Sunday, August 7, 2011

2nd Time's Not a Charm

In re-reading my previous post, I wanted to laugh. It was only 2 days before I ended up back in the hospital.

Let me explain. My blood thinner level was, once I was out of the hospital, way too high. We were trying to battle it back down, but it was taking a while. In the meantime, because I'd gone off birth control, I was looking at 'that time of the month' to coin the phrase. You know what doesn't go well together? Blood thinners and menstruation.

So after 3 days of being unable to do anything, getting progressively dizzier, calling my old roommate in California with the confession that I'm afraid to go to sleep, because I'm worried I won't wake up, having to crawl to an from the bathroom (and needing to take breaks because the 15 feet between the two doors was too much, I had my roommate call the paramedics to take me in.

The normal hemoglobin level for a woman is around a 12. Mine was down to about a 5. Plus, I had such low blood volume that even though I'd stopped taking the blood thinners (couldn't get a hold of a doctor for medical advice, grr), my INR levels were UP. The paramedics apparently were grilling my roommate because of how pale I looked. Beyond last time's 'waxy', I was into 'vampire' pale. They admitted me into the hospital again, and I got 4 whole blood transfusions and 2 plasma transfusions. The nearly faded bruises from my first visit were rekindled, as both arms were pricked time and again. Though everyone was having trouble starting IV's with me. Apparently my veins were bouncing all over the place.
Ultimately, I got out okay, and a week later, flew to Tucson, and spent the better part of July with my family. When you're feeling low, either physically or emotionally, sometimes the best thing is just to be with your loved ones.
I even managed to land some phone interviews as I continued my job search from AZ. And upon arriving back 1 1/2 weeks ago, got several face to face interviews. None of which panned out. And in all honesty, I'm probably feeling worse about the job situation than my health. I can't really do much more than take my meds for my health, and try to eat healthy. The job thing, I can do something for it.
Which might be the lesson. Until I learn to let go of wanting a job, I won't get one. Or maybe it's just that I'm aiming too high. Or I shouldn't be looking at university work. In any case, I am floundering. My future's up in the air. I feel more alone than I did before (save the nights I was afraid to sleep in June).
I don't say this to complain, but to be brutally honest with myself. I'm scared. I have been trying to be optimistic and hopeful, but that doesn't come naturally to me. If I wasn't barred from drinking by my meds, I might have drowned my sorrows (as it was, my candy stash grew exponentially). I don't know where to go from here. I'll keep applying for jobs, sure, but waiting on them just doesn't seem possible right now.
I guess I just wanted to say something, instead of bottling it up. I like to think I can handle keeping things to myself, but I really can't. And most of the time writing things out helps me to feel a little better.
But I miss everyone. I miss the people at my old job, my church family, my family family, just everyone. I didn't like living in CA, but how I wish I could have brought you all with me. I like Austin a lot, but I know so few people here, it feels much like I did seven years ago, when I moved to CA. And I felt very alone then.
To end things on an up note, I do want to say that I've gotten through all the paperwork/registration/license stuff to be considered a Texas resident. My car Percy now sports Texas tags. And has had his A/C fixed, which is a relief, literally. Now I get to focus exclusively on job searching, and maybe even trying a temp service.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June in Texas

You know the saying, "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans"?

I apparently have been keeping the Lord in stitches.

Cause I had a plan, you see. I was going to leave my job on a set day, pack up my life in CA, set off for a grand new adventure in Texas, with a brief pause to go be a maid-of-honor in PA in the midst of this.

You'd think I'd know better.

The week I was to leave my job, I was sick. Horribly miserably sick. The kind that makes it hard to breathe, and you go through about 3 boxes of tissues. My last two days at work were half-days, because I couldn't do much. Talk about leaving not with a bang, but a whimper.

My roommate took the day off to help me pack before I had to drive to Tucson, my first night's stop in the trek to Texas. Good thing she did, because I couldn't have gotten anywhere close to done/ready if she hadn't. And good thing because she ended up driving me to urgent care, because my doctor was on maternity leave and her nurse was booked up, and I needed something a lot stronger to kick the cold I had. So I got a mini Z-pack and some cough syrup with Codeine. Had me all set. I thought.

So, with her help and another friend (sometime roommate) I got the car packed. Got on the road okay Friday morning, got into Tucson with no real blips. The part I usually dreaded in driving wasn't bad, and I thought I could relax.

Mom was going to make the drive from Tucson into Austin with me, because its about 16 hours, and a lot of empty space which, given the age of my car, made me a little nervous. I was happy to have her along, especially since Saturday morning was off not with a bang but a whimper.

Apparently I've never had Codeine before. Not that I recall anyway. Apparently I'm allergic to it, because I woke up Saturday morning with my eyelids swollen to twice their size. Not enough to keep me from seeing, but a definite reaction. Paired with a rash I had thought was from stress or heat, it was definitely a reaction I didn't want to keep having. So, goodbye cough syrup, hello Benadryl.

And can I say, Benadryl is not a good substance to have in your system when you're driving cross-country.

Despite all that, we made it to our stop that night okay. Even made it into Austin okay the next day, got unloaded, got Mom to the airport for her flight back, got unpacked enough to repack for the wedding.

Wedding went off as planned and I flew back Monday June 7.

Tuesday morning I woke up with this pain in my shoulder. With all the different beds I'd been sleeping on (and couches), this wasn't surprising, I thought I was just in the adjustment phase of new bed here in Austin. Only, the pain didn't seem to go away. Got worse. My breathing started to become painful. I medicated somewhat, took it easy, but by Thursday I let (because I didn't think I had insurance at this point, since I'd never gotten my paperwork on that from my employer, but that's another story) my new roommate drive me to a clinic to get looked at. She didn't do anything official, just hearing that I was having chest pains and trouble breathing she said to go to an ER and get an EKG.

So, we did, despite my misgivings. I didn't want the cost of all that, since I didn't have a job or (I thought) insurance, but I'd rather be safe that sorry.

Apparently chest pain is a magical phrase when you go to the ER. I have never been treated so quickly. Never even sat in the waiting room. Just whisked into the EKG, then back to the cardiac area (which was a bit alarming, let me tell you). They hooked me up to a machine to monitor it all, and apparently the EKG results were such that they wanted a CT scan, because they thought it might be blood clots.

Now, one thing I forgot to mention was that lying flat seriously aggravated my shoulder and breathing. I'd been sleeping somewhat propped on pillows since I got back to TX, and Wednesday night into Thursday morning I had a lot of trouble with pain and breathing, and they tend to feed off each other until I was gasping, trying to breathe deep enough to fill my lungs, but not so deep as to make it hurt worse.

So when they take me to the CT scan, where you have to lie flat on your back for at least 15 minutes, I wasn't expecting good things. I was, to quote the roommate "waxy looking" when they brought me back. And the CT scan confirmed that it was blood clots, or pulmonary embolism is the technical name for it. And it required immediate admittance to the hospital.

Which didn't figure into my plans, not at all. None of this did. I thought I'd move to Texas with God's blessing, and this didn't feel very much like a blessing. Felt more like I was being punished for something.

So in the hospital I go, and after several days of having needles poked in my arms (Seriously, the bruises are still fading), blood transfusions because I was so anemic, iron infusions, blood thinners, I was finally released, given a prescription for Coumadin (blood thinner) and off I went.

Not really. Not as easy as all that. But the devil's in the details, you know? Sunday, June 12 I got out of the hospital and faced a life far different from the one I'd expected in Texas. For starters, my mom ended up staying a full 2 weeks with me, to help in so many different ways. I now wear a medical alert bracelet for blood thinners, and I get to take more pills every day than ever before. We're still tweaking with my dosage of blood thinners, and I'm sure it's why my body's so out of whack right now.

One question I've gotten a lot is what caused this. The two most likely risk factors for blood clots that I exhibited were all the travel I was doing (3 days in a car, 4 flights total for the wedding), and the birth control I was on. Extra Estrogen is apparently not good for blood clots. And for now, it's a one time thing. The tricky thing about blood clots is, you don't know if you're predisposed to have one until you have more than one, if that makes sense. Can be a one time thing, but if it happens again, you're considered predisposed and on blood thinners forever, pretty much.

So, I'm lying in bed, no job, COBRA insurance (which will be worth having given the hospital bill), and a lot of questions that I know will go unanswered. Why? Why now? Why me?

Actually, I think I know at least one of them. If I'd been as settled in my life in CA, I might have ignored it. Until it was far more serious than it was. As it is, I got excellent medical care, and am in a place where I can rest until I feel better. And can apply for jobs all day online, too.

As for the rest, God knows. And that will have to suffice. If it means I have to work that much harder to carve a place for myself here, then so be it. California was easy by comparison, though I thought it'd be the other way around. I'll do what I have to in order to find my place. Because I firmly believe God has one for me. I just haven't gotten to it yet. Maybe I needed all this to get there. Maybe I'd have rushed things. Or not rushed enough. I don't know. But I'm trusting. Trying every day. And if I'm whiny or scared or otherwise not at peace, well, so were a lot of folks in the Bible. Didn't stop their lives from unfolding as God intended.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where I've come from

I think it's indicative of my generation to be very self-analytical, very good at introspection, bordering on self absorption. I try to balance that with being a good listener, and curb the impulse to be needy and want to focus all on me-me-me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it works so well that I find it hard to open up when the possibility of sharing, and bearing with one another, is presented to me.

So imagine my surprise when last week I got a near literal bolt from the blue.

One of the things that I've always felt I had to work at was understanding my childhood. It's formative, you know? Thinking patterns, reactions, habits, they all started somewhere. Some in good circumstances, some in not-so-good. I thought I had a handle on most of it until last week, when I realized something in my approach to God.

It's always been a struggle for me to 'go to God', in prayer, in worship, in anything, really. Even though I KNOW God to be a God of love, mercy, compassion, grace, forgiveness, etc, there's a large part of me that approaches not unlike how Dorothy approached the Wizard of Oz. Fear, trembling, cringing, trepidation, desiring to run but having to overcome the cowardice. Much like how Dorothy's experience in Oz was tainted by her real life (or was it?) my view of God has been shaped by my family, and my views of familial relationships.

First things first. I love my parents. My mom and dad are my biggest supporters. I go to them for advice on just about everything, even when I know we're going to approach it from very different perspectives and worldviews. I love that we can be honest and vulnerable about things together, and while I have yet to directly speak to them about my addictions, they know there's something there, and that I've attended groups over it, prayed about it, and generally bear the thorn in my flesh as best I can. But as wonderful as they are, they are not all powerful. They were not able (nor should they have been) to stop the events that unfolded when I was a kid, and we became estranged from my dad's family.

We've talked about it, since growing older and having to lay to rest both of my dad's parents, my Grandma Rosemary and Grandpa Doc. And we've all come to a certain measure of peace about it. If I still sometimes want to write a long impassioned email or letter to certain relatives bawling them out for it all, I have managed thus far to restrain myself. Some wounds have been healed, like those caused by one of my uncles, and those of my grandparents very passive attention to us. It's hard to remain upset when you know that things weren't as they seemed at age 7, 12, or even 16. And it's especially hard to feel anything but pity when you know that your grandmother suffered from bladder cancer for over 30 years, longer than I've been alive. When I think about how much was lost in all of it, I do want to cry a bit. But I've tried to let it go, and move on.

The revelation I had in particular is tied to my father. My father is one of the kindest people I know. I've gotten my tendencies to be anal retentive and grumbly from him, but I've also gotten my work ethic, my desire to help people, and my willingness to compromise. But it didn't come without a cost.

When I was in 6th grade, my father sold his half of the family business to one of my uncles, and took a year off work. He went from working 60+ hours a week, to being around to take us to sports practices, pick us up from school, to being involved in our lives. And at the tender age of 12, I began to learn who he was. I knew who mom was, because we spent a lot of time with her family, and the history, the stories, they were absorbed by osmosis. I look a lot like my mom. We think a lot alike. I knew who she was, but I didn't know Dad. And the process of learning him, his taste in music, that we shared an ability to debate and converse even when we were really just BS-ing, it was a wonderful thing.

And so it went. But the thing that only occurred to me this past week was this. I gained my father, but at the cost of all the pain that had gone before. All the events that led up to him selling the business and being so available, they hurt all of us. My older brother was cut off from cousins, my dad from siblings, my mom through my dad, and me through all of them. Most of the rage I've felt over the years at the estrangement was on their behalf. How dare someone not love my family like I did. How dare they treat them like crap. It made family gatherings, the few we attended and were invited to, very interesting to say the least.

But remember Dorothy. She was fearful of the Wizard. Why? His real life counterpart had just foretold pain into Auntie Em's life. And it hurt Dorothy enough to grow up, and return home like she should.

I was always more 'grown up' than my peers. At least in my own mind. I never was interested in the same things my age group was concerned with. I resisted some hallmarks of growing up, but skipped over others completely. I preferred books to any form of socialization. Still do, come to that. But in any case, I think the pain I saw in my family, in how I came to grow close to my father, convinced me that there really was no gain without pain.

Sometimes, though, I just really wish it was easier than that. Fearing pain as a result of stepping out, being vulnerable, it's draining. Fear, in general, is draining. So is anger. Being afraid makes me angry at myself, and knowing where some of that came from, at least on an unconscious level, I am hoping will give me the freedom to try a bit harder. Not every situation is like the ones I had growing up. When I was around 8, I knew there was division, but I also knew it was between Aunt L and Mom and Dad. I thought I was well out of it. Until one day. I was ignored. Completely and utterly treated as though I didn't exist. I doubt anyone but me remembers that day, but to be made a victim of someone's wrath as a byproduct of a feud they had with my parents seared into my brain. It was probably the first time I really understood how unfair life was. And it went on from there. If I saw certain relatives about (some worked where I shopped), it was awkward, and a bit scary. What if the kid gloves came off, and rather than feeling it all as a byproduct of anger directed at another, it would be directed at me?

Clearly these things have come back up for me. I've cried over it all, prayed over it all, journalled and journalled over it all. If I've come to any conclusions it's that we never stop being shaped and defined by our pain, in some way. We just have to get past the thinking that it's a bad thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Accidentally Purple

I don't blog on political topics, or generally controversial ones, but I have something to say today.

So, you might have seen or heard about today being Spirit Day, as a sort of awareness/memorial for the kids who recently committed suicide as a result of bullying. Bullying for their sexual orientation. While I don't believe homosexuality is right, here's what I do believe: Bullying is absolutely WRONG. In any context, by any person, and towards any difference.

When I was young, I wore the most awful glasses. Being severely nearsighted, they looked like someone had lopped off the bottoms of coke bottles and put them in frames. Since I was 3 months old, I had those glasses, until I was 12 and was able to be fitted for contact lenses. That was probably the best thing my parents ever did for me. Because if I hadn't been able to get away from that image of myself, I might have tried to commit suicide.

Sounds extreme, right? Just wearing glasses made me a target. From the time I was old enough to be in school, on through to graduating high school, I was bullied, picked on, made fun of, and generally looked down on for my glasses and appearance. I was called medusa, I had a classmate whose mother was my teacher in 6th grade call me a bitch less than 10 feet away from his mom, who did nothing. I was subject to grunting ape noises in late middle school, rude nicknames, and I'm sure if I'd been less self-aware, I would have been subject to a variety of pranks I saw being done to my other misfit classmates and friends.

My response to all that was to turn glacially cold to everyone. I had few friends in high school, and the people I was friends with were subject to the same sort of treatment. My best friend, P, once said he understood what the kids who committed mass murder at Columbine must have felt like, to do what they did. I don't excuse or condone it, but I GET IT. Push a person so far, and you will get some unpleasant results when they snap.

I never did. My friends never did. We survived, moved on, found people who weren't awful to us. But the scars remain. And to all my classmates who were bullied that I never tried to help? I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.

I tried to be a bully, once. When I was in 4th grade, I drew a nasty picture of one of my classmates and passed it around. Another classmate, far more compassionate than I (or far less insecure, who knows) reported me, and I got in serious trouble. I never bullied again, because I took the consequences of that seriously. So many kids today don't. I remember when I did that, how much it was to try and bolster my own self-esteem, to try and make myself look good to the people who so looked down on me. I wanted to belong. And to a degree I get that kids do the things they do for the same reasons, but a lot of them don't learn to STOP IT. I did, but I never learned to stand up against it.

So even if I get nothing else out of today, I got the reminder to stand against bullying. To stand against any sign of man's inhumanity to man. I don't want any kids I know to think it's ok to do that, to be victimizers or victims. I want us all to be people who love. Isn't that more important than looking cool?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


In May 2009 I went to LeakyCon, a Harry Potter fan convention in Boston. I know, I know. Laugh all you want. I love the Harry Potter books, and wanted to take the time to A)Be around like-minded people, B) meet some friends I've made online because of our mutual love of the books, and C) visit with my old college roommate who lives in Boston.

While there, the girls I met online joined me in getting Harry Potter tattoos. I know I know. Scold all you want. I'll do a post some other time about my thoughts on tattoos. In any case, mine was fairly straightforward. I got my favorite quote from the book series around my left ankle. I'd post a picture, but it's a bit difficult to get a wrap-around shot :)

"It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

Some friends noticed it this past weekend, and asked about it. Now, I've had it well over a year, but sometimes I forget why I got it. Not just because it's a Harry Potter thing, but because the sentiment it expresses is something I constantly need to remind myself.

I choose. Because we do, right? We choose to get up in the morning, we choose to eat that piece of chocolate, we choose to watch that movie, we choose to go down that road, even though we know it's not where we want to be. We choose the things that define us.

In March 2001 I chose Jesus. I chose to walk His walk, to talk His talk. I chose to be grafted into His kingdom, to love like He loves, to seek His will.

Sometimes I forget that as much as I made those choices, He made the choice for me. He choose to save me, He chose to indwell me. Sometimes all I can see is my own choices, or the lack of choice in a situation. Not that there ever isn't a choice, however hard it might be. Its just easier to think of the hard road as being not an option.

Maybe I need another Harry Potter quote tattooed on me. "Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy."

So today, I choose to follow Jesus. I can't say if I'll do the right thing and follow Him tomorrow, or worry about my choices yesterday, but today, I choose Jesus.

Monday, July 19, 2010


In the Bible, when God wants to hammer something home, He repeats it. A LOT.  Its really not that different for us in today's world. God will repeat Himself until we get it. Something to be grateful for, even when you want to escape the message He's sending.

Between the sermon yesterday morning, the Sunday School lesson I taught, and today's entry in My Utmost for His Highest, I'm getting a very clear picture.

Obedience. God wants me to obey. More than that, God wants me to CHOOSE to obey, to CHOOSE Him and His Will.

Yeah, this makes me ouch a bit. Because I haven't been choosing for God for a while now, I've been choosing for me. And for my selfish reasons.

I was talking a little bit to a friend yesterday about why I have this tendency to cover up when I'm struggling, or not address it, or share it, or anything that would make the problem... well, not go away, but give it over to the One who can do something about it. For me, it's people. I know how flawed people are, yet I love them all the same, and the thought of disappointing people, or angering, or just letting them down is a bit terrifying to me. I've dealt with rejection all my life, and most of the time I know God won't reject me. Most of the time, it's not God's rejection I'm worried about. It's His body's rejection I fear.

If you identify as a Christian, you don't do so in a vaccuum. It can be as much about fellowship as it is about relationship with God. People who try to sustain a faith by themselves away from a church hurt for the lack of community. I know, I've been there at times. It is why I worry so about how my actions are perceived by the community of believers I belong to.

God takes me as I am, addictions and all. People don't have to. They can try, because they want to be like Jesus, but they don't have to accept me. And there's times I expect them not to accept me.

Being alone isn't the same as being lonely. When you're lonely, there's something you can do about it. You can choose to change your circumstances, to be with people. When you're alone, you feel like that's not an option. You're locked into your isolation, into a prison of your own making. God guarantees we will never be alone. But that doesn't mean we see it that way.

So, God's asking me to make some choices. Make a list. Affirm what I know He's told me, what He's done for me, what I can believe even when I don't want to or think I can. He wants me to see that my will is nowhere near as great as His will. He wants to give me His will. It's one of His greatest gifts, after the sacrifice of His Son. His will is what carries us through our sanctification.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I'm the only daughter in my family, flanked by two brothers. We're all grown, but growing up together we didn't have a whole lot to do with each other. We are all very different people. My older brother went military, is very athletic and aggressive in ways my younger brother and I are not. My younger brother is a dreamer, only has his feet on the ground part of the time, and is very laid back compared to my older brother and I. Me? I'm the one who strives to do things right, to understand things, to control my world through knowledge. About the only thing we have in common is our love and tolerance for our parents and their crazy ways.

For the first time in four years, we were all together. Not since my grandfather died have we all been in the same place. And Saturday night, after walking around the desert museum, we came home, and started talking. Reliving our pasts, if you will, and connecting as grown ups in a way I haven't done before. Not as a family, that is. I've made my peace with both my brothers and parents individually, but never as a group.

And it was really eye-opening, seeing your childhood or key moments through another's perspective. Things that happened around me that I thought I understood were different. I had a relatively uneventful childhood, things only getting stirred when I got involved in the drama of my relatives and siblings. But to see it now as an adult who can't be hurt by it was really something. I'm not sure what I'd call it. Revelatory, I guess.

And I wanted to write about it here because it is one of those experiences I think that will prove to have changed me. I feel it profoundly now, the connection of family. In the past I always longed for it to be more than what it was, but that's not something I'll have with my siblings, my parents. I can create that, someday, but this bond has been cemented, not in the what might have beens, but in the what was and what is.

Still, I do wish I saw them more, if only for the hugs. We're a tactile family, and I sometimes feel starved of human contact, despite being surrounded by people.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Become Who You Were Born To Be

Growing up, my birthday always got reinforced by the fact that it was always followed by Mother's Day. And as I've gotten older, it's been more a time to reflect on my relationship with my own mother who, to my knowledge, doesn't read this. Which might be a good thing, heh.

I love my mother. Growing up, she was one of my best friends, and someone I could always confide in. She got me through eye surgeries, psychosomatic stomach ailments (fifth grade was a rough year), puberty, high school, and into college, where the ties changed. Where I used to place my parents as the most important influences of my life, I learned the hard way that they weren't the end-all of knowledge. Surprising, right? I was a late bloomer in that respect. Most teens learn that and have a rebellious period as a result. I didn't get that until I was about 19, and it didn't sink in until I tried to reconcile what my parents believe and what I was taught to believe, with what God said. It wasn't pretty. Sometimes there's no reconciling these things. My heart ached, and I felt gutted by the fact that we were so diametrically opposite. I cried over it. Many times. Still do on occasion. But nothing I've done has changed how they thing, and I pray, fervently, that nothing they do will change how I see God.

Which might not make a whole lot of sense, if you didn't know my parents are very New-Age, relativistic 'honor the god in all of us' sorts of people. They are loving, they are kind. And they are wrong.

When I started college, I thought the way they did. I followed a lot of the ideas they'd learned, meditated, sought comfort in all manner of new agey ideas and practices. And NONE OF IT WORKED. I had a horrible roommate situation as a freshman (as do most of us) and would call home nearly every other day, if not daily, because it was so lonely, so awful. The changes college was going to bring weren't happening. Meditating, using symbols and calling out to spirit guides, none of that helped. I was as alone as I've ever been. I was seeking something that could not be found in what I'd been taught was true. Or relatively true, as my parents don't believe in universal truth.

And then, I was invited to a Christian para-church group. Didn't realize it, but was so starved for friendship, so needy for connection, that I went. And initially regretted it, because I didn't want to be among THOSE people, those CHRISTIANS.

But the pastor said something that just struck me to my very soul. I'd been trying for so long to connect, to truly find God, and I couldn't, not of myself. I needed a bridge, something to span the gap between my frail human self and God's infinite self. And the bridge was Jesus.

Now, my family is mostly Catholic, so we would do the Christmas and Easter thing, but I didn't really get it. Not to the depths that I began exploring it as a college freshman. After going home for Christmas, and coming back to a room change because of my uncongenial roommate (and trust me, that's the nicest thing I could say about that), I asked my friend Laura, one of the RA's, if I could go to church with her. I don't know if she knew how hard it was for me to ask that, for me to open my eyes and ears and heart to hearing something I hadn't believed to be true. I thought it was exclusionist, something that people used to separate themselves and lord over others. I truly didn't get it, for all that I grew up occasionally going to church as a girl scout, or when Mom wanted to get in touch with her Catholic roots, or when my Mamaw wanted to take us kids to church, or when I went to VBS as a grade schooler at the church the next block over, or for all that I read a kid's picture bible. It's like I was storing all this data, but didn't have the program to make it run.

So I went to church, and things were starting to make sense, here and there. I even understood the theological arguments behind predestination and the elect, which came up at a college lunch fellowship. But it still wasn't real. Not really.

My spring break trips in college were very tame by most standards. Mom and one of my aunts and I went to Florida to stay with my grandparents. In a retirement park. Very thrilling stuff. But it was right after I got back from that trip, that I had a life-changing experience. I heard from God directly. I know it was God because a) I wasn't going to get up for the altar call at the event I was at, no way, but somehow I was at the front, and b) I was weeping like I had never wept before in my life. I was transformed.

This all is sort of a long story to explain to you what happened next. I went home, still emotional, still crying, and I called my parents. They'd been my best friends for so long, I thought that maybe they would understand, and that my not getting it before was just me being oblivious, not them failing to share it with me. Because why wouldn't they share with me the greatest news ever?

They didn't understand why I was crying, didn't understand anything I was trying to convey, and told me to call back when I'd calmed down.

That is still the most heartbreaking phone call I've ever had.

It's been over nine years since that night. Since Jesus changed my life. And since my perception of my parents has been forever altered. Especially my mom. We're a lot alike, you see. We've had a lot of the same health problems, a lot of interests in common, read a lot of the same fiction, watch a lot of the same tv and movies. And I've always thought it wouldn't be such a bad thing to be like my mother when I grow up.

Except, my mother thinks my persistence in focusing on Jesus to the exclusion of all else is a phase I'm going through, that I will someday grow out of Christianity, like she apparently thinks she did.

And nothing terrifies me more.

Because I don't want to ever think I don't need Jesus desperately. I would love to be less prone to sin and addiction, but not if it means making something other than Jesus the answer to all life's problems. I don't want to think crystals, or spirit guides, or dowsing, or aromatherapy, or meditating, or energy healing will do the work that Jesus did on the cross. I don't want to find something to appease my spirit for a time, when I can have a Redeemer fill the God-shaped hole inside me. When I DO have a Redeemer who's already filled the God-shaped hole inside me.

And one of the saddest things is that there's nothing I can say to my family to change their thinking, because a prophet is without honor in their hometown. But I can trust and hope in God's plan for them. I let go of control years ago, now if I can only let go of how much it hurts at times.

But for now, I'm growing to accept that I have a lot in common with my mother, better or worse.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Step up

Sunday our pastor started a new series, one about Jonah, and about our Mission. Not THE Mission, though that does factor, or should, into everything we do. But Our Mission, the one personal to each and every one of us, that defines us as we go throughout life. Some people are meant to be teachers, some people are meant to be leaders, some to serve, etc.

And some of us aren't entirely sure. It's one thing to say follow your passion, and make that central to your calling. I honestly don't know what I'd say my passion/calling is. Sad, huh? I mean, there's a lot of things I'm interested in, and a lot of things I can do and do well, but I don't know what I'd say my life's goals are.

There's a lot of things I could blame for that. A lot of excuses. Laziness, for one. Every time I think on something to give me direction in life, I back away because it seems too hard, or too big for me. It's not been by choice that I'm still a secretary at my university: It's apathy. EXTREME apathy.

Take last night. I got a call from a friend who's about 5 1/2 months pregnant needing an emergency sitter so she could run to the doctor. And I hesitated in saying yes.

Thinking on it now, I'm appalled at myself, for thinking for even a minute that anything I might have planned to do would be more important than safeguarding the life growing inside her.

God spoke to me in that moment. If you think your mission might just simply be to serve, why aren't you serving?

So I said yes, jumped in the car, and started over, only for her to call back and say it was fine, she'd wait til her husband came home.

But talk about a wake-up call. I've gotten so lazy in terms of how I relate to people, how I value people...

We learned at our church's women's retreat that "to the extent that we love is the extent that we worship." Worship is an outpouring of our love, for whatever we're worshiping. And if I'm being truly honest with myself, I don't worship anything, because I don't love anything. Or, if I'm being brutally honest with myself, I love myself more than anything else, and all my time and attention is going towards things that make me feel good, for however long it lasts.

God wants me to make a covenant with him. One that puts him absolutely first, and me absolutely last. Pray for me that I find the ability to give over to Him, and let the Holy Spirit take control.

Monday, April 19, 2010


Ever notice how much God is a God of completion, but yet it seems like there's always something more to be doing? Sometimes it's the basics of relationship with Him: prayer, bible reading, worshiping. Sometimes its bigger things, like letting Him change you in fundamental ways, addressing sin in your life and bringing you out of something you struggle with. Sometimes its learning to wait on him in big and little things.

But there's always something. A catch, if you will. God demands, no, REQUIRES, our focus.

I read today's My Utmost for His Highest and as usual, it was pretty spot on. Coming off the women's retreat at church, it's easy to be confident in what God has done in you and slip up in the things you didn't think you were shaky in. And man, did this get me: "The Bible characters fell on their strong points, never on their weak ones." How often is that true?

I remember back when I first became a Christian. It was such joy to dwell on God, to think about Him. Mentally playing through worship music, scripture, the ongoing conversation with Him was just so great, that when I slipped and went an HOUR without thinking about God, I was pretty horrified with myself.

 But it grows, doesn't it? That un-focus, the little neglects. Our hearts for God dissipate, and it gets harder and harder to get back to that place of being just delighted in Him. Pretty soon we can go a whole DAY without thinking about God, then a week, month... pretty soon it's just Easter and Christmas, isn't it?

I've slipped, I'll admit it. It is a slippery slope after all, that leads you ever downward towards the things you think you're strong enough to handle. Until one day you see yourself and know you can't handle it. Can't be a casual drinker, or occasional porn viewer, or sometime drug user, or any number of things. We say all things in moderation is key. "Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial."

So what do you do when you're at the bottom of the hill and the road you're meant to be on is at the top? When you've stopped moving, lost focus, and are incomplete?

I'm going to find out. I'm going to put forth an effort to THINK Jesus more each day, TALK to Jesus each day, tell Him about everything I've done or am doing, and let HIM decide what's right. Because it won't be my strength to get out of the valley. It won't be me that's strong enough to stop drinking altogether, to stop looking at porn or indulging all the vices I've built up as being okay because it's just a little bit, nothing huge. I know I can't do it. I've tried. I slipped further, because instead of talking to the one who can rescue me, I was talking to myself.

So let's start over, shall we? Hello, my name is Jen, and I'm a failure. I can't save myself. But I'm a failure with a Saviour, and that will lead me to completion.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Red Bricks

When I was a junior in college, my best friend and I took a film class together. One of the films we analyzed clips from was The Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy sets out from Munchkinland to the Emerald City, she's following the yellow brick road, which starts in a spiral, along with a red brick path. We jokingly wondered where that red brick road goes. Since then, I've used that as the title of my blogs anywhere. Where does the Red Brick Road go?

You see, Oz is a fantasy world in Dorothy's mind. One that has built her up to be a heroine when, if you recall the black and white beginnings of the film, she's nothing more than a spoiled brat. She's young and immature, and it takes the journey of Oz for her to learn that it's not all about her.

There's no place like home. So, where's home?

Not here. As my pastor pointed out the other Sunday, when it was a beautiful day in Southern California, this is as close to hell as we'll ever get. Ironic to me, because moving to CA was my definition of hell nearly six years ago. I was leaving friends, family, and a faith that had grown in the safety of a college environment that was more conservative than not. I didn't mean to leave that faith behind, honest. But there was something about CALIFORNIA that loomed large and scary in my mind. I'm a country girl. Give me farmland and trees, and weather. I felt suffocated moving to CA, even to such a 'conservative part' like Orange County. I clung to the life I'd known in PA, to my friendships and tried to live with my heart separated from my body.

If home is where the heart is, my heart wasn't in me.

It took a while for me to learn to hang on tightly to the memories and the love, but to let go, lightly, of the day to day things, the parts of life I couldn't connect with anymore. My best friends, my chicas, were 3 hours behind me, timewise, and in a whole different world from me realitywise. I had to make new friends, new family, and I have. My journey wasn't on the yellow brick road. I took the red brick one, to California, and beyond that, to a place where I don't live comfortably on this earth.

I learned that lesson the hard way, not to be too comfortable where you are. I don't know all the reasons why, but I do know that as rooted as I once was in BC (Before California) my life is IC (In California), and it is as temporary as all life is. BC might have felt permanent, but it isn't. None of it is. So I'm following the Red Brick Road, wherever it leads me. It will eventually turn to gold, but that's for another life.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Like This, Like That

When I was young, my mother, in one of her new holistic health kicks, started giving us vitamins, supplements, and all sorts of weird stuff. I remember swearing to myself that when I grew up, I'd never take anything so bizarre as Kelp.

I take it every day now.

Funny, isn't it? How we are determined to not be 'like that'. I work on a college campus, so a lot of my 'like thats' center around the current fashion trends of the still-teens going to their classes. I won't dress 'like that', wearing ballet flats *looks at feet, cringes* or leggings, or multiple flimsy layers. *avoids mirror* But how often do we hold true to those things? And does it really matter, our attempts to be unique?

When I was younger, I would get my hair cut by taking a picture to the stylist and say "I want to look 'like this'." Rarely would I, though. How it looks on Jennifer Aniston isn't how it will look on me, sad to say.

Nowadays I just tell the stylist how I want to to look, but without the expectation that her scissors and comb will magically transform me from ordinary to extraordinary by a few snips.

We have a lot of 'like this' moments. And 'like that'. We know what we want to be, how we want to look, down to the nitty-gritty of what's okay and what isn't. We all know what we'd change about ourselves if given carte blanche with a plastic surgeon, right? A nip there, a tuck here, a lift or a snip. We all carry with us an image of our ideal selves. If you're anything like me, you avoid looking in the mirror so your bubble doesn't burst as you realize that yes, actually, that shirt sort of does make you look fat.

When I was in 6th grade, I was pretty much through puberty, unlike a lot of girls in my class. I remember at one point being proud that I had curves, a shape, and wasn't a twig like a lot of other girls in my jazz dance class. But then came the recital. I saw myself in comparison to everyone else on stage, and suddenly, those slender limbs were graceful, and my heft was grotesque. I felt like an elephant trying to be a gazelle.

I went from being glad I didn't look 'like that' to wanting to look 'like this'. And it never stops. We don't live in a vacuum. I'm always looking at my hair, my clothes, my shape by comparing myself, and sometimes I feel good, but I'm doing so at the cost of putting someone else down, if only in my own mind.

Beauty isn't a mountain to climb. It's not about looking better than the person beneath you, or trying to look better than the person above you. It's about looking your most you, whatever that may be. So what if my bangs looked better on Tiffani Thiessen. Or that my shirt looked better on my mother. Or my shoes looked better on someone with smaller feet. I could come up with a million 'like this, like that' moments, but I can't let them define me. My gaze has to stop being so external, and start being more internal.

I started this as a response to Sarah Markley's challenge to blog on beauty, but in thinking about it, these attitudes about beauty are only symptomatic of a larger problem. We worry about beauty, but what we really need to be worried about is pride. Wanting to be something we aren't, letting our gaze be judge, jury and executioner to all we see, that just leads to unhappiness, and ultimately, death. To see anything, anyone, as not beautiful, is to condemn them, and I don't think that's how it's meant to be.

It's certainly not how God sees us. he didn't create the world in six days and spend the seventh tinkering to make it just so. It was GOOD, just as he had made it.


Monday, November 2, 2009


Alright, I have a confession to make.

I'm not a patient person.

This probably surprises no one, least of which my mother, who for years would tell me:

"Patience is a virtue,
Virtue is a grace,
Grace is a little girl who wouldn't wash her face."

And I gotta say, that was some of the most singularly unhelpful sayings I've ever heard. It makes no sense.

But in a way it does. When I cry out to God and say, "Lord, give me patience with so and so, or such and such!" I don't really want patience. If I did, I'd just deal with the situation. Its in those trying times that I learn and grow in patience. No, what I really mean when I cry out is, "Lord, I'm tired of learning patience/peace/whatever fruit of the Spirit have you, and I just want you to take care of it so I don't have to."

And isn't that like a little girl who won't wash her face before supper so Mom has to. Sometimes Mom even gets out the tissue, does that gross licking thing to clean off your face (Truly, I hated that, and I know I can't be alone in having a parent do that to me). Grace didn't want to deal with it, so she got cleaned up. The hard way, the gross way, the expedient way. But not the cleanest way, not the way that makes her cheeks shine, and shows off the light in her eyes. Just the easy way.

So in hindsight, that little saying has more wisdom than I accounted for. Asking for patience is definitely asking for trouble, but I think I'd rather that than the easy, spit-tissue style cleanup I get when I decide it's too much for me to handle. When I refuse to wash my own face.

Time to be mindful in my prayers. Maybe that'll give me the patience I don't realize I want in the midst of my whining for it to be easier.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Something missing

"You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don't even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don't even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me." - Life as a House

I had a realization the other day. Well, I've had it several times, growing over the past few weeks, but it seemed to really get into my gut today, and I'm marveling at it.

Something's missing in my life.

I don't know when it went missing. Maybe it slowly withered away. I certainly didn't notice it go, but I've noticed it now that it's gone.

Let me back up and say first that while I've enjoyed the victory over addiction I've had the past few months, I'm by no means cured. I don't think you can be cured of addiction. I think it's a bit like cancer. Addiction springs out of the part of us that is longing for something good, something right, and it begins to devour the rest of our lives, destroying all it touches. Same with cancer cells. Same with sin. As a metaphor, it's not perfect, but it works for me, so I'd say I'm healed, in remission, and living life with that in mind has helped me to realize what's gone missing.

Part of what makes it easy for me to give in to addiction is that I'm prone to fits of depression. I've not been medically diagnosed, but I can say with certainty that I get depressed. I know because when I come out of the cycle, and that dark place it takes me, I can look back and see it for what it is. Depression. Living my life in darkness.

And that's missing. That darkness. Even when I was out of that headspace of being depressed, I knew that was there, waiting for the next time. It was familiar, and as much as I hated it, I'd embrace it as I slid back into a fugue. It was like a friend, in a way, the kind who tells you what you want to hear, rather than what is right. Only it told me everything to make me stay in darkness, to keep hating myself. It LIED to me.

And it's gone. Or at the very least, like cancer cells, so diminished that I don't feel or see it's effects. It's powerless, and I'm in remission. Because I've been healed. From the depression, from the lies, from everything that fed into my addiction and made it oh so easy to not just fall off the wagon, but to fling myself off into a pit of despair.

I realized something else, too. In it's place is gratitude. Overwhelming and absolute. God's done a huge thing for me these past few years, in bringing me face to face with my failures, my inability to help myself, and He waited patiently for me to let go, truly let go of trying to fix myself, let go of the pain, the anger, and everything that was like puppet strings pulling me back to a dark place that brought death to my heart.

Now, there is life. In my heart. In my eyes. In my soul. Walking with Jesus, walking to God, it's not the fear-riddled thing it was for so long. I couldn't tell you why I feared it. I feared everything. God's bringing my fear to light and showing it to be the powerless thing, strings made of cobwebs. It holds me only as far as I let it. And instead of wrapping myself up in it, I'm taking Jesus's hand, and he's pulling me out of the darkness, past the spiderweb, and into the light.

Maybe I shouldn't say missing. It's not something I want back, after all. It's something that's been excised. Been cleansed. It's the part of me I've longed to have God change, and after so long, I've gotten out of the way of him changing it.

I've come out of Egypt, long ago. I've been freed from captivity. But I gave myself over to fear and doubt, and spent too long in the desert. Now, I'm at the shore of the River Jordan. He told me to put my foot in, and the waters will recede. After dithering on the banks for I don't know how long, My feet are in. And they're dry. I'm walking forth, in His promises, into the Promised Land. Full of all God has for me. Leaving all the rest behind.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Let Go and Let God

Try not to think for five minutes.

Yeah, I can't do that. I've tried. Meditation never did it for me. All that did was predispose me to get some sleep. Blogging is in theory for me the practice of emptying your head of thoughts, ideas, and has served as a cathartic purpose like that. But it doesn't shut the brain down.

"Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10 gives what is, for me, one of the hardest commands of scripture. Not stillness of body, but stillness of mind. Some translations say, 'Cease striving' or 'Our God says, "Calm down," 'Let be and be still', 'Desist', 'Stop', and the most perplexing (The Message) 'Take a long, loving look at me, your High God, above politics, above everything.'

This past weekend at the Women of Faith conference one of the speakers, Sheila Walsh, put it another way, and I think I get this way the best. 'Let go, and know that I am God.'

Certainly touches on the heart of why I struggle with stillness. How much do we hold on to everyday? How much of our hurts, our fears, our shames, do we wrap around ourselves like an armor? And why?

I have a theory. Being known, being loved by God, truly, completely, and how He intended, is Terrifying.

Take that armor we make. Not God's armor. The stuff we fashion. The defense mechanisms. Paper-thin like a t-shirt, unable to truly protect us, but we frequently go around thinking and behaving as though God hasn't seen it all, heard it all, knows it all when it comes to our lives.

If I was to go to God with all my sins, flaws, talents, ugliness, beauty, I'd have to trust that He won't reject me. That He will do all He promises to do. Love me. Heal me. Restore me. Refine me.

Of course I can give any number of reasons why I don't go running to His throne, knowing what he's promised me. He might ask more than I can give, more than I can do. He might take away something important to me.

All of which boils down to this: I don't trust Him to be who He says He is.

I've blamed God in the past for things that have hurt me, for circumstances not turning out the way I thought they should have, that He promised me, which is untrue, He didn't promise me anything save that he would never leave me nor forsake me.

I've used my addictions as a shield. I've let sin in my life be my defense against the all-powerful love of God. And it hasn't made me happier, or safer, or even stronger. It's merely withered my faith, eroded my hope, and distorted my love.

But that's not the end. I'm not stuck in the place of trying to defend myself by myself, with a shield full of holes and as thin as paper. I'm in a place of learning that I can let it all go, and know that He is God, He will deliver me, and I can trust that, no matter how many times I fall on my face. He'll just set me on my knees.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Truth and Lies

It's been a while since I posted here. I tend to think of this as where I go when I have something profound, or potentially so that I want to work out in a journal space.

There's been a lot on my mind, but what it boils down to is the difference between truth and lies.

Now, I'm fairly absolute in my view of the universe. I believe in universal truth, which tells me that there is right, and there is wrong. So, there has to be truth, because there is lies.

In my search just now, I found that an archaic meaning of truth is fidelity or constancy. I rather like that, because there is a constancy to truth, a faithfulness. So when the bible calls God the God of all truth, it notes and marks His faithfulness, in being unable to lie. It negates all that God is, to lie. Not a hard concept, I mean, Kevin Smith got it right in Dogma!

Now, lies are trickier. Such is the nature of lies, to be tricky. Most of the time you can tell the truth from a lie, either by evidence that directly contradicts the lie, or by that feeling you get, deep inside, when you're being lied to. It sucks, it really does, to be lied to.

It really sucks, though, when you lie to yourself.

I'm very familiar with that kind of lie. Lots of lies revolve around the "can't's". 'I can't do that. I can't lose weight. I can't stop that behavior. He can't like me. He can't find me attractive.' The can't's are tied pretty closely to the "never's". 'I'll never have kids. I'll never get married. I'll never get out of this job/apartment/state.' Yeah, I've told myself pretty much all of those lies.

The thing is, lies can be soooooo attractive. Think about it. If you lie to yourself, you never have to change. If you let lies defeat you, if you believe things that are just completely untrue, then you never run the risk of being disappointed. Never risk being hurt, getting let down, left out, but you never know joy, know how wonderful it can be to be included, to have your expectations fulfilled rather than dashed.

Lies are designed to keep us tied to one place of thinking.

There's a truism about how the only constant is change. I'd go a step further, the greatest change you can ever have is by believing truth. Truth isn't a stagnant thing. It grows you, stretches you, and to quote, sets you free.

the Book of Ephesians talks about the armor of God, and it mentions being girded in the belt of truth. I always liked that. You wear truth around your middle. Why there? To keep your clothes on!

Why is it important to keep your clothes on? Because Isaiah 61:10 says "I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." That's some pretty rocking clothes you wanna keep on.

There's so much to be said for truth. It's not easy. On the contrary, knowing and holding fast to truth in the face of a world that says there's no such thing, that your truth isn't my truth, that there is no truth, that your truth is wrong/hateful/cruel/a lie, that's a tough thing to do. Truth is right up there with faith, in being the challenge that takes an entire lifetime. Lies will come and go, and change as you change. But truth is the constant that takes you through the lies, to greater understanding of who you are, and who you are meant to be.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Pretty People Post

So, I said over at Facebook that I was going to do a post on pretty people, and a good friend jokingly, "you don't have to do an entire blog post about me." And while she wasn't who I was thinking of (sorry, Maggi!), it did strike me how much perception plays into this.

Let me start by saying I'm as guilty as the next person of obsessing over pretty people. I used to read the celebrity magazines, read all sorts of stuff online, find pictures of an actor I adored and just gaze dreamily at him (or wallpaper my bedroom wall, but that's another story). And the sad bit is that I'm not talking about as a teenager. I'm talking about more recently. Like last week. I think.

But here's the thing. I look at the 'pretty people' (and for the sake of definitions, let's assume I'm only speaking about the folks given media attention, like actors, actresses, musicians, and the all purpose 'celebs (yes, I am talking about you, Paris Hilton)), I'm doing two things. Marveling over the look they've both achieved and maintained, either through fitness, plastic surgery, or God's own grace in giving them symmetrical faces, and wondering what's inside.

Because that's what matters, right? What's inside a person? Says who? Well, God does.

The Bible doesn't say,

"Create in me a clean face, oh God, and renew a right body in me."

"Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of you face."

"Above all else, guard your face, for it is the wellspring of life."

All a man's ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the face."

Just in rereading all those adulterated scriptures its pretty clear how appearance doesn't work when you're talking about eternity.

So why do we do so? I know why I fixate on appearance. It's all around me. The notion of success as presented by the world is tall, thin, beautiful. By the standards that have been set by some vague select elite. (Actually, the modern standard of beauty is likely being set by fashion designers, most often gay men, who create clothes for women to showcase what they'd find appealing on a man. No breasts, no hips, no fat or curve at all. But I digress).

I also fixate because a part of me just wants to think that there might be something deeper to the image I'm seeing. That the person with the perfect lips, cheekbones, hair, eyes (coughjensenacklescough) might be more than just pretty in form, but pretty in spirit. You know?

We all know people who we'd describe as pretty/beautiful, inside and out. But the question I want to ask is this: Would we have gotten to know their inner beauty if we hadn't found the outside appealing? Do we get to know people because we hope their insides match their outsides, or do we get to know them irregardless of looks?

I honestly don't know. I'm as guilty of this thinking as the next person. And it stinks, because my self-image is such I tend to classify myself with the non-pretty people that often get left out. And I isolate myself on that same basis. Because I buy the lie that I don't matter if my face and form aren't up to the world's standards. That no one will see the real me inside my extra weight and screwy eyes and bad skin. That unless I change everything about myself to make my outsides match my insides, I won't matter.

I know we're all critical of our appearance. And we do so in terms of what other's think. 'I can't wear that dress, I'll look fat.' 'He'll never notice me in this top, I better change, and wear a pushup bra besides.' 'I'm too young/old for him/her.' 'No point in dressing to impress cause no one's looking.'

And it's everywhere we go. Not just in the secular world. I'm self-conscious every time I go to church, wondering if I'm dressed up just enough to fit in, or if it's too much, or if I should have worn more jewelry, or if I should have worn heels, and on and on. Mostly, I ignore those thoughts, because I'm not entirely awake when I get there, but by the time I leave, I'm aware of how I do, and do not match my surroundings. The absolute dumbest part? No one but me cares or notices these things.

I greatly admire the women who dress to please themselves and no one else. (Of course if I did that, it'd be a sheet over my head half the time). The ones who don't care what others think. Recently I wore what can only be described as a teenybopper t-shirt to my church's women's retreat. I don't have the body for those kind of shirts, yet I did it anyway. Wanted to have fun with it. And this time, I did get a response. Ranging from "Oh, Jen. Only you." to "That's a devil shirt!" (It said, 'I kissed a vampire and I liked it') So I pleased myself that time. And now I have to stop second-guessing myself the next time I go to church, because who knows what they'll think if I wear my new threadless (tm) shirt.

And in the midst of all this self-conscious thinking lurks the truth, well hidden by the lies we tell ourselves when we look in a mirror, and when we see billboards and commercials and people on the street who cause envy just by their very size two jeans. The truth that none of it matters. The truth that our face and form are not, as a lot of netspeaking teenagers might say, 'relevant to my (God's) interests'.

This is the truth:

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end."

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (I personally like Judge Judy's "Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever" idiom, but this is also true ;) )

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

And by way of warning/admonishment to myself and others who fixate on looks:

"As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man."

I actually intended to write this as a more joking post, but the deeper I got into it, the more I realized how hard this hits me. I'm considered a smart and wise woman by my peers, yet I doubt it all the time because how can I have anything to offer? You see women in all career paths, even Christians, who have to bank their talent and intellect on their appearance. In my more spiteful and vindictive moments I wonder how a person so physically unpleasing by worldly standards could be happy/married/successful; could have peace/someone/success, while I don't?

Well, that answers the question right there. They have someone because they've gotten past the need for outward adornment. I know I haven't. But I'm trying to change. Trying to see that the only way I can be pretty outside is if I'm 'pretty' inside. And the only way I can do that is through the grace of God. Through his transformation. My face has to reflect my heart. Which I know is hard, far harder than I want it to be. But I believe that God will change that. Not sure how, or when or where, but I have hope for it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rambling about the conference and retreat, in no particular order

~The video conference at Zion was absolutely astounding. I've not had many of what you might call direct experiences of God. In the sense that I'm physically and mentally overwhelmed. This was one of them. The speakers were talking about the life of King David, and how he came to a lot of crossroads, his anointing by the Lord (he was anointed as a teen, but didn't become a king until he was in his 30's), how God transformed him even in the midst of his sin with Bathsheba, and about how available grace is to us when we sin. It was some really good teaching.

~The part that hit me the hardest was when Beth Moore was talking about moving past our devastation with God. The example was when David tried to bring the Ark into the city, in 2 Samuel 6: 1-10. He thinks he's doing what God wants him to do, only Uzzah is struck dead when he touches the Ark. He gets angry at God, and I can totally understand that. I didn't understand why God brought me to CA, because I really didn't want to move here. AT ALL. And when I went home at Christmas 2004, and saw and heard how everyone was moving on with their lives and I wasn't, not in the way I thought I would/should be, I broke. Literally.

That January, when I went to a bible study at church, I cried like a baby, and I couldn't explain why. Now I think I know. I was devastated at where God had led me. From having a close circle of friends, strong fellowship, a pastor and church family I adored, true connectivity, to a new place, where I had to start over. I didn't want to start over! I wanted my chicas, and my family, and things to stay the same. And instead of trusting that God had His reasons, I decided to walk away from Him. So Spring 2005 I was living, as they say, "in the world." Got drunk with increasing regularity, hung out in bars trying to get past my own innate shyness and pick up guys, until finally, at a friend's house, I got drunk enough to give his roommate ... well, sexual favors. Let's leave it at that.

That was a wake-up call, let me tell you. I had kept saying as I do all this stuff, "God, if you're there, you'll stop me. You won't let me go to far. You'll send me a sign, or do something so I come back to you. So I know you're real." And honestly? He didn't do anything. Not in the sense that he answered my.... dares, shall we say. God is not to be trifled with. What I thought I needed, Him proving his love, wasn't it at all. I needed a reason to drag my broken self back to church, back to the foot of the cross where, as the song goes, "grace and suffering meet." I've been scrabbling back from that since then, and I think, in my own heart and mind, God hadn't forgiven me for walking away, so my relationship with him was messed up.

In the midst of this I started turning to porn as a way to feel.... something. You know? Something is better than nothing. But the problem with it is you read/watch it often enough, it's like any addiction, you need more of it to feel its effects. And it was consuming my life. I didn't want to be social. I didn't care about seeing and being with other people. I fulfilled obligations to church stuff, but I hated myself, knowing how two-faced I was being.

And eventually I did tell someone. I was praying that God would send someone to ask how I was, and if He did, I'd confess. K. came to me, and we talked a bit, and she tried to keep me accountable. She really did. But she's older, has her own problems (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), and couldn't be there for me as much as I needed her to be. So I drifted. I joined a six month group dedicated to relational struggles (sexuality, porn, etc), and it helped a fair bit, but not as much as I had hoped. I still wasn't letting down the walls on this.

Last spring was when God finally got through to me about it. Not in that He hadn't forgiven me, but that I hadn't truly repented. Which was when I blogged my monster post about it all. The year since I've slipped and slid, and sunk into a depression and apathy that even porn couldn't reach me, not really. Then one day.... I woke up.

~ I realized at this retreat that I'm not where God wants me. But at the same time, I'm not outside his grace, or his mercy. And my thinking I hadn't been forgiven? Hogwash. I got that at the conference, the weekend before. And God's reassurance that I have a second change, not quite a do-over, but an opportunity to resume the race brought new meaning to the words believe, and hope than I'd had before. you know how you can know the meaning of a word, but not really feel the emotion, the connection to what it means for you, personally? I'd believed in Jesus as savior for 8 years, but I hadn't BELIEVED quite like I do now. Same with hope. Hope's not a wishy-washy, "maybe you will, maybe you won't' sort of feeling. It's knowing that whatever happens, there will be good in it. "Expectation of future good." I expect good things from God, because he is the Giver of all that is good in this world.

~ I also realized at the conference that I could be transformed. That God could and would change me in profound and tangible ways if I let down my walls, the hurt I've been clinging to since moving to CA, and let him in. And I finally did it. The word vulnerable has new meaning for me. In the past, I was terrified to admit any of this. It's from my heart of hearts. But it's no less than what God expects of me, and what God deserves. You know what the word glory means? Not just "praise, honor, or distinction extended by common consent; worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving." It's making God conspicuous in our lives. That's AWESOME to me, guys. That's a definition I can take hold of. Language is key for me, in connecting my heart and my mind, and these words, glory, hope, believe, they're doing some awesome things in my life.

~At the retreat I also realized something else. I have to chase hard after the things I want. I'm too passive by half. Its what caused my vulnerability to build such walls. I'd expect something from someone, get disappointed, and used it to both affirm my sense of self-worth. Which is ridiculously low. I'd take the fact that I would sit in a roomful of people I know and no one would talk to me as a sign that I didn't matter. But I do. I just have to stop retreating. Which sounds simple enough, but takes some effort on my part, being so introverted.

~This is exciting to me, guys! All this stuff happening in and around me. I have a fresh perspective, and while I'm still me, I'm growing, and moving, and changing. And it doesn't scare me, not even close. The fear that dominated so much of my life for so long is gone. I truly am different now, in ways I'm not entirely sure of, except that God changed me. That I am absolutely confident in.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The adventures of recovery, part 1

I sort of feel a bit like John Cusack in America's Sweethearts, how he just goes around saying "I'm grateful for this tree. I'm grateful for this bush." But while he is forcing it to try and bring a bit of calm to his life, I'm not.

I know it's a bit of an emotional high, to realize in a matter of weeks that A) I've been seriously depressed and somehow didn't realize; B) to make a decision about your future that excites you, and stirs you from that apathy, and C) to finally have someone PUSH you on the things you need pushed on.

There's a lady at my church who cornered me two Sunday's ago, and basically started asking me the hard questions. How was I doing with the addiction. How was my relationship with God. What could she do to help. The last was what really got me resisting. I'm very independent person, not always because I don't like people telling me what to do. I love structure and order. If I have rules to follow, I'm good. But I'm also very good at getting out from under someone's gaze, when it comes to my problems. I don't like sharing my problems. Never have. I'm much more willing/interested in being there for a person in their problems than my own. Which, now that I think about it, is a bit contradictory, as I'm an introvert who recharges in solitude. But I digress.

I'm not good at letting people into my problems because I don't always trust they'll see it through, the implied committment my sharing with them entails. And I've gotten burned on this before. Not just with problems, but with life in general. Friends giving me a raincheck. People forgetting to include me. A lot of it isn't deliberately hurtful stuff, and if the people involved knew how personally I took it, they'd be horrified. But I'd be horrified if they knew, because it means that A) I'm sharing my problems, and B) I'm letting them get close enough to hurt me.

I'm the kind of person who can wait in a line somewhere, and on a good day, talk to half the people in the line as we wait. I nearly always talk to the people next to me on planes. I just have one of those faces, i guess. So its not that I'm not good with people, per se, but socially, I'm awkward. It takes a long time for me to really warm to a person, especially if I only see them once or twice a week. I mean, there's people I go to church with for several years now who know less about me than my coworker of a few months. It sort of takes repeated, prolonged exposure to a person to get me warmed to them. And to know they're there gets past the trust thing. Sort of like a little kid. You know, if they don't see it, it doesn't exist for them, hence peek a boo is so effective, and why the littlier ones cry when mom or dad is gone. Because they're not just gone, they're GONE, forever in the baby's mind. I probably have a holdover of that going on in how I relate to people. Making friends at girl scout camps, on vacations, etc, and while we always promised to write, we never did.

And as an adult I know it's a two way street. I could have written. But the needy part of me really wants the other person to take the first step, and by doing so, validate me. Make me matter.

And I said all that to basically explain that I walked away from that conversation on Sunday realizing things had to change. And in the past, I'd just pray they would change, and be disappointed that they wouldn't, feel like it was God's answer for me. But I thought about it enough to get her email address, and I emailed her that week, and after a bit of back and forth, I was convinced to go to Celebrate Recovery.

So I went last Friday. And I gotta say, I do NOT like crowds. Of any kind. LeakyCon is going to test my capacity for being around lots of people. I've lived in CA for nearly 5 years, not once have I gone to ComicCon. Because of the crowds. Same with concerts, sports. Part of it is a sort of claustrophobia thing, but the other part? Goes back to that socialization thing. I'm surrounded by STRANGERS, and do I trust them with my physical proximity? Heck no. So now I'm going to a group I have to trust with the overwhelming number of people, but also eventually with my emotional healing. OY.

But I'm working past that. I'm taking the step and believing that God will change me. That I'll not only let him, I'll embrace it. I've been so passive in the past, so apathetic to what Jesus wants to do for me, that he can't do anything, because I was doing nothing. It's like the saying. "If you want to walk on water, first you have to get out of the boat." I was clinging to the boat like nobody's business, but now I think I've loosened my grip a bit. Letting go and letting God.

I'm tired and I should be going to bed, but this evening, talking to the women of my church and bible study really just blessed me. We're in 2 Corinthians, and in Chapter 2 it talks about God's triumphal procession. How we're not going just TO victory, but FROM victory. Thinking of life in those terms, that I've already won, that I'm starting off from something good, it's a great feeling. And a great truth I'm really wanting to keep in mind, and in heart.

Another spot caught me in Chapter 3. God writing not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. That if God can write on stone (admittedly difficult in those days), then writing on my heart is comparatively easy. There was a lot of good stuff, and I took notes, but I think my exhaustion is catching up with me.

I'm going to try and really write this sort of thing down when it happens, so let this be the first of many posts to that effect.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pressing On

Having not written here in nearly 6 months, I find it both ironic and telling that what I've got to put down now in words is very nearly the same as what I wrote last year.

But instead of struggling with forward motion, I'm pressing on.

After a lot of deliberation, I've decided to throw myself into the business of getting a job out of state. Not sure how long that will take, but it's time for me to make a home, put down roots, and for all that I love the people I know in Southern CA, I can't do it here. The economy won't let me.

There's some other reasons besides financial I want to move. I've never lived on my own before. As in, completely by myself. I need that. I CRAVE it. I'm an introvert, folks. If you don't know what I mean by that, it's mostly describing how I recharge my batteries. I need solitude for that. And living with a houseful of people has been draining. As a friend smartly pointed out to me, I've been living on my reserves for nearly a year, and that's not how a person should live.

So I need to go somewhere I can live on more than just dregs of solitude. More than just piecemeal relationships. Because I hold back out here. I don't want to stay, so I restrain myself from getting deep with people, so it doesn't hurt as much when I leave.

It might not be apparent to most people (not that anyone reads this anyway), but I've been seriously depressed for several months now. I don't like going out to do things socially, and as soon as I'm there, I want to fulfill my obligation and go home. That's not how to be a good friend. Not to mention the fact that I've had no direction for so long, I forgot what it felt like to be motivated, to want something enough to work towards it. I'd postpone things until I had to do something about them. Heck, I needed to think of a really good reason to get out of bed a lot of mornings. How sad is that?

So it's time. Time to change, time to find a place I can call my own. I'm 26, I should be able to be self-sufficient. And I'm not. Not by a long stretch.

If I spend my time fantasizing about getting my own apartment, being solely responsible for cooking/cleaning/etc, then you know you've got it bad. I'm not into typical feminine things, but I daydream about decor, and furniture arrangements, and how to make the place look grown up and lived in.

I'm giving away my stuffed animal collection and kid's DVD's. I'm looking at my books and belongings with an eye to paring down to fit into a new place, or whether I'll be able to buy new furniture.

I'm wishing for the day I can come home and make myself a nice meal, and not have to clean up someone else's mess before I cook. When I'll know what I have to make because I'll have stocked the fridge myself. I'll be able to set up the iron and watch tv at the same time and dress more professionally because I'll have room to deal with laundry in an adult manner.

Sounds lame, right? It kinda is. But it's a sign that my heart's desire is yearning for something more than just making do.

I want to move to a job at a university I can get my MLS in. I want to go back to school, and earn a degree that actually matters. I want to have plans for my evenings beyond sitting at home watching TV. I want to get deeper into my church and not feel like it doesn't matter what I do, I'm on the fringe because I'm single.

I'm a round peg in a square hole. I don't fit. There's too much space, and not enough me. I slip out, because I'm not supposed to be there.