Thursday Thoughts

I started watching Self Made this week. It’s a Netflix series on the story of Madam C.J. Walker, the first African-American self made millionaire. I’m enjoying it, but it’s a bit feminist, even for me. (some of y’all might be surprised by that:)

I really can’t offer a synopsis of the whole thing because I’m just starting it, but so far, I can say it’s an inspiring watch.
But, I am picking up on little pieces of the story that I’m not comfortable with. Specifically, things within relationships. Things that just don’t sit right with me.

Which leads me to what I really want to talk about:
Relationships.
And consequently,
Shame.

(Maybe more on feminism later – my interest has been piqued! Someday I’ll learn more about what feminism is and where I find myself…
but that’s another journey for another day.)

On to relationships and shame.

To illustrate, here’s something I wrote the other day.

I do this thing
where I give
little
bits
and
pieces
of my heart
away.
And then I get all melancholy about it.
Why?
The longings are real.
Longings for
companionship
admiration
protection
acceptance
love.
The longings are strong.
And so is the shame.
Why do these natural desires come loaded with shame?
Somewhere, somehow, I’ve bought into a lie.
A lie that tells me I shouldn’t need these things
and therefore,
shouldn’t want them.
That I should be enough on my own.
Strong
independent
single.
Somehow,
sometime,
I believed that I can’t be
strong
independent
single
AND want love.
And that’s a lie.

I’ve realized that I’ve allowed a lot of shame to surround my longings regarding a relationship. Why? We know we’re relational beings. God is relational. I’m created in his image. Of course I need relationships.

But somehow, when I want A Relationship (which is also natural and God instigated), I tell myself I shouldn’t.

So maybe this is just me,
reminding myself,
that shame has no place.

and maybe,
when shame is removed,
the truth in my head will finally find a home in my heart.

Grateful

Not sure that I would recommend travelling for the whole week before your semester starts, ending your travels with a beautiful but exhausting music weekend, and then returning the evening before your first class.

However, if you choose to do those exact things, you will be ok. I promise.

Just be aware that you will face significant stress and torrents of emotions.
But I repeat, you will be ok.

Edited to add:
And, the beautiful but exhausting music weekend will be well worth the emotional torrents that may follow. They always are. ♥️

As I head into my second semester, despite its rocky beginning, I can’t help but smile. I’ve pondered how I feel about this season of life various times over the past months, and the only word I can come up with is gratitude.

I started college this fall with much fear and trembling. This little homeschooled girl had no idea what she was doing.

But, as I soon discovered, I LOVE COLLEGE.

I love learning. I love all the questions that may or may not have answers. I love meeting people who are unlike me. I love reading textbooks and typing notes, and studying for exams. I don’t love writing papers, but I think I might eventually.

A couple weeks in, I started thinking that surely this is just some beginner’s excitement that won’t last very long. Surely I’m going to hit a rough patch somewhere and end up hating school.
Well, I finished one semester and am starting another, and I still love school.

It is so good to be enjoying life. And all I can say is that I am grateful.

God is good. and trustworthy. and faithful.
All things that I’ve known in my head, but haven’t always known in my heart.

Some of you know the years of angst and waiting and confusion I’ve experienced. You don’t have to read very far back on this blog to find moanings from those long, hard days.

I’ve been there. And I got good at writing about the painful stuff. I found comfort in expressing the confusion and knowing I was not alone.

But I’m not in that darkness anymore.

Right here, right now, God has me in a good place. Not a perfect place, but a good place. A place of light, and fulfillment, and happiness, and growth. And I’m now learning to write about that too.

God is good. and trustworthy. and faithful.
All things that I’m learning to know in my heart.

Single and Worshiping

Sometimes I like being single. Sometimes I love it. And sometimes I think eh, maybe this isn’t for me. 🙂

This morning, as I was feeling “considerably rumpled up in spirit” about the whole thing, God came through, like He’s known to do. 

I read Hebrews 12:18-28, a passage that seemed brand new to me. (But could I really be 22 and never have read the end of Hebrews 12??) Either way, it was very timely.

Here’s my paraphrase of what the NIV says.

“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched.

You have not come to a mountain that is burning with fire. 

You have not come to darkness, gloom, and storm. 

You have not come to a trumpet blast, or a voice so ferocious and commanding that those who heard it begged for it to stop.

Rather,

you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.

You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly. 

You have come to the church of JESUS, whose names are written in heaven. 

You have come to God, the Judge, and to Jesus the mediator. 

See to it that you do not refuse Him. 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that CANNOT BE SHAKEN, let us be thankful, and worship God with reverence and awe.”

Talk about a perspective shift.

My relationship status really is not the point; my worship of Him is. 

Stories

We love stories, don’t we. Heroic tales of love and loss, of tragedy and hope, of wandering and homecoming. We love happy endings.

But why do only some stories get told? We like to hear the story of the girl who loved a boy who thought he loved someone else. but she waited and prayed and grew and eventually the boy woke up one day and realized he loved her, not someone else.

But what about the girl who loved a boy who thought he loved someone else. and she waited and prayed and grew and trusted – for years. but the boy decided he really did love the someone else, and the girl was left with an aching heart and smothered dreams.

We love to hear of the woman who couldn’t conceive so she adopted and fell in love with a child who was hers by choice, not blood.

But what of the one who couldn’t conceive, and didn’t have the money to adopt? Or the one who did adopt but still wept over not being able to birth her own?

Recently I listened to Jackie Hill Perry and her husband tell their love story, and I was really impacted by it. It’s a beautiful story of God’s leading, and the way Jackie and Preston tell it is so practical. (Listen to it here on the 30 min with the Perrys podcast)

But when I think about my “love story” (which is much too recent/current/potentially incomplete to tell – give me five or ten years) it feels like a nightmare.

What I’m trying to get at is, what if we told the hard stories? What if we told the sad, the incomplete, the losses, the breakups… and I know they’re incredibly hard – but what if we could find beauty in them?

Not just beauty for ashes, but beauty in the ashes.

What do you think? Is this possible? What stories would you like to tell or hear?

Follow ?

follow

Follow your heart God.

Honestly, right now my heart would lead me…

To Arkansas. And to Malaysia. Oh, and to Kitchener and New York City and Iraq.

But also it would tell me that I should stay right here. with my family. And my dear church family. How would I live without them??

So, following my heart would be… confusing. My heart doesn’t know what’s best.

But following God… ah, now that isn’t confusing at all! (eye roll!) I wish.

It is confusing, let’s admit it. Learning to hear his voice is HARD.

but belief. Belief steps in yet again.

Learning to believe that

He is good.

And that He knows what is good – for me.

May I always be enrolled in the school of learning to believe that.

even if it takes the rest of my life.

Amen.

People Come and People Go…

Almost a whole year ago, I wrote a post called The Soundtrack of My Mind, which you can read here, if you wish. At the end of that post I wrote about looking back.

Which is what I’m doing today. Looking back to a year ago, a week ago, 3 hours ago… And although I can’t see everything yet, I see a little tiny piece more than I did a year ago. Or a week ago, or even 3 hours ago.

Comparing this week to this week a year ago… the only word I can come up with is gratitude. Gratitude that I am here, not there. That it is today. That I am experiencing love and friendship again. That each time I look back I can see that trust and belief have grown just a teeny bit more.

 

People come and people go, and why that is I do not know…

I met some beautiful people this week. They walked into my life, we laughed and talked and sang and shared together, they left their fingerprints on my heart…

and now they’re gone.

And while I am sad about that… I can’t be just sad.

Because something about this feels familiar. It’s like the music we were singing all week. The notes didn’t last forever. Lots of them were short little notes. Some were long, held out notes. Some staccato, some fermatas. But all joined together they made quite a beautiful sound.

Just like the beautiful people I met this week. Some relationships won’t last. But maybe some will.

Either way, they will all be part of this beautiful, mysterious piece called life.

 

 

A Teeny Picture of What Heaven Looks Like in My Mind

I know… it’s an awkward title. Oh well.

Ok, so. Heaven.

I’m looking forward to it.

Lots of things about it.

Big, spiritual/emotional things. Like feeling loved all the time. And never, never being lonely. And always being understood. And being able to love and love and love and never get hurt.

But also physical things.

And one of those physical things, is sound. Tonight I’m thinking about sound.

Mostly music.

I imagine the music in heaven to be the hugest most fuerte choir possible. With like 800 people. Cause why not? And every single one of them will have a strong enough voice to carry their part on their own. Oh, and maybe they’ll sing like 100 part songs. I mean, there could be a whole dimension of music that we don’t even have here on earth.        

But that’s getting crazy. Which is definitely ok when talking about heaven.

Also, I think about just me. Me, and music, and God.

I imagine suddenly being kindof separated from the choir, and it’s just me and God. And Jesus. And maybe even the Holy Spirit? Although I’m not sure how he looks.

But I have this song that I sing to God. To them.

And I can sing high Ds and Es. In my chest voice. This is not sweetly singing – nope, these notes are being belted. No problemo. 

And there’s no one around, to say that I’m not doing it right, or to say that I’m showing off and not worshiping, or to say that I’m not allowed to sing big elaborate solos and count them as worship.

Cause when it’s just me and Them… well, it can be.

Oh and the words of the song… they don’t really matter. Maybe there won’t even be any words.

Just the huge, belted notes themselves will be enough.

And, for now, that is just the biggest picture of personal worship that I can come up with, and, well, I’m excited.

What do you imagine about heaven?

Birth Day

A year ago today, I woke up to cuetes going off and a loud birthday song playing outside my window.

A year ago today, I spent the day running away from kids who wanted to throw water on me.

A year ago today, I had a big birthday cake with fresh hibiscus flowers on it.

img_4735.jpg

A year ago today, I was trying not to be homesick.

A year ago today, I got over a hundred birthday messages – between Facebook, emails, messages, etc… later I found out my daddy had made an announcement at church the day before that it was my birthday and that I would appreciate some birthday love. (one of the sweetest, most meaningful things he’s ever done for me.)

A year ago, I was trying to write a year recap, because it felt like 18 was a really big, hard year and needed to be written about. That blog post was never finished. And I had no idea what 19 would bring…

19 brought the deepest sorrows of my life so far – without the deepest joys. (It seems like those are typically supposed to go together…?) Maybe the joys will come at 20.

19 brought the most heartbreak.

19 found any faith I had, crumbled to dust.

My prayer for 20 is that rebuilding could continue. That trust and faith could grow again, on a real, strong foundation this time. That there would be more joy and less pain – but not no pain.

That I would come to love this God who I’m only beginning to discover.

The Story of My Cross

I want to share a happening from today in a blog post, and I’m rather excited about this one. Let me tell you why.

I feel like my blog has some dark, dreary, heavy things on it. It also has quite a lot of hard, honest, wrestling things on it. But sometimes I feel like it’s lacking lovely, beautiful things on it. Sometimes I wish I had more of those beautiful, lovely things to share rather than all this hard stuff.

So today I’m excited about a story that makes me excited, because it feels a little bit more beautiful and not quite so hard. But still honest. Always honest. Otherwise it wouldn’t be me and I may as well not write at all. 🙂

A bit of background, in the past few months, I’ve been realizing that I am a very visual person, and images really speak to me. Images that symbolize deeper meanings. It’s been a delightful discovery, and something God is beginning to use – maybe to get through to me? And so, it quite stirred up my heart today, when my little cross grew to have such lovely meaning.

Here it is, The Story of My Cross.

I was with some lovely ladies today, ladies who encourage me and lovingly nudge me closer to God. So many times when I’m confused or trying to do things on my own, and I crash into a wall or something else, I come back to these women, and they point me back to God, and for that I just say thank you thank you thank you. They mean the world to me.

My cross started off in a pile of pieces, like this.

image1

And as I sat in this circle of lovely women, talking about lovely heart things, my cross evolved from a pile of pieces, into, well, into a cross. My cross.

image2 (1)

At first, I wanted my cross to have four nails, with two nails as the cross piece, like this one.

image1-1.jpeg

 

I wanted this because with four nails, the cross is even, 2 and 2. Also with four nails it doesn’t leave one pokey side. That pokey side could scratch someone you know.

But as I was putting this together, for some reason it wasn’t working with four nails. So the cross stays with three nails. Which means it’s a little rough and pointy on one side.

Now for the symbolism. The nails on my cross are God. This connects with how I’m seeing God right now. He’s not at all completely smooth and even and understandable. He’s pokey sometimes, and is definitely capable of causing scratches.

But, despite the pokey-ness of God, there are these little flowers, little roses wound around my cross. These flowers are exciting, because flowers speak of life.

Somehow, despite all the hard and hurt and wrestling that is the majority of my life right now, every once in a while I get these little glimpses of life. And that is comforting and exciting.

And then, lastly on my cross, there’s a little heart. The important thing about this heart is where it is. I wanted this heart to be right in the middle of the cross. I wanted it to be perfectly on the center, sitting there solidly like it knows where it belongs.

Well, that wasn’t working. I couldn’t figure out how to fasten it there. And so instead, the little heart hangs off the side, held on by the stems of the flowers.

This heart is my heart. A heart that wishes it could be solidly planted in the middle of God and who He is… but a heart that just isn’t there. Instead, my heart is a heart that is hanging off the edge. Still attached, but definitely dangling.

Maybe someday my heart with sit squarely in the middle of the nails… but for now, I’d like to be choosing to accept where it is. And I am forever grateful for the stems of new life that are holding my heart fast to those nails.

Maybe only in heaven will my heart be where I want it to be. Maybe in heaven, my cross will be full of flowers. And I know in heaven, there won’t be anything pokey.

Come Lord Jesus, Come. 

image2 (1)

Questions Questions Questions

“Maybe I’m getting sick.” I say. “Maybe I’m just tired.”

But I know it’s not “just tired”.

It’s a deep set exhaustion. Weary of never getting anything right. Of wrestling with the same things, over and over and over. Reconciliation is nowhere to be found, and is anything even changing inside?

Why am I so old?

Why does this 19 year old body seem to have 30 year old struggles?

No wonder I don’t have close friends my age. No wonder boys are scared of me.

People my age don’t understand.

They don’t know what it’s like. To have your brain fog up to the point you can’t even explain something simple in words. To have it take every ounce of strength you have just to hold yourself together in a crowd.

These are things that moms with four kids talk about. Not teenagers.

So why me? Why do I have to face these things I’m not equipped to handle?

Why am I not ok?

Why must I be so lonely?

Does loneliness ever go away?