Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Last week I read this article and sent myself an email reminder to write a blog about depression. So of course I forgot. And then today I was thinking about what I want next week to look like, what I want January to look like, and I started thinking about how I want to interact with my friends right now in light of the depression that's creeping in.

I was diagnosed with major depression in college. It was probably two years of feeling like life was not worth living, of feeling like there was no hope. Getting better and feeling more normal was a long, gradual process. As I look at the past two years, I can see a pattern emerging. Spring turns into summer and I'm enjoying life. I'm involved in activities, I'm seeing my friends on a regular basis, and things are good. Fall rolls around, and I love the cooler weather, the beautiful foliage, the golden sunlight. Once winter starts to set in, though, especially around the time we set our clocks back, I start to love life a little less. It's gradual and in dribs and drabs, but a bad day here and there becomes a bad week, and then I seem to have a bad month or so before spring hits.*

Everyone has good days and bad days. That roller coaster of emotion is just part of being human. When depression starts to set in, it's different. Where once I would wake up in the morning feeling emotionally recharged after a bad day, depression keeps the negative emotions rolling from one day to the next. I don't bounce back very quickly from emotionally difficult or draining situations. I have a much harder time joking with friends, having light conversation. Everything feels heavier. I will probably enjoy myself at events and when I'm with my friends, but often the happiness is gone by the time I reach my car. I feel like crying a lot more for no reason, and even though I can usually hold it in I'll get choked up more frequently. Sometimes my car is the only place I can let it out.

One of the biggest ways depression affects me is how it hits my faith. I constantly wrestle with my faith, whether I am in a season of health or a season of depression. I question, I doubt, I get angry, I long for neat and tidy answers that I can understand. When I am depressed, the joy goes out of my faith. I go through the motions because I know I can't base my faith entirely on my emotions.** I show up at church, I volunteer, I try to still be there for others. Leading is doable but difficult. I walk a very fine line between faking it and being genuine but not negative. It is hard. One thing I have said before is that I cannot hope for myself when it feels like this. I have to rely on my friends to hope and believe for me. That being said, here are things that are helpful for me when depression is dragging me down:***

1. Don't constantly quote scripture or talk about how everything will get better. Some people will disagree, but I find it insincere and grating. I don't need a friend to pull me out of my depression. I need a friend to walk through it with me. For me, that means letting me talk when I need to or not talking at all. I will be less likely to open up if I feel like I'm going to be brushed aside and fed a cliche (no matter how true the cliche may be).

2. Ask how I'm doing (but only if you really want to know). I hate trying to figure out how to be pleasant around people when I'm not doing well. People constantly ask, "How's it going?" but don't want to know if the answer isn't, "Good." I have yet to find a good way to answer vaguely that things could be better without making the entire conversation awkward, and I just hate being insincere and saying everything's fine when it's actually the opposite.

3. Pray for me, but not necessarily with me. I know that prayer is helpful, even when it doesn't feel like it. Sometimes all prayer is to me is knowing that my friends think I'm important enough to bring me up to God. I've found that when I'm feeling really depressed, it is hard and sometimes even painful to hear people speak hope over me. It really depends on the day and setting.

4. Spend time with me doing little things. I'm never one for huge events. It's just not my style. When I'm depressed, my desire to withdraw and become a hermit increases exponentially. A few weeks ago I spend an afternoon with a friend doing nothing. We watched movies, ate snacks, talked, and we made wearing sweatpants a requirement. That is the kind of thing that recharges me. I love going to dinner or coffee one on one, or just watching TV and doing nothing. Low-key things are best, especially since depressions saps my energy even lower than normal.

I don't often talk details about depression. We don't talk much about how we feel in my family, and when it comes to my friends I don't want to be the person who is always dragging things down and becoming a burden. It's tough to find a balance of leaning on friends but not pulling them under. I know that depression comes and goes, and it's just going to be part of my life. I hope that people continue to become educated about mental illness so that there won't be a stigma about it. So many people think they know what it's like and they just don't. If we could just love each other and accept that people need to get help in different ways, that would be a huge step forward.****

*It's so obvious as I write this that I probably have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). My therapist has been encouraging me for the last few winters to invest in a lightbox. Might be time to start saving up. Also, my cousin Rachel typically footnotes her blogs, and I realized that since I tend to be a lengthy aside person, I should totally do it, too.

**I hear repeatedly that faith cannot be based on emotion. I don't entirely agree. I think our emotions are tied to our belief, and if our emotions are constantly being dragged down, it can be really hard to believe things that are opposite of how you feel. I don't think there's any simple answer for how to deal with "desert" times.

***Everyone is different. With all the different personality types and different stages of life, of course depression will look very different for people. This is based on me, personally.

****Some people need medication to feel better. Some people need extensive therapy. No two people are going to respond to treatment the same way, so it's important not to pressure people away from help they need. I've been in regular counseling since late 2007, and it's helped tremendously. I've tried a bunch of different medications, and while none of them worked for me, I know people who felt better just weeks after starting meds.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Spirit

I am firmly in the camp that says Christmas shall not be celebrated before Thanksgiving. Period end of story. In previous years I've carefully pushed away all my friends' premature Christmas cheer. This year, however, the waiting to celebrate has continued.

I'm not sure why I'm not really in the Christmasy mood this year. I helped my mom decorate the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, and I loved seeing all the handmade ornaments. I haven't put up my own tree. It's actually still in the trunk of my car from when I moved in August. I have zero decorations on display in my apartment. And I doubt I'll get anything up before Christmas actually gets here.

Tonight I went shopping for an ugly Christmas sweater. I have a church party next week Friday, and if you know me you know I'm gung-ho when it comes to dressing up. I found an amazing outfit, but I bought some extra things to embellish, like 9 yards of sequins (not an exaggeration). I also found a gift for one of my aunts, and I was happy about that because it's so hard figuring out what to buy for people (except my sister, because I always find about a billion things she'd love).

I think this year Christmas will be less about the outward stuff and more about the little things. I'm excited to give presents to my family. I'm excited to take a whole week off of work and see extended family that I haven't seen since last Christmas. And I am enjoying a little Christmas music now and then. I'm missing my church's big Christmas service because I'll be out of town, and somehow it seems like I'm just missing all the big things I usually do. It's an unintentional change of pace, but I think it might be just what I need right now. This Christmas season I'm focusing on spending time with my friends and family and enjoying the freakishly warm weather.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Tonight I went to a worship night at church. It was still going when I left, because my attention span starts to short out after an hour or so, but it was really nice to just forget everything else that's going on. A lot of times on Sundays I'm volunteering, so it's times like tonight when I can just focus on God and really immerse myself in the worship.

It was foggy as I drove home. I recalled hearing that there was a fog advisory on the radio, and as I drove down the road, there were thick patches of fog and then patches where it was clear except for a haze around the street and traffic lights. As I drove across high places, I could see the fog gathering in low spots. And I thought how lovely the fog is, how mysterious, how quiet. I remember once in high school there was such thick fog that you could barely see the building from the student parking lot. Everything sounds different when it's foggy, everything looks softer because of the blurry edges. I have tried once or twice to paint fog, but it eludes me.

I think fog is a pretty good representation of the presence of the Lord. Sometimes it's thick and practically tangible, sometimes you can't feel it around you but you think you see it far off. Sometimes you notice a haze of it as your gaze wanders. It's not a perfect metaphor, but drifting through the mysterious fog reminded me of the wonderful mysteries of God's presence.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Definitions and Memories

Last night I was given the (optional) task by my counselor to writing about the topic of feeling like nothing. Vague, broad, and open to my interpretation. So I've been musing over what feelings I associate with the times I have felt like nothing. The words that come to mind first are embarrassed, ashamed, humiliated, and rejected. Not fun words.

I like to be correct in my language usage. Well, most of the time, anyway. I like to use the exact right word, and I have been known to use a thesaurus while writing in my private journal so that I could be very precise with expressing how I felt. I realized that while we often will ask people to share a time they were embarrassed, we don't usually ask for a story about when someone was humiliated. I decided to look up the definitions to see what nuanced differences there were.

According to, "embarrass" has a few meanings, the one I think most common is "to make uncomfortably self-conscious." "Humiliate" means "to cause (a person) a painful loss of pride, self-respect, or  dignity."

Whenever I'm asked to recount an embarrassing story, I struggle to remember something. It's not that I haven't been embarrassed, it's just that in the grand scheme of things, they don't stick out. However, I can remember in painful detail times when I felt humiliated. I don't mind the times I've blurted out stupid things or when a friend teases me and I know they're only teasing. I don't even mind the time I threw up all over the floor in college in front of someone right outside our classroom. People understand that. People understand that sometimes things aren't in your control. The things that hurt? It's the times when I felt people were judging me and finding me "less-than." It's those times, when you feel like people are laughing behind your back, when people look down on you, that are the ones that you remember. And you remember the feelings that go with it.

I don't really have a point to this, I guess. Just thinking about how it's the things where you felt strong emotions that you remember the most. Unfortunately for me, it tends to be the negative emotional events that I remember with more frequency than the positive things. So I make it a point to remind myself about the people who care about me, about the nights when I'm up late with friends laughing so hard I can't breathe. At this point in my life, I've reached a period of stability. Now I want to work on those deep, icky things that were too hard to work on when just everyday stuff felt hard. It's not fun to dredge through that stuff, but I think it's really important to deal with your baggage so that it doesn't follow you around your whole life.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why arguing is never going to save someone

I am an external processor. I think best when I'm talking, which means that more often than is probably acceptable to admit, I end up talking to myself. I can make better sense of my thoughts when I say them out loud. Sometimes that makes journaling or blogging hard, because I can't organize my thoughts as well if I don't talk it out, but once I talk it out, I don't feel the need to write things down as much. Tonight I had a great conversation with a friend, and I wanted to write down some of the thoughts that came out.

I'm not sure it would be entirely accurate to call me a skeptic. I think it would be more fair to say that while I do have some firm beliefs, I also have a lot of questions. I used to feel really frustrated and sometimes guilty that I had all these questions but no satisfactory answers. Lately I've come to a place of being at peace even when I don't have the concrete answers I'd like.

Tonight I went with a few friends to a showing of a documentary called "Hellbound?" It was basically a look at some of the different schools of thought on hell. Three main schools of thought were shared: eternal torment, annihilation, and universalism, although annihilation was touched upon only briefly. I found it fascinating to watch people talk about their different views, the different ways the Church has viewed hell throughout history, and the different cultural and political aspects of power. It was a well-filmed documentary, and I think it's a great conversation starter. Here are some of my thoughts after watching the documentary and a Q & A with the director (Kevin Miller) and one of the interviewees (Greg Boyd).

I kept thinking about how my pastor quotes a verse from Romans 2 about how it is kindness that leads to repentance. People don't change their lives because someone tells them how horrible they are. I know that some people will pray for salvation out of fear, but I don't think true transformation occurs when people are just looking for fire insurance (a safeguard against hell).

There are so many things I don't know. When I was younger, it really freaked me out when my black and white world started to crumble. In college my experience of the world didn't line up with some of the things I'd always believed, and it created great cognitive dissonance. I didn't know how to believe that God loved me and had a plan for me when life was so hard, so painful. I had so many questions and no answers, and I felt guilty that I even had questions.

Over the last year, and particularly the last six months, my faith has matured and deepened, and I think that is in large part due to a shift in how I view the questions I have. I feel free to ask questions and admit that maybe I'm wrong. I used to think that if a non-Christian friend asked me a tough question and I didn't have a definitive answer, it would turn them away from God and it would be my fault if they went to hell. I used to get genuinely panicked at the thought of trying to save all my friends and family from hell, because if it was real and it was awful, I had to save them, and of course it was my job to save them. All I knew how to do was argue that I was right about heaven and Jesus. But arguments don't save people. Judging people doesn't save them. Why would they want to enter into a religion that is largely known for judging and condemning people?

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with everything you have and to love your neighbor. If I think about that in the big picture, I feel so free. All I have to do is love Jesus the best way I know how, to learn and grow and seek him, and then love the people around me. Treat them kindly; offer them help and support. Really, if all Christians stopped fighting about the details and just started loving people, don't you think the world would be a different place? When I think about the hot-button sin topics of today, I wonder if those are really the things that matter. If we stopped looking at certain sins like we're looking through a telescope and instead took a step back and looked for ways to love each other, wouldn't that be an amazing place to live? I'm not perfect. Far from it. And even though I've grown a lot, I'm never going to achieve perfection. So why do I expect other people to achieve something that I can't? Why is there an expectation of instant perfection instead of valuing the process and journey? Maybe it's enough if someone loves Jesus and tries their best to follow Him. We're never going to agree on the perfect list of things you have to do and say or not do or say in order to get to heaven, because that's not how grace works. If we're all works in progress, why don't we stop nitpicking the journey some people end up taking as long as they're walking towards Jesus? Maybe if we walked with them for a bit, we'd see how hard their walk is and appreciate that they're doing their best.

I have discovered that I love reading Rachel Held Evans' blog ( Some of the things she writes or links to are uncomfortable. I don't agree with everything. But she's not afraid to ask tough questions, to ask that we read the Bible for what it is, not what we want it to be. Even when her views seem controversial against the mostly conservative views with which I'm accustomed, she treats people with dignity and respect. The comments from her readers spark discussion and thought, and I've learned that I do not have to agree with every point of a person's theology in order to respect them as a human being. I don't have to be definitively right about everything. When I enter into a conversation and I'm not put on the defensive right away, there is room for me to truly listen and reflect. Reading opinions that differ from mine has helped me to explore if my beliefs are based on things I've been told to believe or things I've read and discerned for myself. I actually found myself feeling more respected and elevated as a woman and as a person after I allowed myself to discard some beliefs I'd had simply because that's all I knew growing up.

I hope that I continue to ponder some of the questions and issues that have popped up lately. I want to be open to the possibility that other people might have insight where I do not, and I want to continue to learn to love people whether they agree with me or not. If I really trust God, then I want to trust that He is in control and doesn't need me to run the world for Him.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Move in together? Here's why I say no.

I don't think people should live together before they get married. Yes, my first reason is because of my faith, but after that comes a slew of statistics about why living together before marriage really isn't the great idea we're lead to believe it is.

A recent example from my life: I've been staying with various friends since I had a bed bug scare, and one of them told me the futon on her porch was already made up because a friend had gone through a bad breakup and needed a place to stay. I found out that I knew this friend, and it's the sort of thing where they really should have broken up a few years ago, but it wasn't financially possible because at the time one of them was a freelancer and wasn't making a lot of money. She stayed in a relationship largely because she couldn't move out.

People will make whatever choices they want, and that's their right. Someone I care a lot about recently made the decision to move in with the significant other, and I'm not happy about it. I still love that person and won't behave any differently, but it makes me sad that people don't know the facts. Moving in will not fix a relationship. It won't change the problems. And the statistics show that it's not beneficial in the long run (higher chance of domestic abuse, less satisfaction sexually, among other things).

Maybe you're not religious at all. I don't expect the fact that it's not God's ideal to mean anything to you if you don't follow God. I would just say to do some research. Check out some studies and educate yourself. Popular society (media, especially) is wrong.

(I'm not looking at any stats as I write this, but I've seen them footnoted in a book I read recently. If you're interested in more info, I can dig out the book and look up the info.)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

God's Math

I grew up tithing all the money I got. When I was little and got 50 cents for an allowance, a nickel went into my Sunday School offering. Tithing was just something you did, no questions asked. Christmas money, allowance, job money, whatever it was, 10% went to church. When I got to college, I stopped having steady income. I didn't work my first few semesters of college, and I didn't have a church home. So the tithing stopped.

I started tithing again after college. I actually hadn't found a church yet, but I was out of a job and money was tight, and I just remembered all I had been taught about money and how it was God's in the first place, so I gave to various charities. Once I found Substance (my current church which I love dearly), I began tithing there. One summer we had a sermon series call The Blessed Life, and I felt like 10% was great, but that was a baseline, and I wanted to do more than the minimum, so I upped my regular giving.

Money is something that can bring up all sorts of feelings in people. Talking about it in church can be really uncomfortable. It's rather taboo to talk about how much money you make, or to mention how much something expensive cost (totally OK to talk about what a bargain you scored, though). I most often refer to money in a "I'm broke until my next paycheck" sort of way.

Over the past few years, I've have ups and downs financially. I've tried to budget, I've saved money, I've spent money. I actually gave up on a formal budget because I could never make the numbers work. I'm moving at the end of the month, and as I was searching for an apartment, I was worried about money. My car broke down, and I had to spend some money to get it fixed. I didn't have enough money saved to for a deposit, but I had to find a place to live. I looked at my income, I looked at when bills were due, and I just couldn't figure out how I would have enough to pay for a deposit. The week I put my cash savings into my checking account so I could send in my deposit I was entirely unsure how I was going to pay for food and gas the next few weeks. But I trusted God. I did my best not to worry, and I read passages in the Bible like Matthew 6 where Jesus talks about not worrying because God knows our needs and cares about us.

Money is still tight. I don't make a lot of money, and I have a small amount of debt that's taking me awhile to pay off (student loans and hospital bills). But it works out. I re-looked at my bill due dates and when my paydays were, and it worked. As of this blog I have around 50 cents in my checking account, and I will get paid tomorrow and be able to pay all the bills that are due. At Substance we talk about how tithing is the believe that when we give God 10%, he enables us to do more with 90% than we would have been able to do with all 100%. I thought about not tithing even one paycheck, because that would have really eased the strain. But I held fast to the promise that God knows my needs. I honestly can't explain how it all worked out. I'm really good at math, so it's not like I added things wrong the first time. I didn't suddenly receive money from a relative or friend. It just worked out.

Today Pastor Bart shared about how there is a difference between head knowledge and experiential knowledge. You can know in your head that God provides, but when you start to experience it you gain confidence. I have been through bouts of unemployment. I have had car repairs pop up. I have given large sums of money away outside of my regular giving. And God has always provided. When my car broke down and God provided someone to fix it, that gave me confidence that he would also provide a great apartment in my price range. And the apartment I found is actually less per month than what I've been paying, and the apartment is bigger.

There are some things I just can't explain. All I know is that God really does provide.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Car Troubles and Answered Prayer

I'm not someone who has had lots of moments when I can say "That was an answered prayer." Maybe I'm just not very observant, or maybe I just don't pray for big things that only God can do. But last week, I totally had a prayer answered in a big way.

Tuesday night I was scheduled to run the lighting for Deeper, our Tuesday night service at church. It was insanely hot, so I was ready to sweat it out on the drive there and then sit in air conditioning for a few hours. As I was driving, my radio started to turn on and off, and I thought maybe it was so hot that it was affecting the electronics. Then I realized that my turn signals weren't working, and that's kind of a problem. I made it to the stop light that's one block from our building, and my car died. Nothing happened when I tried to turn the key.

I immediately called my friend Mia. I thought she might already be at the OC, but even if she wasn't, she's told me in the past that if I ever break down she has a big network of people. Mia and her dad Bob pulled up to my car, and we managed to use jumper cables to get my car going long enough to pull into the church parking lot. My car died again as I was coasting into the parking space.

When Mia asked me what I wanted to do next, I just said "I don't know." After an hour of sitting outside stuck with my car, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I went inside to see if Andrea had been able to find someone else to run lighting. They had it covered, and Andrea and Josh said they'd help any way they could. Andrea suggested that she take me home and I get some sleep, waiting to deal with the problem until the next morning. I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea, so she drove me home.

After I got home, I let myself cry. I was super focused and fairly calm while everything was happening because I knew that getting upset in that moment wouldn't do any good. I knew that as long as I let my emotions out later that night that it was OK to stuff them down temporarily. I spent some time reading the passage in Matthew where Jesus talks about God providing for even the birds, and how much more valuable we are than the birds. I did my best to stay calm and just trust that God would provice, and then I posted on my church's Facebook group wall asking if anyone was able to help me get my car fixed. A few hours later, a guy I'd never met posted his contact info saying he might be able to help.

Wednesday afternoon I called Cory, and he seemed pretty confident that he'd be able to help. He's not a mechanic, but he knows a fair amount about cars. He said he could look at my car while I was at work on Thursday since he didn't have to work until Friday, and he even offered to come to my office to pick up the keys. I was able to leave a key for him Wednesday night, and Thursday I waited with anticipation to hear if he thought he'd be able to fix it. At about 4pm, I got a phone call saying my car was fixed and I was all set. Cory and his brother even drove my car to my office and dropped it off for me. My car had a new alternator and a new battery, and Cory didn't want me to pay for anything other than the cost of the parts.

I was so blessed that a stranger would go to such lengths to help me out. It made me a little sad thinking of all the people who are without a community like the one I have at Substance. I was pretty excited to tell everyone what an answer to prayer my fixed car was. I thought about how God answered my prayer by using a person with a skill who was willing to be used. I think sometimes people have the idea that you have to have an amazing spiritual gift to really bless someone, but I think sometimes it's the practical skills that can bless someone the most. Yes, I loved the friends who prayed for me, but it was a guy with some tools who came through in the end.

I wanted to write this post to share about my excitement for this blessing, but also to remind myself that God is faithful. Just last night I was on my way somewhere and the pipe to my muffler broke. After I walked to Target to buy a coat hanger to rig it so the pipe wouldn't drag on the group, I was on the ground getting dirty in the parking lot of Caribou when the other end of the pipe broke off. In that moment I was so frustrated, so stressed out, but I wanted to trust that God would take care of my needs. Once again I did my best to stay calm and deal with the situation at hand. I got in touch with an uncle of mine who's a mechanic, and I got the go-ahead to drive (it wouldn't damage my car, just be insanely loud). I'm thankful that I was able to drive to and from work today, and that I'll be able to drive to my apartment showings tomorrow. Yes, it's a little embarrassing to have such a ghetto-sounding car, but I just try to remember that it is OK that I don't have a plan. It's OK that I don't know when I'll be able to afford to fix the pipe or get a new, more reliable car. If God never changes, and his promises are true, then the promise he made to take care of me still applies.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

When God Affirms Your Internal Call

Today has been a crazy series of events that led to a crazy God confirmation in my life. As I think about my day, it's so clear that none of it is coincidence.

I volunteer a lot at my church. I lead a parking team, which serves every third week, and I'm also a lighting volunteer every third week. Today was one of the days when I wasn't volunteering, and I decided to try something a little different. The campus where I usually attend had to switch locations for the late service, so I though I'd sleep in and visit the SLP campus, where I'd never been. I also thought it would be neat to check out the lighting booth, since SLP is the only campus at which I have not run lighting.

It felt a little funny to have the visitor jitters going to my own church, but everyone at SLP was so nice. The service was great, and a friend steered me in the direction of the staircase to the media booth (thanks, Dale!). Will and Josh gave the grand tour, and then they asked if I was attending the Intern Q & A tonight. I hadn't even known about the Q & A, but since I had no interest in being an intern, I declined. Without being obnoxiously pushy, Will and Josh both encouraged me to come anyway, because at least it was free food. I said I probably wouldn't, then headed home, but the idea stuck with me. I actually had two other friends tell me I should go, so I decided that if nothing else, I'd get to support my media intern friends.

The Q & A was about as I expected it to be. Honestly, as I listened, I knew that there was no way I was going to apply for an internship. Besides a bunch of logistical reasons, I knew my heart wasn't in the right place, and I definitely wouldn't want to waste time and resources and commit to something so big if I didn't mean it. I actually spent part of my afternoon rehearsing the bullet points of why I wasn't going to apply so that I wouldn't freeze in conversation when I was inevitably asked about applying. After the Q & A officially ended, I hung around and talked with a few people. I talked to Josh about why I wasn't applying, and then I talked to Tabi. While I talked to Tabi, I got to talk about all the things I love about where I'm at right now. I love being a part of my parking team. I love running the lighting. I've especially loved running the lighting for The Well (our women's ministry) the last few months, because I've really gotten to be creative and do things without a lot of restrictions.

I have had quite a few people tell me they think I should do X or that I'd be good at Z. And mostly I've found it frustrating because I feel like they're pushing me in a direction I'm not comfortable with. As I talked with Tabi and explained lots of the reasons about why I don't want to change what I'm doing now, she affirmed that there was a lot of wisdom in knowing myself well enough to say no to certain things. Having someone finally listen to the things I've been thinking about a lot over the past several months was such a relief. As I walked back to my car, I felt so light. I started to cry on my way home, because I felt like God was telling me that right now I am in a season of rest, restoration, and celebration and that it's OK to not take on anything else right now. I also felt, for the first time, like maybe it's OK that other people see something in me that I don't, because that's something that will happen in the future. I'm even a little excited at the thought that maybe down the line God has something big for me, whereas before I'd just feel scared and anxious. I think God affirmed that for now, I'm correct with my internal call of supporting those around me and serving as I have been, but the external call I've been getting from others isn't wrong, either. It's just not now. I have felt such tension over the difference between what I feel I'm called to do (internal call), and what others have been telling me they think I should do (external call). Pastor Peter even preached about internal and external calling this morning.

I want to remember today. I want to remember how I drove home and felt like God was telling me that He knows I've been through a lot, and it's OK to enjoy a time of peace and stability. I want to remember how I felt something stir within me at the idea of serving on a larger scale, even though I knew I'm not at the point yet. I want to remember how people encouraged me, told me things that made me feel valued and loved. And I want to remember how blessed I am to have such wonderful friends and a wonderful church. Three and a half years ago I was in a hospital because I was suicidal. Now I can't believe (in a good way) that this is my life. Today is a day to remember God's faithfulness. I'm so thankful.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fear vs. Love

I struggle to love people. Let me clarify: I struggle to love people who are different from me. I struggle to love people who I perceive are more holy, prettier, more accepting, or just all around better than me. I struggle to love people who I perceive are less holy, less smart, less considerate, or less well off financially than I am. Sometimes, when I allow myself to acknowledge these flaws, I really hate myself. Because I know that's wrong.

Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. And I think the problem I have adhering to that idea is that I don't love myself very much, so I feel like I have to fight to be loved. I judge myself very harshly, so I tend to judge others pretty harshly as well. That also means I constantly assume I am the recipient of other's judgment. I worry that they're judging how I look, what I eat, if I'm funny, if I'm attractive. I worry that they talk about me behind my back, that they secretly only tolerate me. That last one is less of a concern now, but that was one of my biggest fears in high school.

In high school I was part of the Drama Club group, but I always felt like I was on the outer edge. I had two amazing friends with whom I felt I could be myself, but when I was around the rest of the group I felt like I had to be perfect. That was largely due to the fact that I heard how vicious they were about some other people, and I feared that any show of how I really felt would result in being ostracized.

In junior high I was still homeschooled, but I experienced a similar thing at youth group. I remember one girl in particular that everyone made fun of. She was never really accepted. And it's not that she ever did anything; people just didn't like her. I was always super uncomfortable with how people treated her, but I was terrified of being rejected by the only friends I had, so I just kept quiet. There have been times when, as an adult, I think of that girl and wonder what happened to her. I wonder how her life has been. I weep for the mistakes I've made, for how awful she must have felt, and I pray that God shows her some amazing love.

All of this is to say that fear is very powerful. Fear has kept me quiet when I should have spoken up. Fear has kept me from telling people the truth about what's going on in my life. Fear keeps me trying to push certain people down so I can feel superior. Fear keeps me desperately trying to be deserving of God's love. When I hear how someone has made a mistake in their life, I'm relieved that the spotlight is off of me, and I feel superior that I'm doing better. Because if I'm better, I'm more deserving of love. I sense that there is an attitude of, "If I can reject that group/person first by making them feel inferior, then they can't reject me and make me feel inferior." I grieve for the people who live life constantly on the defense.

The Bible says that perfect love casts out fear. When you love someone, when you understand then, it's harder to be afraid of them. There are a few patients at work that I was wary of at first because they are different, but now that I've interacted with them a few times, I find them interesting, and I enjoy when they come in.

I hope that I can learn to love instead of being afraid. I hope that I can learn to appreciate who I am and in turn appreciate the uniqueness of others. I hope that I can learn to speak up for myself or others without fear of the consequences. I hope that I can start to live the faith I've claimed since I was a child. I still think there is right and there is wrong, but instead of using that as a weapon against others, I want to extend love and kindness. I want others to be loved whether or not I think their actions are right.

Fear has dictated so much of my life. I read recently that man's greatest fear is that God will abandon him, even though throughout history God's people were the one to abandon God. That's my greatest fear. I hope that as I continue to spend time with friends who love me, who encourage me, that I will begin to release fear and embrace love. Maybe it doesn't matter if God loves me if I won't accept that and choose not to fear. I'm not sure how to do that, but I'm working on it. Being a part of such a wonderful church community has certainly helped. I have never had anyone reject me when I've shared part of my story. I still tend to hold part of myself back out of fear, but I truly believe in the heart of my church.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why the Bible is like Physics

Sometimes similes pop into my head. Yes, they are usually after I've been talking aloud to myself. Yes, I like to blog about them because it makes me feel smart and insightful. Yes, I wrote a first draft that was long and drawn out, and yes, I started sounding very pretentious.

Then I realized that I don't have to write every idea I have on the subject into one blog post. A simple explanation will suffice.

I really love math. I enjoyed my various math classes in high school, and I've always done very well in math. I did not, however, find physics enjoyable. Sure, we did some fun experiments. But translating that data into a set of findings, or working through a set of word problems? Not a fan.

Sometimes the Bible is like that when I read it. There are parts that are so clear, like Algebra. X=5, do not murder. Easy peasy. Then there are parts that seem simple, but take more work. Love your neighbor. OK, who's my neighbor? How do I love them? Do I love all my neighbors in the same way? Do I show that love in the same way for each neighbor?

When my physics teacher sat down with me and helped me through the word problems, suddenly it was much easier. When I talk about a chapter of the Bible with my friends, it's much easier to point out the wisdom and how it can apply to our lives.

Moral of the blog post? Talking it over with someone can help it be easier to understand. And pretentious posts, while great for using big words, are not the most clear way to share something.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days. (
It's hard for me to visit my family without feeling at least a little nostalgia. I thought about this last night while I was in the car with my parents. We were on our way to a diner, and we were taking what I would consider to be the back route. It was dark, and there wasn't much traffic. My dad turned on the radio and we listened to The Prairie Home Companion, laughing together at the stories. It reminded me of other times we've traveled while listening to that show, usually coming home from visiting my grandparents. It's a familiar feeling, a safe feeling.
Sometimes I stop to think why I yearn so much for times in the past. My cousin Rachel wrote a blog about letting go of college, and I think she summed up that situation beautifully: "But living in the same rhythms, existing in the same place, this made understanding happen much more effortlessly than I think it does in the real world. " I miss being at the same stage of life as the people around me. That's why I miss college, even though anyone who knew me then knows that the end of my college years was pretty horrible for a number of reasons. That's why I miss high school, even though I often felt lonely and like I didn't quite fit in.
I think another part of nostalgia is that I know what life had in store for me at a point in the past. If I miss high school, part of what I miss is not being faced with adult responsibilities. Same goes for college. I have to plan things now that I didn't back then: save money for a new car when my current one breaks down, save money for the taxes I owe, save money in case I lose my job and am unemployed. I have to plan for emergencies now, and that makes me uneasy, because I don't like not being in control or not knowing what could happen.
The more I focus on trusting God, on enjoying the people who are around me, the more I am able to put aside my worries and be content. When I find myself longing for security, I remind myself that God is in control no matter what comes my way. When I find myself missing the rhythms of life in school, I try to remind myself that life was not perfect then, and I have some wonderful friends right now.
So I'll enjoy the time with my family. I'll enjoy the reminders of our shared history. But then I'll go back home and attempt to enjoy my life as it is now. I will see people I love, I will laugh with my friends, and I will do my best to remember that God is in control. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Search and Replace

When I think of search and replace, I think of The Office. There's an episode where Michael is out of the office and everyone else is reading through a script that Michael wrote. The main sidekick's name was originally Dwight, but Michael changed it. Unfortunately, search and replace only replaces words spelled correctly.

I bring this up because I think fasting is a little bit like search and replace. My church is getting ready to be a part of a 21 day fast, and I've overheard lots of people talking about what they're going to fast. Some people are going to skip a certain kind of food (like coffee or sweets), some will fast a meal or two, some will fast some sort of media (like Facebook). What I haven't heard people talking about as much is how they plan to use that time.

I've always understood fasting to be about eliminating something and using the time you would have spent on that in prayer and meditation or Bible reading. If I stop eating for three weeks, but spend zero time praying or reading my Bible, then I don't think that really counts in terms a spiritual fast. This is the part that's most difficult for me when it comes to fasting. It's certainly not easy to choose to skip meals, but it's even harder for me to deliberately set aside that time instead of having it run into all my other time. It's much easier to skip breakfast and sleep in for an extra 10 minutes. I'm also the type of person who is usually doing something while I eat, so I don't even have time set aside for that on its own on an ordinary day.

I wonder if fasting isn't so much about giving something up as it is making time to focus on God. I think removing something can help create that space, but it's only part of the equation. It will be interesting to see how the next several weeks play out, both in my life and at church.