Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sectioning off who you are

I have different categories of friends. Friends from high school, friends from college, friends from church. My friends have known me in different times of my life. I've had theatre friends, floormate friends, Spanish Club friends. Generally friendships are formed based on common interests. Isn't that what you do with your friends? You get together and do something you both enjoy.

I hate having to wall off part of who I am when I'm around some people. I'm not talking about when you decide not to disclose all of your deepest, darkest secrets with a friend you've only known a short while. In my case I'm talking about my faith. I went to a Christian college, so my college friends and I share the same basic faith. My church friends and I share the same basic faith. But when it comes to friends from high school, or maybe people at work, my faith is something that I feel I have to hide.

My friends have always respected me to my face. They've never said I was stupid for believing in God. They've never accused me to my face of being judgmental. I have a deep fear that if I was honest about my beliefs on certain things, some people would no longer be my friend. In high school, I was afraid of losing the only friends I had, of losing a life that I'd never had before and was desperate not to lose. Now that I have a wider circle of friends, I'm not as afraid of losing my friends. What I'm afraid of is of saying or doing something that would offend them so much that they wouldn't be open to anything having to do with God at all.

Not all of my beliefs are politically correct. Actually, most of them probably aren't. And I'm OK with that. I do believe that people should be free to choose what to believe in. I also believe that despite thinking others should be free to choose, they can choose wrong. I don't believe all religions are equal. And I think there are a lot of things in our culture today that are widely accepted but shouldn't be, because they're sins.

I really wish I knew how to be my whole self no matter who I am near. My faith is so central to who I am that it feels absurd when I section that part off. It feels kind of dishonest when I don't speak up about something that I disagree with. But I don't want that to be the only thing people focus on. I think it's also important that I love to read, that I like to paint, that I have a passion for theatre that is so big I can't describe it. I think it matters that I love fall and I'm not wild about fruits or vegetables and my favorite color is purple. The world around me is crying for people to be tolerant, but I think we've actually learned to be less tolerant of differences. It seems to me that forcing everyone to believe the same sorts of things isn't tolerating our differences at all. And who decided tolerance should always be a good thing, anyway? I wouldn't want any of my friends to tolerate an abusive relationship. We do not tolerate people committing crimes without consequences. The fact that we have laws about what is and what is not acceptable shows that there are things that should not be tolerated. I value my freedom, and I hate when I am told that I can only express my freedom in certain ways so that I don't offend others. I struggle to value the right for others to have their opinions when they're opposite of mine, but I know that freedom needs to go both ways, or it's a dictatorship.

This all comes about because tonight I was with a group of people, and as great as they are, I had a moment when I realized that I had to hide my reaction to something or they would all have a big problem with me. My belief about something doesn't change how I treat them. I already believe it; it's already how I'm treating them. It's a hard line to walk. I want so desperately for my friends to have an encounter with the one who loves us so much he sent his son to die for us so we wouldn't have to be separated for eternity. Love like that totally changes everything. I wish I wasn't so scared that my own story is too full of pain and not full enough with love to be very hopeful. Somehow, even though I know it's silly to think that God can't move because I am imperfect and my story isn't finished, I still worry that I'm going to screw up eternity for some of the people that I love the most. I hope I can learn to just be more like Jesus. He totally shook things up, was totally not PC, and he loved people like they'd never been loved before.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Right does not equal easy

When I was a kid, I was honest to a fault (most of the time). It actually got me in big trouble once when I was twelve. To me, there was never a second thought about whether or not I would return money if a clerk gave me too much change, or what I would do if I found money or a wallet outside. Everything, and I mean everything, was black and white.

I have finally realized that there are gray areas, but now the problem is remembering that there are some things that need to be definite black and white. And now it's not always easy for me to choose the right thing.

Tonight was a worship night at church. It was amazing. Off the hook, and all that jazz. I was really inspired to finish a painting I've been working on, but I decided that I need glitter to finish it, so I made a quick stop at Target on the way home. I decided to look at the dollar spot, which can be dangerous because it's easy to spend more than you think on those items. I found a bunch of socks, which is great because I love fun socks, even more so when they're only $1. Plus they wear out fast, so it's always good to replenish my supply, especially now that it's getting colder.

At the checkout the total was less than I thought it would be, which confused me because I thought I had counted correctly. I didn't really want to think about it, and I started to walk towards the door. But I kept looking at my receipt. I counted two, three times, then went back through my bag and matched everything up. Yes, the cashier missed a pair of socks. It was a just a dollar, and my first thought was, score, free socks! Then I realized how dishonest that was. Sometimes you don't notice until you're home, or at all, but I noticed while I was still in the store. I stood there for a minute, then I pulled out a pair and walked back towards an open register. I handed the cashier the socks and pulled out my card again.

As I was driving home, the thought flitted through my mind, "I hope God saw that and blesses me for it." I then immediately realized how backwards that thought was. I shouldn't want or expect anything extra for doing what should be second-nature. If anything, it was wrong that I considered just walking away with something that I knew I didn't pay for.

I'm not saying that it was some big drama. I just bought some socks. But the whole thing showed me some areas of my heart that need work. I'm a little ashamed that it felt so hard to do such a simple right thing. I want it to be easy to do the right thing. I want to be so in tune with God that I don't consider doing anything shady. I want to be open and honest and do the right thing, even when it's hard.


Have you ever had the experience of hearing a sermon that could have been written specifically for you? That's what happened to me on Sunday. As a part of the series "Why Me?" Peter talked about how we can hold onto our anger when things happen, especially betrayal. At one point he asked everyone to close their eyes, and picture the person or thing they always get angry about. I immediately had four people pop into my head, and after a minute, I added one other person.

Peter showed a summary clip of "The Count of Monte Cristo." If you haven't seen it, the jist is that a man whose life is going really well is betrayed by his best friend and spends years in prison. When the man escapes, his life starts to turn around, which is clearly at God's hand. He threatens to lose all that, however, if he chooses to seek revenge on his friend. Revenge is tempting. I totally understand that. I may not want people's lives to fall apart, but I've definitely wished that the people who hurt me would be hurt back.

The point is that when we pursue revenge, we are saying that we don't trust that God will bring about his perfect justice. It's amazing how many things come down to whether or not we trust that God is in control, isn't it?

I have recognized that I get angry because I'm afraid of getting hurt again or of re-experiencing the hurts I already have. There is a person on Facebook with whom I am not friends but have several friends in common. When I see this person's name, I tense up. I have a physical reaction. I don't hate this person; it's just easier to be angry and bitter than to deal with how raw the pain still is.

Choosing to forgive is NOT easy. Forgive and forget is a lie. We don't forget when we've been wronged. But we can choose to let go. So a few minutes ago, when I saw that person's name on Facebook, when I had a second where the anger and tension tried to rear its ugly head, I chose to take a deep breath, and let it go. I'm going to have to make a conscious choice to let it go each and every time. My prayer is that with God's help, it will get easier and easier to keep letting go, and that eventually it will be second nature to let go. It is a process. I see a professional counselor to help me work through stuff like this. I pray about it, and ask others to pray for me.

I have to say, that as familiar and easy as it can be to hold on to anger, it really is incredibly freeing to let go, to choose forgiveness.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Fear is something that we all encounter. Sometimes it's just a momentary fear, like when we hear a noise outside after watching a scary movie. We all know that momentary thrill that shoots up our spine when we get a fearful shock. Sometimes our fears are things that we deal with long-term. A fear of heights, a fear of the dark, a fear of spiders. Fear is all around us.

I never used to consider myself a very fearful person. I love heights, and I sleep just fine in complete darkness. There are definitely situations and things that make me uncomfortable, but I wouldn't say I am afraid. But there is one area lately that has really been getting me. Finances. I've been out of work since I got laid off in May. I get very little from unemployment, and every month I get more and more stressed about how I'm going to pay my rent. People worry because they're afraid. My worry is because I'm afraid that God won't provide for me. It's doubt on my part.

"So I tell you, don't worry about everyday life--whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn't life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don't need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don't work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won't he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." Matthew 6:25-34

I need that reminder. I need it every day, often more than once a day. God loves me, thinks I'm valuable. And he will take care of me. I need to have bigger faith, to trust and be at peace. It's not easy. But the best things in life are sometimes the things for which you have to work the hardest.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When Shame Holds You Back

"Ain't no shame in my game."

This line floated through my head as I was out walking this morning. I picked it up after reading Carlos Whittaker's blog, and it came to mind because I was thinking about how hard it was for me to venture outside to get some exercise. I hate working out in front of people. It's horribly embarrassing. And I hate the thought of people being able to see me if I'm huffing and puffing from trying to jog a little bit instead of walking the whole way.

And then I remembered this one woman from The Biggest Loser. I think it was one where there were people from each state, but only some of the people actually got to stay. At the finale, they'd bring back the person who had lost the most weight at home on their own and compare it to the person who lost the most weight while on the show. Her transformation was incredible. I never would have believed she was overweight, she was SO tiny afterward. The thing that struck me is how hard it must have been for her to get started. She didn't have a personal trainer and a group of people around her who were working towards the same goal. She had to work out in her own neighborhood where people knew her. It's so hard to make a change like that. Sometimes people who are overweight are so ashamed of their weight that they're embarrassed to take the first hard steps towards getting in shape. That's been my struggle off and on for a long time.

Then I thought about it. No, it's not ideal that I'm out of shape now. But why should I be ashamed of taking a first step towards changing that? It takes a lot of courage to get out there and do something different than what you've done before. It is really hard to ask for help sometimes. I've been watching Hoarders, and it's got to be insanely embarrassing for these people to let the public see how bad their homes have gotten. But they are working to make a change. That is so admirable, and I think even more so because of how hard it can be to take a first step when you feel like you're at the bottom of a pit.

I realized today that there are a lot of people who don't change their lives because they're ashamed. All they can see is the mistakes they've made that lead up to the present. I think it would be amazing if people could learn to look more at the right now. Instead of focusing on the years I screwed up, what if I decided that I'm going to feel amazing today because I walked 1.9 miles and jogged 3 short portions of that? I am proud that I'm working, however slowly, to make a change in my life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blogging Technical Question

When I look at my blog, some of the posts show up as different sizes than others. It's driving me crazy, because I can't figure out how to fix it. I don't adjust the default settings while I'm typing up the post, so I don't understand why it's being so finicky.

Right now the post that looks different when I view it is the Daniel post. Am I the only one who is seeing a different font size?

God's Character

Yesterday my church started a new series called "Why Me?" I have to say that Pastor Peter hit it out of the park on this one. First of all, hilarious intro story. I haven't laughed that much in church in awhile, and church is usually pretty funny. Second of all, it was a reminder that I can never have often enough.

Isaiah 40:11
"He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young."

I need to be reminded of God's love. He is compassionate and caring. He loves us.

Right now I don't really have much to say. It's been a very full day, and I'm just waiting to fold a load of laundry before I need to get some sleep. I just wanted to get this down at least in basic form before I forgot.

Also, if you want to listen to the sermon Peter preached yesterday, you can listen to it here: It's the sermon for 9-12-10.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I'm part of a women's Bible study that meets every other Wednesday night, and right now we're working our way through Daniel. We don't do any written study or anything; we just read a chapter each time we meet and discuss. This week we read Daniel 6, AKA Daniel and the Lion's Den. I grew up with this story. I was the epitome of a Sunday School kid. I love reading Bible stories straight from scripture as an adult, because I see so many things I missed.

Daniel was a man of great character. He was very disciplined. He regularly prayed three times a day, and he fasted and watched what kinds of food he put in his body. He had a great grasp on the fact that no matter what human king was on the throne, God was in charge of all. He seemed to be pretty unshakeable. King Darius says no praying to anyone but him? Daniel goes home and prays to God. Business like clockwork.

There are at least four kings in the book of Daniel. The pattern is like this: king does something stupid, Daniel (or Daniel's friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abegnigo) stick to what he knows God's commands are, God performs miracle, king realizes who the true God is and declares it to the land, king does something stupid and loses the throne. It's not exactly the same for each king, but the point is that Daniel remains consistent. He doesn't pursue a high office; his character and excellence speak for themselves and he ends up in a very high office anyway. In chapter 6 it says that the king's advisers wanted to get rid of Daniel, but they couldn't find any fault in him, so they had to set up a trap using his religion against him. I don't know about you, but I want to be the kind of person who is so in tune with God that my character reflects that. I'd love it if the only way someone could get me in trouble was to make a law specifically targeting my faith.

A few of us commented that we see how obvious it should have been to the kings. Daniel's God is tops. Daniel is the man who is on the right track. Oh...wait...this could apply to our life, too? We should be able to look at the examples in the Bible and some things in our own lives should be pretty obvious? You mean the Bible can apply to us, too? ;)

I don't think I'll ever be at the point where I have faith like Daniel's. But I can do the best that Brenda can do. Faith as big as a mustard seed can move mountains. God seems to do some of his coolest miracles when situations are toughest, when it seems the most hopeless.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Magic of Imagination

When I was a kid, I used to play with my Barbies for hours. I made up stories for them, created lives for them. I used to do the same thing when I was playing in our sandbox (which, by the way, was orange). Using my imagination was second nature. I read books like crazy, and I often stayed up way too late because I was so immersed in the story that I forgot to stop.

These days, it's a lot harder to be imaginative. One of the most challenging classes I've ever taken was Scriptwriting. Creating a story of my own with dialogue? It felt impossible, and though I pulled a decent grade, the play I wrote was pretty disastrous.

The reason I mention all this is because I watched the end of Finding Neverland tonight. It's one of my favorite movies, and one of the few I took a chance on buying before I'd seen it. It's also the one movie I am guaranteed to cry while watching. It's about J. M. (James) Barrie and the family that inspired him to write the play Peter Pan. James meets some young boys playing in the park, and he ends up befriending them. They have all kinds of imaginary adventues, from old west cowboys to pirates. The end of the movie is my favorite. It's opening night of Peter Pan, and amidst this group of serious grownups dressed to the nines are a group of 25 orphans scattered throughout the audience. When the curtain rises and the nanny/dog comes onstage, the begin to children laugh. As the play progresses, the children's ability to use their imagination rubs off on the adults and everyone is entranced with the story of Peter Pan. I get choked up at this part every time.

That's why I love theatre. It touches people in a way that movies and TV don't. You're practically a part of the action. There's no wall between you and the actors. You can't distance yourself the same way. When you're watching a movie at home, you can be on your computer, or you can pause the movie to go get a snack or do a load of laundry. At the theatre, it's like real life. Real people are onstage. The mood is practically tangible. Even in a play that doesn't have fancy sets or costumes, the actors can really pull you in.

I've seen amazing plays at some of the local theatres. I love the sets and costumes. As an actor, those are some of my favorite parts of getting to be onstage. I've also done theatre in some pretty bare bones situations. In college I was in a play where the stage was just the back and front curtains, a table, bench, and some chairs. That was it. And it was a really powerful play. I was also in a play recently where our walls were made of PVC pipe and black fabric. It was still one of the most emotional plays I've ever done.

I love drawing people into an experience. I love it when people are a part of a play that touches them, that changes them. But I also love being a part of a play that's just fun. Sometimes people need a break from their life, time away from their stresses and worries. I love to help them laugh and enjoy themselves for a few hours. I love showing people a different world, a different time or culture. It's so magical. The energy right as the lights start to dim. The excitement right before I walk onto stage. The sounds of a crowd laughing, or seeing people with tears in their eyes at the end of the show. There also something so connecting about sharing that experience. We're not all a bunch of people who are different; we're a group who has shared something. That's so special.

I hope I can act for the rest of my life. When I'm a little old lady I want to be in Arsenic and Old Lace. I want my kids to be able to experience theatre. I know it's not everyone's favorite thing, but I will never stop believing in the magic we can create with our imaginations.

Friday, September 3, 2010

RSS Feed

I'm new to blogging. I've only been reading daily blogs for a month or two. I have friends who update their blogs infrequently, so it wasn't all that hard to keep tabs. If I'm bored or have some time, I just click through my bookmarks.

Well, that won't work so well anymore. I'm starting to follow more blogs, and it's getting harder to stay organized. Behold, the RSS Feed. I've heard that term, and I vaguely knew what it was. I didn't know how to set it up on my Mac, so I used Google. eHow, easy peasy.

I'm excited for this. Probably more excited than I should be. But I love stuff like this. Granted, I'm usually way late in jumping on the wagon, but once I figure stuff out, I'm usually all about it.

Starting when I wake up, I'll be following blogs in a whole new way. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On Being Unemployed

Today I feel pretty unmotivated to find a job. I did spend some time searching, and I responded to a couple of job postings. But I didn't feel excited about any of the jobs. I don't feel excited about working full time. I didn't particularly care for it last time I was working.

I like when I work hard and earn my wages. It feels really good to pay my bills on time with money I earned by working hard. It gives me a sense of purpose, and it gets me out of my apartment and makes me more productive.

I still don't want to work full time. My last job was very stressful. I love kids. I love babies. But working with up to 12 babies a day for eight hours? Not so fun. And my coworkers were nice people, but I had no connection with them. I was very clearly an outsider, even after working there for six months. I hated how alone I felt working in a room with other adults and full of babies. When I got laid off, in addition to the hurt I felt over losing my job abruptly with no time to say goodbye to the families or my coworkers, I was hurt by how little my coworkers cared. I know that they were probably glad they still had jobs, but that's one of the most clear times I can remember when I felt like I did not matter to these people one iota.

So I'm wary about finding another job, because I'm afraid that it will be life-sucking and stressful. I want time to enjoy my passions, like acting. It was hard to work full time and then drive across the cities for a long night of rehearsal. Totally worth it, but hard. And my spiritual life is so much better now than it was when I was working. I look forward to Tuesday services, Sunday services, my small groups. I have more free time, which means feeling less rushed about fitting in time to read my Bible. Plus, I can't describe the peace I feel about my finances. I was constantly worried about having enough money for my bills when I was working 40 hours a week. I was always looking at my calender, figuring out when I would get paid and when certain bills were due, and it was so stressful not knowing if I would have enough money for gas in my car, let alone groceries. I get around half of what I made at my job from unemployment. I've had an odd babysitting job here and there, but nothing steady. And yet my bills are all paid on time. I trust that God will provide somehow. I trust that more now without a job than I did when I had a job.

Whenever I'm talking about my job hunt, I usually get asked what my dream job is. I hate that question, because either of my two life passions are not paths I can take to pay my bills. I want to be a wife and mom who focuses on raising her kids, and I want to be an actor. I am involved with theatre as much as I can be right now, but it certainly doesn't pay, and I don't have the right combination of talent, skill, and marketability to make it in the industry professionally. Which is OK, because I really feel like getting to perform is its own reward. There's nothing like the rush of being backstage, waiting to go on, or the feeling of walking offstage at the end, letting out a big breath, and knowing that you did your best and it was good.

I don't know what will happen next. I don't know how long it will be before I find work, or what kind of job I'll end up getting. Right now, I'm working on figuring out who I am and trying to be the best me I can be. I've been doing a lot of reading, and it feels good to expand my knowledge. I'm learning the lighting at church, and it feels good to learn a new skill in an area of interest. I'm working on crochet and knitting projects that I started in high school. This was not a planned break, but I'm definitely making the most of it so that when I have a job again I'll know who I am and how to stay true to myself.