show up at parties he’ll be at or make sure I sit next to him.

I got to a place where I had settled into a routine. I wasn’t interested in anyone, no one attainable anyway. I was fine, just God and me. After the last few years I’ve had, the idea of trying again is just so difficult. And the worst part is I made a promise to my friends that I would not make the first move again. Because it always results in a disaster.

I’ve been arguing with God the last few weeks over this guy. I don’t have time to have feelings for someone. I have no more patience for nonsense. I’m not willing to compromise my relationship with God, my self-worth or my priorities for a guy.

I think I like him. Some days, I’m able to talk myself out of it. This is so different than anything I have ever experienced. I don’t have chaotic feelings for him. I don’t think about him constantly. I’m not convinced we’ll end up together. I don’t read into the things he says or does. It’s the healthiest I have ever been about a guy. I have talked to exactly two people about this and both of them have commented on how different I am in this.

When I have been my most lonely, I have found myself daydreaming of the guy I had wanted for seven years but the same day I decided to be a foster parent was the day I walked away from him. I even deleted him from my social media accounts, which was incredibly hard but I am grateful I did it.

Here’s the thing: You can’t let love in until you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone. At some point, you have to trust that God is for you. That means growing up, taking responsibility for why your life is the way it is. It means going out and meeting people when you don’t want to. It means creating opportunities for a guy to get to know you when you’d rather just hide in your bubble and Netflix and chill by yourself.

It means trying, really trying, even when you feel like you are fumbling through the darkness because everything you do feels like uncharted territory. It means trusting God has your back and won’t allow anything to happen to you that’s not for your ultimate good.

I’m trying to change and I’m scared and frustrated and argumentative and totally at peace all at the same time. For the right guy, I hope he’s patient with me. I don’t know if this is the right guy. I really don’t know. He might end up being a bookmark I tell my daughter about one day. All I know is that what I am learning though this is significant and that’s encouraging.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Week of Stretching

 

I should preface this post by saying that lately, I have gotten into the habit of bottling myself up. I’m one of those people who tends to put up a front. I put my best foot forward, rarely discussing what I’m really going through or how I’m feeling. But I got convicted by that this week so today, I am going to write a super awkward post about probably one of the most ridiculous weeks I’ve had in a long time.

It all started with an Instagram post from this social media influencer I follow (I know, I know. Very millennial of me. I don’t care. Her posts are awesome.)  Anyway, she shared this post about this five day prayer challenge for praying for your future spouse.

Here’s the thing: I don’t pray for my future spouse consistently. I keep meaning to but I always find an excuse not to. It’s just so uncomfortable. I pray when I’m moved by the spirit. I have, however, spent much of my time praying for the men I have fallen for. An act, I would learn later this week is actually super unhealthy. But we’ll get there.

So I felt like this was a good opportunity to grow. I’m all about growing. I signed up for the challenge. I received the first email on Monday.

Day 1: Pray their house isn’t built on sand

Basically, it was about praying that your future spouse loves Jesus fiercely. I spent the morning trying not to pray for the guy I had been pining for the last eight years. I had reached this point a few weeks ago where I decided I was going to move on from him. It was right around the time I decided to be a foster parent.

Day 2: Pray they are breaking ties with every ex-lover

This was actually super convicting for me. On the one hand, they were talking about “lovers” as in idols, so that could be anything that separates your future spouse from God and honestly, loving you. So I was on board with that. The convicting part for me was this little secret I’ve been carrying for over a year.

I still follow my first love on Instagram.

I actually get a lot of enjoyment from knowing what’s going on in his life, because he uses it on a regular basis. It’s not like I still want to be with him or anything. He was just such an important part of my life that I take comfort in knowing he’s okay. But I realized it’s a load of crap and I should probably unfollow him. Actually, I should definitely unfollow him.

Day 3: Pray for “Godly Chemistry”

This one was interesting. It wasn’t talking about chemistry in the traditional sense but rather that “Godly chemistry” has to do with matching purposes. I used to equate this with compatible jobs. For example, I first fell in love with my first love over our shared passions for nonprofit work. I mean, I saw our whole freaking future together. And man, did I argue with God over it. I told God repeatedly why we made sense, what impact we would have if we were together.

The hardest lesson to learn for my little pragmatic heart was that matching purposes between spouses has more to do with how you’re both wired. Elizabeth Elliot describes it in The Mark of a Man by that a man will know his wife because “she comes from your rib bone.” She meant that a man’s wife is a reflection of who he is. Still doesn’t totally make sense to me but I tell my guy friends this all the time.

Day 4: Pray they don’t eat the apple

So I literally prayed this over a month ago, in the spirit. This was about stopping with dating other people. Amen.

Day 5: Pray they are “hiding & seeking”

A very well-known trait of mine is that I like to take the lead in relationships. I have asked out every guy I have ever dated or liked. About three years ago, I realized how sinful my behavior was. Don’t get me wrong – I love a strong, confident woman who knows what she wants and goes for it. But I wasn’t doing it for that reason.

I didn’t want to be found. I didn’t want to be pursued by a man. I didn’t want to be wanted. Being “found” meant opening myself up to being loved. Weirdly, I preferred rejection by my own hands than intimacy with another person.

The devotional said to pray that your future husband will “find” you and you are in a position to be “found.” I was really confused about what it meant to place yourself in a position to be found so I asked a friend to explain it to me.

She explained that while it’s the man’s job to find, it’s the woman’s job to be found. She does this by basically ignoring other men by pursuing Christ so deeply that she doesn’t notice the men around her.

It hit me that I think  I have reached that point. I really do. So my week was crazy emotional and now I really don’t know what to do with myself.

Probably unfollow that guy on Instagram.

Remembering Emily

I remember the Sunday before I moved here.

I had just lost my job and my home and was moving forward into the unknown, this small ounce of faith I had left carrying my weakened state.

For months, I had struggled financially. I had seen God provide in some big ways but overall, it had been a particularly rough season.

Publically, I told everyone what God had been speaking into my life. The job and life He promised me. And with each job rejection, the people around me doubted what I was sure God had promised.

So suddenly, I was a girl without a home, without a job and still God was consistent. This was my game changer. There was nothing to be joyful about.

And yet, that Sunday, I felt God saying now was the time to worship. Now was the time to give thanks.

So I did. Through tears, I thanked God for every little detail I could think of. The good, the bad and the ugly. I knew, despite my fears, that this season was ending in my life and I wanted to finish better than I had started.

And while everyone seemed to doubt the promises I spoke of (many people encouraged me to aim lower, which I did in spite of God saying no), everything He had spoken into my life came true. Not a stone was left unturned.

I wasn’t planning on writing about this season in my life. I was doing really well, was happy, trusting in the things God has been speaking into my heart and then I got the phone call.

My dad had died.

It didn’t hit me at first. He had cancer, so it wasn’t a surprise and we weren’t close. In fact, we weren’t even speaking to each other at the time of his death. I had been so angry at him. He was the first man to ever break my heart.

The sadness comes in waves, the twinge of regret that a part of me wishes I had been more forgiving. And the worst part is that no one expects you to grieve an absentee father. It’s like you’re not allowed to be sad. So mostly, I cry quietly to myself and don’t talk about it.

It’s that Sunday again, all over, with God telling me that this season in my life is ending and for the love of everything that is holy, give thanks for every little thing I can think of. So I did, giving praise through all the sadness because I know hope’s on the other side.

What We Do with Privilege

Today is my 13th birthday. Not in the traditional sense. I gave my life to Christ 13 years ago today.

In past years, I would celebrate with a night out alone, a longer quiet time and some solid reflection over the last year. But this year is different. The celebration of this year has to be different.

This year I went through a mental health crisis and came out alive. This year I was asked to leave a church during my episode. This year I was promoted at work and made peace with my biological father. This year I lost a relationship with two people I thought loved me. This year I went to Washington D.C. for the first time. This year I wanted to end my life. This year I survived.

 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5

The greatest privilege I will ever experience is suffering, because it binds me closer to Jesus. This year changed the game for me. At some point, suffering stopped looking like grief. It started to look like opportunity and growth. It looked like meaning. In the thick of chaos and shame, I began to see where God is leading me towards. I felt a responsibility to make the most of the shatters.

When I was in DC, I visited the Holocaust Museum. I heard stories from people who had walked tougher paths than me. At the end of the tour, I saw a quote displayed on the wall:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.  – Martin Niemöller

This year has been a season of what could have been. What my life could have looked like if even just a few things had gone differently. That acknowledgement within my own story led me to ask “What do I do with that privilege?”

I’m so damn grateful.

That week in DC marked a shift in where I’m headed. My life became more about what I do with the privilege I’ve been given and less about the melancholy reflection of what I don’t have.

Privilege doesn’t always look like the able-bodied white male who has never known what it’s like to go hungry or struggle through systematic barriers just to get a job. Sometimes, it looks like the biracial woman with a disability who spent Christmas alone because she left her abusive situation in the middle of the night. More is expected of that woman than the man.

It feels like privilege. It feels like purpose and personal responsibility.

What a year.