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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Colors

Today, my favorite color is pink.

I reserve the right to change my favorite color any time I choose.

Usually my favorite color is yellow or orange. Especially if it’s rainy.

During the winter, it’s red. A splash of red against the drabness of half-melted and refrozen snow is kind of nice. A splash of red against new-fallen snow is especially enchanting.

But today, while the sky was blue with a few big fluffy white clouds, I walked to a friend’s house while I admired the lovely shade of pink nail polish on my toes and the pink lettering on the envelope I was delivering.

And I thought to myself, “Today, my favorite color is pink.”

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Confessions of a Goody-Two-Shoes

I read an article a while ago written by one of my favorite authors, Donald Miller. In it, he talks about the problem with having a “perfect image.” He talks about Anne Hathaway and how, to him, she is inapproachable because she’s just…. too perfect.

I know nothing about Anne Hathaway and I don’t really care either.

But Don’s point — that “perfect” people are inapproachable — is true.

I know this because I’m an inapproachable perfect person.

Don’t judge. I can’t help it that I’m perfect.

The truth of the matter is that people have two selves. They have their persona, the self that they portray to the rest of the world, and they have their real self.

In other words, what you see is not what I am.

I’ve always felt that I was supposed to be perfect.

There are perfectly rational explanations for this. If you look at it from a psychological perspective, it’s because I have several siblings and my parents told me all the time that I was supposed to be a good example to them. Religiously speaking, I have this perfection complex because the Bible says “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” That’s a lot of pressure….

But maybe the real reason is that when you are criticized about everything, after a while, you get to the point where you will do anything just to get people to stop criticizing you. Even if it means being someone you’re not. Even if it means doing everything but what you really want to do. Even if it means spending time, money and lots of effort to make people happy with what you’re doing.

Now that I think about it, that is totally messed up. No one deserves to have that much control over me.

I had a “friend” one time that told me that she knew she could manipulate a friend of hers with tears, but she was frustrated with me because she hadn’t figured out how to manipulate me. She didn’t use the word “manipulate,” but that is what she meant. I think she finally realized that the only thing she had to do in order to manipulate me was to criticize me. Over, and over and over again. About everything. My hair. My clothes. My eyebrows. My family. My friends. My accomplishments. My abilities. My mannerisms. My ideas. My desires. My interactions with other people.

After a while, I shut down. I learned that who I really am is not acceptable.

I stopped trying to be “me” and started to just exist.

But I had a list of behaviors that were acceptable:
Be as little and insignificant as possible.
Never, ever disagree with anyone.
Never, ever show any emotion.
If something goes wrong, fix it, and don’t make a fuss about it.

I also had a list of social interactions that were appropriate:
Going to church.
Singing on the worship team.
Work and school.
Occasional get-togethers with very large groups, which were only appropriate as long as I sat still and shut up, especially if there were men present.

I learned exactly what Little Miss Perfect was supposed to be (fixing everything for everybody, making everybody happy, never let anyone know if something is wrong), and once I started wearing the Perfect cap, I was…. stuck.

Prior to this experience, my whole self was molded in perfection as well. Things like always wearing modest clothes, having appropriate interactions with men (which was equal to no interaction with men), not drinking, not smoking, not being out late, not being friends with inappropriate people.

These things can be good. I want to be a gracious person. I don’t have a problem with right and wrong, and I don’t have a problem with choosing right and avoiding wrong.

But, I have a confession to make.

Or, several confessions.

You see, even “perfect people” aren’t perfect.

Even highly moral, “perfect” people have problems. They have desires. They are just like everybody else.

Confession Number One:
I am not nearly as disciplined as some people might think.
Putting it in athletic terms, I’m really good at sprinting, but I’m terrible when it comes to marathons. I can stick to a budget for a few…. minutes…. I mean, months, but then it’s all over.

Confession Number Two:
Sometimes, I have to talk myself into going to church.
Yes, I’m in church all the time. But lots of times, I’m totally not feeling it. Sometimes I talk myself into it but when I get there I spend the whole time wondering why I made the effort and then I go home and scream at myself because that was the most unsatisfying couple of hours I’ve had all week.

Confession Number Three:
I can be really self-centered.See Confession Number Two. Church isn’t supposed to be about how I feel. It’s about honoring Jesus.

Confession Number Four:
Sometimes, I can be very sarcastic.
The word “sometimes” was the sarcasm in that sentence.

Confession Number Five:
When people behave in a way that makes me think that they think I’m wrong, bad or imperfect, my first reaction is to want to walk away. I’ve spent too much time trying to learn how to be perfect to enjoy feeling like I’m not.

Confession Number Six:
I don’t feel like a grown-up. I feel like I have to have approval from a grown-up for everything I want to do — and if I can’t find approval from a grown-up, then I decide that what I want to do must certainly be the wrong thing.

Confession Number Seven:
Sometimes I feel so broken and so lost in the quest to find healing and wholeness that the only thing I can think to do that might make me feel better is to eat. Chocolate. Cake. Ice cream. Honestly, what I need in those situations is to pray, scream, cry and express how angry and violated I feel — but the only thing I can do is eat.

Confession Number Eight:
I don’t know how to connect with people. Everything people say and do is filtered through this extreme sense of right and wrong and I end up either really loving somebody or really disliking them. There’s no middle ground. I don’t want to be like that. I just want to be able to be around people and listen to them and enjoy them, even though they’re not perfect — just like me.

Confession Number Nine:
Most of the time, I feel like a little girl playing dress up with Mommy’s heels and makeup. I don’t measure up to everybody else’ standards. I can’t compete. I have nothing to offer except the adorableness of my efforts in putting on the heels and makeup.

Confession Number Ten:
Really, everything in my life is about fear. And it should not be this way. Every decision is made based on fear. I don’t think I should take a trip because I might have an emergency later and I’ll have “wasted” the money I spent on the trip. I don’t talk to men because they might reject me. Or eat me. Or kidnap me. I don’t talk about certain aspects of my life with anybody because I’m afraid I’m going to have to justify it or they’re going to be angry because I did something they didn’t like.

So- there you have it. The confessions of a goody-two-shoes.

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Divinely Orchestrated Love Affairs

The past few days, I’ve been thinking about relationships between single men and women.

After typing that sentence, I was tempted to turn off the computer and be done writing because I don’t like to think about that topic and it is kind of difficult to write about something that you don’t like thinking about.

This topic came up the other day when a friend of mine asked me if I think it’s possible to be led of the Holy Spirit when it comes to romance.

Yes. Of course.

But I also believe that the heart is deceptive and is easily deceived.

I also believe that brains can get in the way — but they can sometimes be overlooked too — when it comes to things of the heart.

I know lots of people whose position on the matter is that Christians ought to have divinely orchestrated love affairs, wherein there is little input from the heart or mind.

You go on from day to day, waiting for some miraculous sign that The One has stepped into your world.

I asked my friend what would happen if The One turned out to be someone or something completely unexpected. What if he had some genetic defect that made him repulsive to look at? What if the divinely orchestrated love affair involved a prostitute like Hosea’s divinely orchestrated love affair did in the Bible? What if he wants you to help provide for the family and you’ve always dreamed of being a stay-at-home wife/mother?

Yes, divinely orchestrated love affairs can and do happen. But they are not without their fair share of practicalities, issues and problems that pop up. Because we are human, and no matter how close we get to Jesus, our humanity is always going to get thrown into the mix. At some point, someone is going to want what they want and want it NOW, and the other person is going to disagree. Somewhere along the line, there will be dirty socks on the floor, clogged toilets, screaming babies, and more bills than dollar bills. Life happens. People happen. Things happen.

And what are you going to do when life happens and the only thing you have connecting you to your spouse is the idea that God put you together?

Life is not a linear thing, no matter how stable you think you are. There are hills and valleys and corners and blind spots. When hills and valleys show up, what are you going to do? Is there going to be someone who’s got your back? Or will you be peacefully coexisting with a stranger?

When it comes to divinely orchestrated love affairs, there needs to be a balance between the spiritual, the emotional and the practical. Each is equally important because without an emotional connection and practical needs being met, there can’t be a spiritual connection.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Silence

I feel like God and I are having a huge contest to see who can be the most stubborn.

It’s diconcerting.

There are moments — or days, or years — or decades…. where I say, “God, I want this.”

And God’s response is. Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

Silence.

The kind of silence that is anything but comfortable.

The kind of silence where you’re wondering if He’s ignoring you or if He just honestly doesn’t have anything to say.

And how do you interpret this silence?

Does it mean that God doesn’t care what you do?

Does it mean that God doesn’t want you to have the thing you long for so desperately?

What exactly does silence mean?

Part of me wants to take the bull by the horns.

Another part of me is more passive and timid and doesn’t want to rock the boat.

Still another part is terrified — terrified of what might happen if I do something, yet just as terrified of what might happen if I don’t.

Part of me wants to march into God’s office and say, “I’ve got this blueprint: 5 easy steps to make my life perfect. Let’s get on it.” My 5 easy steps would really not take all that much effort. Just tweak a few things here and there and you’re done. Honestly, it wouldn’t even amount to 5 steps. It would be more like 3.

So why is it so difficult? Why can’t I get a little help here? Why this never-ending struggle? People I used to talk to a lot told me that if you “let go and let God” things will just fall into place.

Hogwash.

They said that if you surrender to God’s plan, you’ll be so much happier.

Bull. Crap.

They said lots of things.

And here I am. Still in the same position I was back when I believed what they told me.

I guess maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle. The happy medium. The path of compromise.

God’s not going to drop everything into my lap and He’s going to ask me to take an interest in the process of getting my life where I want it to be.

Galatians 5 talks about the difference between walking in the Spirit and wallowing in the things of the flesh. I think the answer to my dilemma is to seek God and desire to walk in the Spirit and then He will begin to show me which moves to make and how to get the things I want.

In other words, as long as I’m thinking in terms of “this is what I want and I’m going to do what I can to get it,” it’s going to remain a contest to see who can be more stubborn. Life will be sadly silent.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Changes that Heal

I’ve been reading a book lately called Changes that Heal. It’s about changes. Ones that heal.

This book is also about problems. Problems that occur when you don’t know how to set up proper boundaries or problems that occur when we don’t know how to bond to others properly.

The book also offers solutions for those who are willing to put in the effort to make changes that heal.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through the book and I’d say it’s a pretty good book. Very thought-provoking. But then, I always did enjoy a good textbooky psychology book.

As I’ve been reading, I’ve been reminded of different experiences and things people have said to me in the midst of painful times.

Several years ago, I lived in a place that was really, really unhealthy for me. I mean, it was good for me in some ways, but the people I was around, even though they weren’t doing anything immoral or illegal, were not good for me. I would hang out with my “friends” and I would end up sitting there and listening to one person who was dominating the conversation. The conversation was always between that person and one other person and every so often someone else would chime in and then after I’d sat there for a few hours, I’d go home and pretend like I’d enjoyed myself.

After repeating this scenario dozens of times, it began to get really old. I felt left out, unappreciated and unwanted. I wanted to be friends with these people, and they would always invite me to hang around with them, but it was very frustrating and lonely for me. I went on several road trips with them. They would insist that I come but then I’d be put in the uncool people car (I was the one who got to ride with their parents) and I’d be discluded from the jokes and fun and games everyone else participated in.

I had several other friends that I talked to about this situation, and their response to this was, “This is your problem, not theirs. Own it. Do something about it. Even if you were to find all new friends or move somewhere else, you’d still have the same problem. Problems follow you no matter where you go.”

Basically, it’s my fault that my “friends” were being rude and mean.

I called bull on that statement every time I heard it. And it was repeated to me — often.

What exactly was I supposed to do? Throw a big temper tantrum and insist that they had to include me if they were going to keep inviting me?

In the end, I did throw a temper tantrum — after I’d put up with it for 3 years. I walked out of the room, went home and, I know I’m a terrible person, but when the worst offender came around a few minutes later, I screamed at her. And that was the end of that relationship.

*Sigh.* What a relief.

I could go into a lot of detail about the things that happened after that. It was bad. Terrible. Those were the worst two years of my life. I went from having a group of friends I hung around several times a week to being completely isolated. It actually wasn’t much different from what it had been before, but at least before, I had a reason to leave my house several times a week.

Two years after the shouting match, I moved to another state.

I’m here to tell you today that what they said were lies. Complete and utter lies. I have lots of friends. And if I hang out with them, they talk to me. I do not feel discluded. I do not feel used. I do not feel abused. I do not feel like I’m somebody’s project. I just am. And I’m ok.

The funny thing is that I haven’t changed. I’m still the same person I was. I still behave as I’ve always behaved.

My conclusion is that the theory that every problem one has is completely one’s own fault is bogus. Sometimes, it’s just an excuse that an enabler gives for someone else to continue their destructive behavior.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in Current Events

 

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Boldness

The other day, a friend of mine was telling me about a conversation she was having with someone who had never had spiritual experiences similar to her own.

It was all fine and everything, but then she blurted out, “I guess I’m not as bold as you are.”

And I said, “What? Bold? Me? What are you talking about?”

The only time I ever say anything is in writing. That doesn’t exactly add up to boldness.

In fact, mostly when I’m in social settings, I try to slip away as soon as I can because if I talk to anybody, I feel like I’m being too bold and over the top.

I think it’s safe to say that I am not really that bold.

My friend went on to remind me of an incident that occurred about 3 years ago.

* * * * *

I lived around the corner and down the street a little from a public playground/outdoor event area. There were concerts every week during the summer and sometimes churches had outdoor church services there. The college theater department also did a play there every year. The Munchkin loved to play over there, so her mama and I would go there and watch her play.

One day, I was so done sitting around by myself, so I decided to go to the park. I knew it was concert day, but it was quite a while before the concert was going to start. I grabbed my bag which always had a book or 5 in it for cases like this where I was going to be alone in a crowd and needed something to distract me from the fact that I was surrounded by a gajillion people who didn’t care that I was there, and I headed over to the park.

When I got to the park, I selected a shady spot to sit and wait. I took my Bible out of my purse and I began to read.

I remember that day very distinctly. I was reading from the book of Isaiah, which I find to be a comforting and beautiful part of the scriptures. My friend found me sitting under the shade of the enormous tree at the edge of the park, and she immediately introduced me to the woman who was with her. (My friend, obviously, makes friends very quickly and easily– I say “obviously” because she’s friends with me and I’m not much for making friends.) This woman took one look at me and said, “Are you reading a Bible? In the park? Well bless your heart….”

And I thought, “My heart is blessed, lady. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be reading the Bible in the first place.”

And then I thought, “Wait…. is it like…. weird? to read a Bible in the park?”

* * * * *

I didn’t think much about this interaction again until my friend brought it up the other day.

I said, “So…. reading the Bible in the park is bold?”

Because, I’m used to the kind of boldness where people proclaim in public that everybody is going to hell. Yes, I know people personally who do that. (Going back to the making friends thing, I do not consider those particular people my friends. They’ve told me too many times that I’m going to hell for the relationship to really progress much past “Hi, I’m John T. Baptist and you’re going to hell.”)

My friend said, “Well, yeah. Have you ever seen anybody else read a Bible in the park?”

Well, no — but that could be because I am not known for having stellar observational skills.

But how is reading the Bible in the park any different from reading Moby Dick in the park? It’s a book. It’s the park. People hang out in the park and some of them read books. No big deal. Sometimes I read textbooks in the park. Or novels. Or self-help books. Or classics. How is the Bible any different?

My friend said, “It’s just really bold. A lot of times, people don’t like to admit they read the Bible in private, so they’re definitely not going to do it in public.”

* * * * *

I got to thinking about that day and the things that were going on in my life at the time. By then, I had lost every friend I had (with the exception of the one who introduced me to her friend that day in the park), and I was used to doing social things and ending up sitting in a corner and everyone ignoring me. It had been going on like that for years. So when an opportunity to attend a social event arose, I was all gung-ho to attend — but I was going to go prepared. Bring a book. Any book. It doesn’t hurt so much to be ignored if you don’t act like you want anybody to notice you.

And, God had never ignored me. I felt cherished by God, so when I thought about going into a social setting where I knew I was most likely going to be rejected by the people around me, it brought me a lot of comfort to read the Bible. Perhaps the people around me didn’t like me, want me, or even tolerate my presence, but if I was going to sit in that crowd of haters, dang it, I was going to immerse myself in something that brought me a little comfort and reassurance.

For the record, reading the Bible helped.

* * * * *

To the person looking on from the outside that day, I (apparently) looked pretty bold. But that “boldness” was nothing more than an attempt to shove the broken, hurt pieces into a spot where no one could see them.

I suppose the real reason I don’t see myself as being “bold” is probably because the things I do, I do in an attempt to hide or minimize the pain. It feels like an act. It feels cowardly. It feels horrible.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Current Events

 

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