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“Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.”
james 4:8

earlier last week, i was in a funk, whether it was from moving or figuring out next steps or spending too much time alone or otherwise. i think the bulk of it came down to the fact that i was focusing in on myself to the point where everything was about me and my desires, rather than on either of the first two commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

and whenever i neglect that and instead look only inward, it drags me down. it causes discontentment and anxiety when i forget to look Up. i knew what i needed to do (draw near to God) but my heart just wasn’t in it. i mumbled the words and told God how fed up i was with stuff and things in my life, but still, i wasn’t feeling any differently or any better.

then on wednesday, still full of fret, i met up with bri, as per our usual wednesday night ritual, and i just let it all out. i kept talking and confessing everything that was burdening me and holding me down. and it was in that moment, in that conversation of releasing everything pit up–as hard or lame as some of it is to admit–the weight was lifted.

in lauren winner’s book, “girl meets god” she talks about how started going to see a priest routinely to confess her sins, even though she’s not (and doesn’t otherwise practice) catholic/catholicism. she talks about how it’s in God’s nature to take the ordinary and everyday and use it to purify us and draw us closer to him: water gives us new birth in baptism; bread reminds us of the price jesus paid and brings us close to him in the eucharist; and God also draws us closer to him when we confess our sins–to ordinary people, just like each and every one of us.

our inclination is to bottle up our imperfections and smudge over them so no one can tell. or if we do tell, we tell people who will have the right answers or perhaps the people who are worse off than ourselves. but we don’t want to risk tarnishing our image or our reputation. so our sins cower deep inside. but when we become vulnerable and break down walls and open up about our shortcomings, especially to other ordinary, broken individuals, a surprising bit of healing can come through that. (and isn’t it ironic, dontcha think?)

and that’s what happened on wednesday. as we were talking, i could feel it taking place and my heart getting inflated again and swelling back up. i knew that that moment was behind me for the time being. i came home that night, renewed…

“therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you will be healed. the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
james 5:16

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i’m not sure why but when it comes to this little online post-after-post of ideas and thoughts, i struggle with towing the line between “how much do you say?” and “well, if you’re glossing over this and sugarcoating that and leaving out that, then isn’t it all just superficial?” i’ve never really been one for detailing all the minutiae of life like, “and then i ate a peanut-butter sandwich,” preferring to save my typing for those elements that move me and that, i hope, others can learn from. and even though a lot of amazing things happen and i have a great time doing them, once they’re over, typically i don’t feel the need to recount and relay over the internet. i guess i just feel like once it’s happened, it’s kind of irrelevant. on to bigger and better things: the here and now.

it just ends up feeling patchworked and pieced together, with all sorts of gaping holes that i’m not willing to sew up or thread through.

another thing, i’m feeling more encouraged, after reading that book, “The Year I Got Everything I Wanted.” it’s a bit curious because the book deals a lot with how sad he is, but that’s one of the things i like about it. so often we feel the need to pretend like everything’s OK and great and has a cherry on top. but he just airs it all, and that’s so comforting. because then, as i’m struggling with those sorts of feelings (as we all do, from time to time), i don’t feel so weird or alone or messed up for them–even though the rest of the world goes on grinning and all that, i know it’s not just me, someone else has been there and felt that, too.

here were some of the things he had to say about despair and sadness, all influenced by the Old Testament book Ecclesiastes (written by Solomon, one of my favorites from the Bible, who asked for wisdom and received it). these are all pretty much direct quotes from different places in the book:

  • Ecclesiastes 7:3: “frustration is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.”
  • “it is only in feeling the depths of our despair that we are ever able to experience joy again. in other words, miss the sorrow of Good Friday and miss the joy of Easter. or, “a sad face is good for the heart,” which is what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes. miss the sorrow, miss the joy… [the author’s friend told him]: ‘you see, my job as a pastor is to help people fully enter into their pain.'”
  • “i wish i wasn’t so sad, but i understand you have to do things like this to get my attention. this whole year has been about me, hasn’t it? sorrow it seems drives me to Jesus, which is particularly fitting because sorrow was so intrinsic to who Jesus was.”
  • “i find myself being half-present, unsure why i’m unable to concentrate, unsure why i’m unable to plumb the depths of my sorrow and move from an inward to an outward focus.”
  • “we are only able to be fully present with others once we’ve confronted our own demons. those who haven’t dealt with their demons are distracted.”
  • “it’s easier to forgive someone when they show you how wounded they are. usually in the heat of an argument, people exude an “i’m right, you’re wrong” attitude, and i never get to see how wounded they are, how weak. but tonight as [his ex-girlfriend] sobbed, i saw how pointless it was to hate.”

I know thanksgiving was officially a week ago, but I also know that a day is only just that—a day. And so today I feel like it’s more like thanksgiving than a week ago. Why? Quite simply, the power of friendship.

For awhile there, I was holed-up in myself. It was the holidays so people were busy and I was just in a mood where I didn’t really feel like reaching out. I didn’t feel like catching people up on what was going on, I didn’t feel like talking about it and rehashing it again and again. But then I realized that—while I hope I’m great company for other people—I’m not good company for myself in times like these. It reminds me of the part in Chronicles of Narnia when Father Christmas comes and says that winter is finally starting to end, and all the ice starts melting and the grass starts showing and then the rivers break free.  Things come back to life.

That’s what I look at my friends and see.
Friday:
Betsy called to set up a date, which goes to show that ESP runs her in her family because it was just what I needed. Even though I probably wasn’t willing to reach out, I needed that time. We went to Max and Erma’s and gorged on their soup and fries and sandwiches and all kinds of conversation. It was a nice relief to everything else.
Tuesday:
Lovelies date with Holly and Kitty, which included Chipotle and crafts trips. We hadn’t done one of those in quite some time, either, because Betsy’s been traveling, but I knew that I couldn’t wait. I couldn’t not “fellowship,” however much it’s nice to self-indulge and sulk.
Wednesday: Lunch with Bee, then small group with Cathy and Brianna, which I’ve realized I need greatly in my life. I’d never had much experience with small groups before, but now I’m a big advocate, because I can see that where I’ve been really sad lately, that outlet has also been missing. We didn’t meet for almost two months, which is about just as long as I’ve been feeling upset. And so I know that things will still be tough and all that, but I think that that’s a good anchor to keep in my life, because it’s so rooted in what’s real and spiritual and connecting.
And then! I got to talk for about an hour to my friend Kristin, who lives in Phoenix. My dear, dear Kristin, who I haven’t talked to in probably months. Fortunately, the time change is now on our side (Arizona doesn’t abide by the laws of time, evidently) so she’s only 2 hours behind. And it’s funny because I didn’t even meet Kristin until spring quarter of my senior year—Easter weekend to be exact. And when we did meet, we were both trashed (I’m almost certain it was the drunkest I’ve ever been). And yet, that’s all it took. Ever since, we’ve been close and I can remember when I moved to Birmingham, she was the one I talked to most, even though at that point we’d only been friends for 4 months.

And that’s the thing I love most about friends, about the friends that I’m so fortunate to have, is that you know how genuine the friendship is when you can go for a time apart and then come back together like it was only a moment, rather than weeks or months. It’s like, time doesn’t distance you like it normally would. I’ve always held those relationships up as my only tool for comparison when it comes to love. That they are true love, and that I’ll know romantic love from holding it up to that light. It’s a tool that I hold dearly because I know that even if nothing else does compare, that I always have it there, undeniably. Even when I push away, they pull back, because they love and they care and they are selfless and know what to do.

So, I’m thankful. Thankfully.

Everyone likes lists, right? Well welcome to the humble abode of the List Maker:

  • I was talking to Holly last night (in the midst of all-out, no holds barred girl talk) and mentioned that “Emotions aren’t logical.” and I think about it, and it seems ever more true. For instance, an hour ago I could not have been any more upset and angered, towing my little gray storm cloud (not even a rain cloud would do!) behind me. And while I’m still hurt and upset, I’m licking my wounds a bit more because now I’m softened. But the sad thing is that I know that if you give me long enough, even just a few hours, that rollercoaster will take off again. And that instability, inconsistency just doesn’t make sense. Illogical.
  • Which leads me to my next point. God isn’t logical. But that’s one of the reasons why I love him so much—he’s so much bigger than I can understand and I think that’s a good thing. I rest assured putting my faith and hopes and future in the hands of someone who is that much bigger than me, someone who I can’t even come close to understanding. Because I’m not supposed. That’s why I’m made in his image; merely a reflection, not an equal.
  • I gave up reading that book “A General Theory of Love.” it was interesting at first, talking about all the different roles of the brain and how the brain’s evolved and that the last evolvement (the limbic part of the brain) is where emotions came into play. it was interesting and had me captivated for about an evening, but then I got tired of wading through the science-y muck.
  • I’ve now started reading this book I nabbed when I was down in Birmingham—back in 2004. It’s called “Devil in the Details” and is a memoir of a girl who suffers from OCD. I’m only about 20 pages into it because last night I was set to dig in and waste my night away doing that but, given the Rollercoaster, couldn’t concentrate and instead wasted it on naps and TV.
  • I’m patiently waiting for a package of American Apparel t-shirts to arrive. I ordered them about a week and a half ago, I think. I WANT MY CUTE V-NECK T-SHIRTS!!
    aashirt.png
  • This weekend I’m going on a retreat for the middle and high school ministries at church. I’m really looking forward to it and to take a break from everything stressful that’s going on, and just focus on things that are good and healthy and hopeful and promising. Which is also why I’ve agreed to go to this teen christian convention, TCTC, as a chaperone in January. I know it’s some time away and I know that after last January, I said I’d never do another overnight again (those kids can be so wild, and I’m not one for discipline), but I feel like this is something I’m sure I can’t go wrong with. So I’m looking forward to it and, for one weekend, letting go of the selfishness that otherwise consumes my life.
  • tonight I’m going to paul’s awards dinner + ceremony. I’m conflicted about it because everything has not been going well in that area and I feel like this is just one more opportunity for stuff (well nice to meet you, euphemism) to hit the fan. I want it to go well and for things to be smoothed over with us but my hopes aren’t high. It just seems that frustration has been reigning supreme lately, above all else. And that’s draining. So we’ll see. I think that’s one of the big reasons why I’m so glad to get away this weekend.

Return, return to the person that you were.
And I will do the same
cause it is too hard to belong to someone who is gone.
My compass spins. The wilderness remains.
— Bright Eyes “Make War”

after i found out about the old flame-turned-new-husband, i decided to email him and tell him congratulations. i could have ignored the fact that i knew, but that almost feels like hiding it or keeping a secret. i felt like since i knew, i should let him know that i know, and also that i’m OK with it. to push the awkwardness of it all under the rug.

i did that last year when i was at a weekend outdoor music concert (desdemona festival, for those of you who remember). i was there with one of my coworkers and his friends (a coworker who, yes, i’d dated but who at this point really didn’t want to have anything to do with me, so that made it awkward enough as it was). and i saw the old boyfriend, watching the same stage as me (the VHS or Beta djs) with his girl there dancing. he had a camera slung around his shoulder and looked every bit the same from when we’d been together 3 years before.

well, we both ignored each other. he wasn’t exactly in my line of vision (more peripherial) so it wasn’t obvious to wave and be done. but that kept happening all weekend (at one point, he sat down on the other side of holly as we were sitting at a statue) and we just kept on pretending like we were clueless about it. i thought that was stupid, so at work on monday, i sent him an email telling him so. and that i hated that things had to be weird between us. he agreed and a decent email exchange ensued. nothing deep but, instead, very ordinary, update-y type things. it felt nice to acknowledge what had happened and then be able to react maturely, even if after-the-fact.

so the same was true in this incident. i sent him an email telling him how i found out and that i wanted to pass on my congratulations and that i hope everything went well. the next day, an email showed up from him where he said thanks and told me that they’d gotten engaged in april and had a 4-month engagement till the wedding this month. he caught me up on how his school’s going. he offered to send me some pictures from the wedding if i wanted.

i wrote him back this morning and responded to everything, making pleasantries and updating him on my (slightly static) life. i told him, sure, he could pass along the pictures. but even in thinking it, just the idea of the whole shebang is weird. and so i decided to tell him as much: that thinking that the person i used to talk about marrying is now married to someone else, is just weird. i told him that it’s funny how when you’re so young, you’re so sure of things, but that we really had no clue what it all meant. i told him that i’d never wished badly on him or on their relationship, but that, in a nostalgic sort of way, it was just plain weird to think about.

i want to be able to be OK with admitting those things and putting those things out there, even if they make me look less “put-together” or flawless. i wanted to acknowledge that and get it off my chest, rather than pretend that everything was peachy keen. for the most part it is, and as i’ve said, i have no regrets about any of that nor do i question whether i want him back: i don’t. i know that for sure. but there’s that little voice that says, “he used to love you–he still should! why doesn’t he? how can he move on? why isn’t he still pining?” that’s selfish, for sure. but it’s that little pang that hits that reminds me where we once were (in love) and where i am (not–in love) and where he is now (is–in love).

anyway, he responded and just said that now that he’s older, it’s made him question more things. i kind of just wanted him to say, “yeah it’s weird to tell you, too,” (not to discount what he did say). but i think, for me at least, it cleared the air because i wasn’t sitting there pretending. and i guess that’s a start in this whole lesson about learning what vulnerability means. i feel like that is the season of life that i am in right now, that i’m always going cycles and the cycle i’ve recently entered is one of learning more about honesty and vulnerability and opening up. so if i start to sound like a broken record, bear with me. i’m hoping that part of it sticks and lasts and the next bit of the cycle will make its way in due time.

now i realize that i originally said that one of the things i wanted to do with this journal (“blog” is such a weird word) was to try to focus on thoughts and deep-down stuff, not fluff. and i realize that my most recent post was all about drinking and parties and the like–not exactly something that i’d brag about in an interview.

the reason for that–for posting that–is that i’m trying to learn how to be okay with being imperfect and having messed up, and admitting those things. it’s not that i believe drinking is wrong, but i do believe it made me do stupid things–many of which were associated with nights like the ones i listed. i’m not proud of them, but they exist. and because i did them and because i actually view them as good things (in that i learned from them), i have to be open about them rather than lock them up in some air-controlled safe.

because i’m learning that being a christian isn’t about being perfect. otherwise the whole notion of grace would be null-and-void. having messed up and being able to take the steps to pick up the pieces and move on is much more attractive than never having any pieces to pick up in the first place. that’s because every one of us knows that we ourselves have plenty of pieces and are broken, so we need others to be able to relate to, who can walk alongside us and share in the growing pains together and learn from one another. perfection is alienating, in that it’s fake.

and so, here i am admitting that i have done dumb things and am still feeling my way around. i don’t have it all figured out, not nearly. but sometimes i’m afraid that i don’t reveal that often enough–that i don’t let my guard down to let others know that they’re not alone and that i’m just as much in this mess as they are.

(plus, i think they’re pretty entertaining stories. i mean, seriously: Sock Man?!)

i have to say, whereas for most of the time, i feel like i have a hard time connecting with God and feeling him up-close-and-personal, these past couple of days have shattered that norm to pieces.

it started off a couple days with me crying in my car about feeling disconnected and just wanting God to answer me with this question i had–i just didn’t know what to do and i just wanted to know His answer. i fell into woe-is-me, and just as soon as i’d hashed it all out in a journal entry, holly came home and it was such a God thing: through her came everything i was needing to hear and the answers/insights i needed. and it was funny because i’d been so at my wit’s end and then, it was almost as if God was saying, “Are you finished yet? Open your eyes.” and there it was, His answer to my prayer, just when i’d thrown up my hands in disappointment and dejection.

and today was another. i went to the counselor and just before he came out and grabbed me, i opened up the “girl meets god” book i’m reading and started a new chapter. how fitting that the chapter was all about confessing and how and why she goes to some pastor every so often to confess her sins–how it helps her and aids in her development and relationship with God and how important it is to have that. i thought that cemented what i was doing, because the timing could not have been more perfect.

so i’m encouraged by all that. and quite content in where all the pieces of everything are aligning, today, this minute, this second. though i’m quite aware that tomorrow could be an entirely different tune or (the modern rendition of the ole cliche) backbeat. ramalamadingdong.

i’m officially two-thirds of the way through “girl meets god” (on page 200 of an almost-300-page novel), a book that holly has been telling me to read probably since i first met her.

the thing that i love about it is how reassuring and sobering it is, because there’s this girl who took something so special and personal to her–her religion and relationship with God–and put it down on paper. that’s a scary thing. it’s a scary thing to even talk to my friends about, much less strangers. and so i enjoy reading the book because it reminds me that people like that exist out there–people who put their hearts on the line. more importantly, it gives me something to aspire to.

tomorrow i have an appointment with a counselor, which i think ties in with all this and the idea of opening up and welcoming in. and trusting that your insides aren’t so dirty or cluttery as you’d thought them to be. in fact, they’re quite cozy, because everyone else’s are just as dusty and unkempt, too.

i think what i’m looking forward to, the most, though is the coupled insight and accountability it will offer. sometimes i’m at my wit’s end for what’s the “right” thing to do. i have quite a knack at arguing myself into any corner and while it helps me see all sides of an argument and not be judgemental (a compliment i’ve much been comforted by), when it involves myself, i end up in a deadlock not knowing which path to take. so i’m looking forward to having someone who doesn’t owe me anything but his time and insights to challenge me and tell me to “buck up” or whatever his advice is going to be.

also, i read a book where a girl went to a counselor and she asked him for homework after every session. i think that’s a grand idea and something that will really fit in well with my learning approach (being that it’s very rules-oriented and almost mathematical or analytic).

so that’s tomorrow during my lunchbreak. i’m encouraged by it.

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