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.

So what has God been speaking into my life?

This is the year I end up with my spouse. This is it. And it would happen after my dad died.

But it’s the farthest thing from my mind right now. Truthfully, I have been focused on everything but a relationship.

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.

Go.

This time a year ago, I was preparing to stay. I had every intent of staying in Tucson, finding a better job and getting myself out of the whale of a dilemma I had gotten myself into.

The air itself seemed like spring, although it was deadly hot. I sat across from a woman who was mentoring me at the time and told her spring was coming. The life God continued to promise me was approaching.

My plan was to remain faithful to where I was, press into the community I found myself in and trust God.

I had no idea God had other plans. I didn’t know that in nine short days, I would lose my home. I didn’t know that in ten days, I would lose my job. In less than two weeks, I would make the move to the Valley.

I sat across from a friend the day I lost my job. We crossed our legs on the peach title of my living room floor, the room in disarray from my obvious anxiety and depression. I had just asked God how He could love me and destroy my life at the same time.

My friend described my situation as the city throwing me up.

It’s time to move on. Go.

She looked at me with concern.

I had no other choice. My other options for staying had not panned out. God wanted me to go.

But still, I waited. I packed my things in between sobs of lost hope and unrequited feelings. I thought I had the story right. I thought things were going to turn around. I thought God was pushing me to settle, commit. I was not usually one for sticking around. The only thing I had ever committed to was Jesus. I thought God was teaching me how to keep a faithful presence. I still believed that, which made leaving all the more confusing.

I was about to learn that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways are not my ways. Commitment and faithfulness doesn’t always look the way we think it does.

I waited three days, still packing but unwilling to move cities until God said go.

The pastor said it for Him. You need to go.

I didn’t hesitate after that. With help, I loaded my car with all my things and wiped the last of my tears from my eyes. I would be faithful. I would commit to the only thing I knew to be true, even if the circumstances made no sense.

God fulfilled every promise He had made, creating a season of Spring in my life. It didn’t make my life easier but it did provide fruit in areas previously barren.

I’ve spent a year learning commitment and faithfulness. I’ve learned how to plant roots and rest in the mundane. I’ve gotten sick and gotten better. I don’t look like the same person I was a year ago.

Sometimes, the biggest thing you can do to demonstrate true faithfulness is say yes to what God is asking of you even if the circumstances don’t make sense. Pragmatism and practicality are very real idols in our culture. For many of us, it determines what we believe and how we live. But if I truly followed pragmatic thought, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be this blessed. I would have stayed where I knew people, where I had friends and security. Who would have moved to a different city when leaving meant losing so much?

The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. – Psalm 25:14-15

But this, being here, is so much better. Healthier. More faithful.

Stories: Jenny

“She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” – Proverbs 31:25

“She is clothed in strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future.” – Proverbs 31:25

When I was in the seventh grade, our school published a newspaper. One of the features in it was a column highlighting things that were considered trendy or “in” and things that were not trendy or “out”. I remember some of the trendy things in 1995 being backpack purses, baby tees, knee high socks/stockings, platform sneakers, “The Rachel” haircut, and all things Sanrio.

I also remember a few things that were “out” like hand-me-down clothes, high-waisted pants (It was all about the hip huggers.), hair scrunchies, and wearing glasses (Why?!). The one item on the list I remember most distinctly was leg warmers. It was so not cool to wear them! I remember feeling like it was a personal attack on my sense of style, because I was the only person in my school who wore them. I laughed with my friends about the absurd article, it was such an obvious tactic to bully the “uncool” kids, but deep down it hurt.

Clothes have always been a source of contention for me. I was born with a disability called Spina Bifida. It affects my mobility and I am able to walk using orthotics or leg braces. When I was a teenager I was embarrassed to wear them, and so I would usually wear pants or jeans. Yet, when the occasion required a dress or skirt, I would bunch a pair of leg warmers over my braces, almost like knee highs but, apparently not, since those were considered “in”. Clothes never fit right. Pants are perpetually too long, shirts are always too narrow in the shoulder or waist. When I use my wheelchair, if clothes don’t fit, they hang over my wheels and always get dirty. (Wearing white is impossible!) Needless to say, being a teenager without much stylistic freedom was a real esteem-killer. I had to come up with some creative ways to express my individuality, while having a very narrow selection to choose from.

In 2010, I had the opportunity to participate in the “Disabled Divaz” fashion show held by the Aurora Foundation. The event was created to raise awareness to the fact that people with disabilities, especially young women, don’t have access to the same clothing options as the rest of the population. It’s an issue of exclusion and lack of awareness perpetuated by impossible beauty standards that the so-called “industry” has set forth. Having worked in disability advocacy for a number of years I have seen the esteem issues that many people deal with. There are a few “disability” clothing companies, but the clothing is not very attractive and usually more expensive than your average department store finds.

jeeny

Lack of access to affordable, fashionable clothing is, in my opinion, just as important has having access to employment and healthcare. When you look good you feel good, and therefore are more likely to go after the job you want and take care of yourself by going to the doctor, etc. This special event gave young women the opportunity to work with a designer, creating a signature look to fit them and reflect their personal style, in spite of their limitations. My designer created a beautiful, green dress that I could wear at my wedding reception. The event was a fundraiser for the foundation and a competition for the designers. My designer actually won! I was so proud to be a part of something that changed the community’s attitude toward people with disabilities.

I had a life-changing experience when I turned sixteen. That is the year I committed my life to Christ. I suddenly had someone who knew me and loved me exactly as I am! I still struggle with my self-esteem, but I know that I don’t have to worry about what I wear. I also know that the people who know Him and know me, love me regardless of what I’m wearing. As an adult, it mostly comes down to what’s comfortable and doesn’t wrinkle in the dryer! “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life–whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? –Matthew 6:25

Recently, I read an article that said Tommy Hilfiger has modified his clothing line for children, so that those with disabilities have the option to wear the same clothes. This is an exciting step in the right direction and I hope that other designers will recognize the importance of having access to fashionable, functional, clothing choices. In the meantime, I might just find me a pair of leg warmers to sport, because dress season is right around the corner!