Forgiving: When You’re the Problem

Recently I stumbled upon some pictures I had taken in college. In one I was with my friends dancing at a hoedown. In another I was holding up a french fry shaped like a cross! As I clicked the right arrow button, my heart immediately sank. In front of me was a seemingly meaningless picture of someone holding a drawing of an eggplant in Goodwill, which their outfit comically matched. My mind raced.

Forgive:

  1. To give up resentment of or claim to requital for
  2. To cease to feel resentment against (an offender)

In essence, forgiveness is letting go. It is letting go of all that has been done to you. All the pain and horrible words, all the betrayal and gut-wrenching lies. Often it is said that forgiving releases you, as withholding it won’t harm the offender. But what if the offender is you?

I had forgiven this person long ago. It was, and still is, on my heart to build that bridge that was destroyed, but sometimes caring about a person isn’t getting what you want, but respecting their wishes instead. Forgiveness #1, check.

Forgiveness #2, oh my sweet friend, I wish.

I had to step back and evaluate myself with one simple question. Would I want to be around me during (insert amount of time, relationship, life happening, etc) this friendship?

On that specific day? Yes. Months before and after? Yes. Closer to where our friendship ended? Not even close. I welled up  with tears, thinking of my wrong doings. The offender in me recounted everything. Sting upon sting hit my heart. How could I forgive myself for these transgressions?

I don’t know. I have tried to make things right, yet it seems as nothing in the situation has changed. It still rips me apart. It’s embarrassing. I want a do-over. I want to show people that I made a mistake. Have you been there?

I’ll tell you what I do know though.

Because I can trust God, I hold steadfast to Him. Because I am fearfully and wonderfully made I know I am more than this. Because I can have peace, I sow peace in my other friendships. Because I am loved, I love those who have also made mistakes.

I am not my mistakes and neither are you. My dear, YOU are a new creation because of Christ. Every single day you wake up, you are made new. I need to say this over myself more, I write this for you and for me: Your mistakes do not define the amazing, gorgeous, peaceful, strong, perfect you that God created.

We cannot hold this embarrassment and shame over our heads forever, even if those you’ve harmed do. I’m still learning this. The pain may still hit to your core, but know that you are more.

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An Apology from A Young, Christian, White, Middle-Class Woman

Look everywhere around this world and you will see a mess. People are messy, families are messy, need I even say that politics are messy. I don’t know about you, but living in this world bogs me down. Day after day I see hate screamed from Donald Trump and hear heart breaking stories of detestation towards numerous types of people in every news article I see.

This hurts.

I hurt for Muslims that have been targeted by ridiculous attacks against their religion. I hurt for refugees who aren’t welcomed with open arms after months or years of treacherous travel. I hurt for the LGBTQ community that faces ridicule even in 2016. I hurt for undocumented immigrants that receive a handshake from their employer and then are jeered at for “taking American jobs”. I hurt for Black Americans in Chicago and other cities who are told they live in crime and drug infested areas. I hurt for so many more.

The common thing between all of these? They don’t pertain to me.

I cannot begin to feel the pain that is laced within the rhetoric of people who spew hate. Even writing this I begin to cry for my brothers and sisters who have been attacked. Words have power. Words tear down.

I imagine you sitting in that white chair, surrounded by lush vines. I hem and haw over what I would say to you. So as someone who hasn’t felt the brunt of this hate, I need to apologize.

I’m sorry.

I am so sorry that there are many people who don’t respect your religion or even know that it teaches peace. I’m sorry that you are scared, for valid reasons, that the U.S. doesn’t want you here. I am sorry that there are still people who choose to judge and condemn you without knowing a single thing about you. I’m sorry that people stereotype communities and make rash assumptions. I’m sorry people find it easier to hate than to accept others.

The way we choose to see the world creates the world we see.

I choose to see the world, and you, as someone in my family and someone to love. Someone to understand and someone to learn from. Someone to stand beside and someone to be strong with. Someone who has a lot more experience and knowledge than me. Someone who I want to understand. Someone who is amazing.

I am sorry for those who choose to see the opposite of these things. You are valued and you are welcomed. Even if everyone else doesn’t think this, you have one young, Christian, white, middle-class woman who cares about you for exactly who you are. No questions asked.

What We Don’t Deserve

“You deserve someone who knows what they want: and that what they want is you.”

These were the words that were uttered over me by a very dear family member as we were having lunch one sunny Florida day. “Did I deserve this?” I pondered as I ate my okra.

I had recently been through my first real heartbreak, one of many to come. I was young and felt as if I would never find (what I thought was love) again. What happened next was 3 years of finding myself. I traveled. I strengthened my relationships with family and friends. I latched onto every experience I could. I began to love myself.

During this time I met a man. Our romance began in a whirlwind. We spent multiple nights and days planning our futures together. Maybe we would serve? Maybe we would start our own business? The opportunities were endless. I fell deeply in love. But as quickly as our relationship started, it came to an end. I was lost.

I thought back to that okra lunch date years earlier. “You deserve someone who knows what they want: and that what they want is you” I said over myself.

6 months since then I’ve gone on multiple dates. Good dates turned into good talks, which ultimately turned into incompatibility. Nonetheless I stayed steadfast in the joy of the Lord. Then I truly met someone who rocked my world.

He is kind. He is passionate about me. He is loving. He comforts me. He wants me for me. He loves me despite every mistake I make, or how many times I erroneously lead with my feelings. I hadn’t simply met any man, but THE one who died for me.

Christ has come into my life in ways that I still have yet to discover. Many days I do not feel Him, but I know He is there. I know that He is working on me and mending me.

Through each heartbreak I’ve faced, I’ve been made a better person. Instead of getting angry easily, I physically open up my hands, inviting transparency in. I cry all the time now at the most mundane things. I am cognizant of how I try and realign my day to day thoughts. I take alone time to go to a farmer’s market or the library, because it fills me. I pray daily for those you have harmed me, or vice-versa.

These may seem small, but to me, each and every one of these things is God’s handiwork.

One of my favorite authors Lysa Terkurst says in her new book Uninvited, “If we will remember to return often to our Instructor…our Creator…we will discover His loving hands still pulse to continue making us. Tweaking us. Molding us. Filling us. And daily completing the good work He began in us.”

You deserve someone who knows what they want. And that what they want is you. The one who can ALWAYS satisfy this is the Lord. He’s whispered to me in the stillness, when I cry out to Him saying that He’s gotten my attention, what does He wants? “You.” He says. “You.”

We do not deserve the Creator of the entire universe wanting us, but it is freely given. That astounds me every single day. That despite the times I’ve messed up He wants ME. No matter what. And He wants you.

Life isn’t (just) Instagram

Life is not simply Instagram. There. I said it.

After a recent hiatus from most of my social media accounts, I received a rude awaking once I emerged from my social media-less cocoon.  I opened up an Instagram account again and began to search for a few of my favorite things. Travel. Fashion. and then the last one…Friends. I slowly began to look at my friends lives through my Insta-lenses and felt my self-image plummet within a matter of moments.

How could she afford to travel there? No wonder this friend hasn’t been texting me back, they’re literally all over their significant other. And when did he get that job?

I looked around my bare apartment with beige walls and contemplated my seemingly beige life.

I don’t have a boyfriend who is 100% devoted to me 24/7 and lets the world know it. I don’t have the money to travel around the world. I don’t have a model body (I like butter so darn much!).

And guess what? They don’t either.

How do I know this? Because I used to be one of them. I would spend time crafting the perfect picture poses, take a picture over and over until I got the right angle, added layers upon layers of subtle filters to make things just right, include a cutesy caption and boom. Nothing ever received under 50 likes.

I heard once that social media is like a highlight reel of the best moments of our lives. A friend and I had a discussion about this on the way to work one day. He argued that if we are true and vulnerable on social media we will be torn apart. I don’t disagree with him. But I think creating an altered reality where we only put our best moments forward is a far greater disservice to ourselves and those around us.

Will I still use social media? Of course I will. Does it give me slight anxiety? Well yes, emerging from a cocoon isn’t pretty! But now I will see it through a different lens. A lens where things aren’t always what they seem. And remind myself that everyone, me included, has their beige colored days, months, and sometimes even years. We just choose not to post about them.

When 6 year old Dreams Don’t Go as Planned

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I very distinctly remember in elementary school that at the end of the day, when I got on the bus to ride home, I would think back on my day. I would process the good things that happened, as well as the bad. If nothing considered bad happened, it would be a good day. If something “bad” happened? Well…then the whole day was bad! And if that day was considered bad, then I would dream about my future. 

The dreams of my 6 year-old mind contained the following:

  1. Become Homecoming Queen (Nope…Though one of my best friends was!)
  2. Get married right after College (Nope…)
  3. Travel the world (Still working on it…)

All the dreams I had for myself in Elementary, Middle, and most of High School didn’t happen. A lot of them were close to happening, but didn’t. And that hurts. When your dreams are going as planned and then suddenly fall apart, it hurts more than anything in this world.

In the age of Fear of Missing Out, I am the Queen of it. Moving to new places and starting new jobs can all be draining. You wonder if there are others like you. Others who worry if this is all there is to life? That all your dreams will be just that, dreams.

You are not alone, I’m right here with you.

But what I’ve come to realize is that dreams are like playdough. They can be molded and reshaped if you don’t like how things turn out. They can become great cookies of starting your own business, or a beautiful butterfly of getting a Masters degree. They can morph from an ugly looking dog of a relationship to a precious octopus of a family. I have hope and faith it will happen to you and me.

And sometimes, like a few of my 6 year old dreams, the playdough gets so entangled and becomes a colored mess that you need to just throw it away. It’s not that the dream wasn’t beautiful at one point, it just was time for some fresh playdough. And that fresh playdough is ready for you to make something magical out of it.

Make something out of your dreams. Mend them and mold them as you grow. Most times, like me, your dreams won’t end up as you expected. But I can promise that with the hand of God in your dreams, amazing things WILL happen!

So, ya wanna know what my dreams are now?

  1. Continue to become a woman who loves the Lord and is as steadfast as Ruth
  2. To love people beyond my capacity
  3. Create meaningful relationships
  4. Become a mentor to someone
  5. Live without FOMO (Still a work in progress 😉 )
  6. Create a blog where people can come and feel understood
  7. Get married to the man who is God’s best for me, whoever that may be

Oh, and that note? It was handed to me last week by a little girl who I’ve never seen before and probably won’t see again, but who was around 6 years old. Pretty cool huh?

When Losing Yourself Wins

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May I bear my heart with you? May I be vulnerable for a moment?

Being lost in a new place has slowly become one of my favorite things. It creates a sense of vulnerability that only comes up a few times in our lives.  It allows for adventure, new friends, parks to explore, and so much more. Now being lost in my life, that is not something I often welcome with open arms.

Each and every one of us will go through heartache of extreme kinds. The type where we can barely focus on the task at hand, let alone the daily tasks required of us. The type where our whole world and sense of self is shaken to its core. The type where sloth consumes our every being. Questions swirl around in our minds like a wind-whipped piece of clothing left on the line too long. “What if I had done X, Y, Z?” “What if I had just known not to say that one thing?” “Why did no one tell me?” “I felt God’s presence and heard His voice in this…” Have you been there? Are you there currently?

I have and I am.

God does not promise an easy life, He promises an abundant life. But what if abundant life isn’t full of pure joy and happiness?  This is something I cannot figure out and won’t claim to understand. The Merriam-Webster definition of abundant is, “marked by great plenty” or “amply supplied“. Could it be that we are abundantly given discord and confusion to draw closer to God. Or could it be that our own free will and ego gets in the way of this abundant life we are promised. These are a few of the things I wrestle with.

Philippians 1:21 is a verse recited in the Church often and one that Sidewalk Prophets made an amazing song out of, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. A few of the lyrics go as follows:

If I grow, let me grow in You
Wilt the seeds of wanting more
Ripping pride out by the roots
If I’m still, let me hear You speak
Not the tone of my transgressions
But the song of the redeemed

My great desire is to be with You
But this is the place You chose for me
This is the place You chose for me
To lift my cross and give everything
This is the time You gave to me

For me to live is Christ
To die is gain

God will cover and see over us, especially in times of deep sorrow and strife. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” This life isn’t about us, which goes against our selfish nature. It’s according to HIS purpose, not mine, not my heartache, not those who have scorned me or turned a blind eye to me.

Heartache hurts. Putting your entire soul and worth into something or someone to then just be dropped without a second thought is one of the most painful things to go through. You feel as if you have lost yourself, while in reality, you have won. You have been given one of the most precious gifts, though I am very aware it doesn’t feel like this.

Through heartache, we are given the abundant realization that the only way to be whole is through Christ filling the space we place idols in. This idol could be work, being single, being in a relationship, technology, Facebook, tea, food, your cat! The only person who knows what your idol is, is you. All these things are good and are wonderful to be desired. But once it engulfs your “God Space” that’s when things get sticky. When that idol is taken or runs from you, you lose yourself, but not the you God intends you to be. You gain a true fullness in the space that once falsely consumed your every being.

Be strong. This is the place and time He has chosen for us.

A Mole Hill Into A Mountain

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Last weekend I decided to go on an adventure. It was sunny out and I didn’t have a care in the world, so my friend and I decided to go. It’d been so long since the beautiful rays of sun hit my face. I strapped on my Bean Boots from L.L. Bean (aka my Adventure Boots) and started off. My destination would be a “mountain” I’d heard my friends rave about for years. As we were driving down the dusty roads I noticed that everything around me was…well…flat. Winston, my British gps, notified me that I had in fact arrived at my destination. I again looked around. There was a house on one side of me and a semi-forested rock formation by a river on the other side. I got out of the car and couldn’t believe what I saw.

This “mountain” was merely a steep hilly rock formation that was a quarter of a football field wide and didn’t look tall at all. I grumbled to myself how we’d driven all this way for nothing. Quite the attitude for a self proclaimed aspiring adventurer, huh? But with the promptings of my friend and a little tough love, “Would you want to fall off of it? No? Then it’s not little”, I started up the….hill.

At first it wasn’t difficult at all, as the trail had been worn by many others. But as we ascended higher and higher, the rocks became a little more steep, and my attitude became a little more humble with every step. After the final push up the rocks I stood on the top of the hill and looked around me for miles and miles. It was pure beauty. Out in the middle of nowhere was something truly spectacular.

Sitting on the hill which I now lovingly call my little mountain, I reflected on the short journey I just took. I had assumed that just because something didn’t look as impressive as I thought it should, it didn’t matter. My mind became set in stone (get it, stone!? I digress). But what I found out, was that even if things disappoint you or you don’t feel like something matters, it does. That translates to life as well. Just because you don’t have the money to travel all over the world doesn’t mean you can’t find adventure. Just because you have no time doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and de-stress a little. And most importantly, just because you don’t feel like you’re worth it, doesn’t mean that you aren’t.

My little mountain taught me many things this week, to which I am very thankful for.