this discontent.

In 2 days it will be my birthday. I will be 1 year older. In the space of a year so much has changed. Early in the year I went on a grand adventure hoping to find myself. Instead a door closed. I went back home feeling like I needed to stop wishing and hoping and dreaming. Soon after I went home I met someone. Unexpectedly I found myself in the middle of a long-distance dating relationship. The word “dating” is an important qualifier. We are not together-together. But we are getting to know each other exclusively and tentatively seeing if this is worth calling a “relationship”. So surprise surprise. I find myself wishing and hoping. And trying to keep the dreaming to a minimum. These are all important milestones in my life. But they are not everything. I find myself wishing and hoping and dreaming of something more. Something bigger than myself and bigger than my dreams. Something to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart.

I spent the day unshowered, reading a book about a dark fairytale (aren’t they all dark though?) and feeling depressed and alone and unloved. I knew it was not true. but I also knew something was wrong. I had not talked to God today. I had not talked to God, really talked to Him in a while. Well that’s not true. I talked to him about my life, about my feelings, my relationships…but I had not talked to him about myself. The deepest part of my heart that longs for something only He can give. I don’t think it is love – because I am certain I am loved. I think it has to do with purpose. About who He says I am and what I should do with this life should I be lucky enough to get another year to live it.

I feel as I have always felt – that I am not doing what He planned for my life. That I am still having days where I am unshowered, reading books till the late hours of the night, eating McDonald’s and leaving the paper bag and wrappers on the floor. A mess of a human being. When will I ever get it right? When will my life look like what I imagine it should be? A crusader who comes home after a long day of being Jesus to people, loving the unlovable, helping the weak and downtrodden. I don’t have a family of my own, I don’t have anyone to take care of. Can’t I use the time I do have to bless the less fortunate? To offer them my care and time and attention? I don’t know why it is so hard to do. Is my heart so closed off?

I feel like a fraud. Like a failure of a person, like a failure of a Christ-follower. I still worry about bills even as I purchase items for my upcoming holiday trip. I still question God’s grace and goodness even as I realize that I am getting to go on an all-expenses paid trip holiday trip around the world with someone I am coming to care for deeply. I can still see all that is lacking in my life even as I can see all the undeserved, unmerited blessings I am receiving.

What is wrong with me? I know what my friends would say. They would tell me that I am amazing, kind-hearted, and caring. I know what the man in my life would say. That if I want to do something to change my life I CAN. I know what my family would say. That I am an overthinker who is perpetually discontent.

I do not know what God would say. So on my birthday – this is my wish. To hear his voice. For Him to turn my head to the direction I should go and forcefully say – “Here. Do this. Be this. I will show you how. Chase after it with all that is in you. This is what I am choosing for you.”

Is that too much to ask?

quote-William-Lyon-Phelps-god-speaks-to-me-not-through-the-206545.png

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on vulnerability.

I recently had a talk with the man I am dating about how I was feeling vulnerable and didn’t want to think I was the only one in this boat. He bravely opened up and made himself vulnerable in response to my letting my guards down. So today I googled “vulnerability” and “dating” and a list of articles popped up. One of them was “Being Vulnerable and Increasing the Attraction”. I didn’t even click on the link.

When did being vulnerable become a game we play at to entice someone? To manipulate them into liking us?

Brené Brown says this of vulnerabililty –

Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable and open is mutual and an integral part of the trust-building process.

So if vulnerability is about trusting someone…isn’t it counterintuitive to use vulnerability in such an untrustworthy way? I don’t want my vulnerability to be a tool to lure a guy in. I want it to be a gift I share the more I feel safe with someone.

Over one phone conversation he mentioned that he feels we are in a stage where we are building a safe place to share and be vulnerable and get to know each other. A couple of nights ago I told him that everytime I shared something with him, he responds with such graciousness to where I feel like our safe space is expanding and we can talk about more vulnerable or intimate topics. I am slowly learning to trust him and feel safe sharing pieces of myself. It’s something I am grateful for and would never want to cheapen by “using” my vulnerability. I just want to BE vulnerable with him. Because he makes me feel like I can.

vulnerability

*In the midst of all this anxiety and feeling all the feels…I need to say…I am so grateful to God for this whole…whatever this is. i’m just grateful God decided to take me on this journey with this man. I’m keeping things in check but at the same time hopeful about where this might go.

this is what I’ve learned.

the great big north american adventure is over.

It’s been a wonderful trip. I went there thinking this was going to be mainly about the counseling program and as a consolation prize I’d get to see my friends…well that’s not exactly how things turned out.

The gift and the blessing was getting to see my friends. Meeting new people. Being blown away and overwhelmed by how generous and kind people are. I literally spent $350 CAD during my entire month-long trip (excluding the airfare of course). Everything else was provided for – food, beds, couches, hotels.  I stayed with people I didn’t know. I was toured around by friends of friends. It was amazing. It was something I badly needed – to be reminded of the goodness in people.

A bigger blessing was having the freedom to strip away everything people have told me about myself in the past couple of years and just feel free to be myself. No judgments. No unwelcome opinions. No one speaking into my life telling me what is and isn’t wrong with me. I learned so much about who I am as a person and I learned to stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I will always be one of those people that straddles cultures, that is forever in the camp of the outsiders and people who are labeled “not easy to understand”. That’s OK.

Some lessons I learned on this trip:

  1. People that are truly helpful will just help you. I met so many people that were willing to house me, feed me, tour me around. And yes, some were old and dear friends, but some were strangers – friends of friends that had heard that a girl from another country needed a place to stay and someone to host her. It was amazing to hear people say “What do you need? Let’s make it happen.” instead of just “I’ll pray for you.”
  2. Sometimes, the problem isn’t me. During the course of this trip I felt free to just be myself. I would say something about how shitty I felt or how angry or hurt I was…and instead of hearing “well, maybe it’s you” I heard “that’s such a horrible thing to go through”. Or “that doesn’t seem fair”.  Maybe it’s a cultural thing but back home it always feels like people are uncomfortable with “negative” emotions. If you are feeling angry or hurt or let down then you should find a way to deal with it quickly and move on. Never blame the other person. Never hold anyone accountable but yourself. It was so refreshing to be in an environment that seemed to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. All in all it was great to have my feelings validated.
  3. Standards of beauty are different across the world. Where I live, people freely toss around opinions like “you got fat” or “you look tired” or “your eye bags are so dark!” (because you decided to forego makeup that day). While I was in North America not once did someone tell me to go put on more makeup. I lived in sneakers and leggings for a month and never felt more beautiful and accepted – even when I noticed that I had gained 8 lbs.

The biggest thing that I learned on this trip is to be myself. And to have the courage to fight for that authentic self – that beautifully broken, messy self. So that’s who I’m going to be from now on.

The Middle - Jimmy Eat World

The Middle – Jimmy Eat World

It has taken me 2 and a half months to actually write this down. This trip was so meaningful that it literally took all that time to process and organize my thoughts.

adventure time.

The last 2 months since my last entry had me feeling like I was on an emotional road trip. I’ve made quite a few pit stops so far – loneliness, depression, family drama, discontent with my job, getting my hopes up, keeping my hopes down, losing faith, clinging to God, steeping myself in my vices, begging forgiveness, choosing my friends, letting go of relationships, learning to stand up for myself…needless to say it’s been a crazy couple of months. Today though there is some clarity. I feel like I am still driving to “destination unknown”…but the fog is lifting.

In a couple of weeks I will be flying to Canada to take up a counseling certification. I had toyed with the idea of pursuing this last January but was resigned to giving up on it because of a lack of finances. Well, 3 weeks ago I woke up to several Skype messages and a missed call from my counselor. She excitedly shared that she had contacted some of her former counselees and a couple had decided to sponsor my tuition and residential fees. Then another week later I got a partial travel grant from the counseling alumni association. I applied for my Canadian visa immediately and despite not having every document they asked for, was granted a visa in a week and a half. A girl I had gone to high school with (she was a year above me) saw my “I’m coming to Canada” post on fb and offered me a place to stay. Some of my Stateside friends also began offering places to stay if I came to visit. Two of my best friends from the States offered to drive/fly to wherever I was for a weekend so we could all hang out. On top of that, my boss agreed to give me one month off to complete the course as well as have some time off to take a vacation.

God has really been aligning and arranging things so that I get to do this. I am beyond grateful and beyond blown away. Everytime I try to express how I feel I just choke. There are no words.

I have realized though that if you are doing something that is in service to others and in accordance with His will, He will really throw open doors and windows and move on your behalf. Because moving on your behalf also means moving on His behalf. Very often I ask for selfish things. Things that I don’t really need and that don’t benefit anyone but myself. And like a good parent, sometimes He gives me those things for the pure joy and pleasure of putting a smile on my face. But also very often, He withholds what He thinks does not serve a better purpose. That verse on God “granting the desires of your heart”? I get it. He will grant me my heart’s desires if my heart is aligned with His.

I’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks and I’m starting to freak out a little bit. This is primarily a learning trip. I will be learning things that will enable me to help others. That will enforce a call on me to serve. All of a sudden I’m feeling stifled. I will have the responsibility of using what I learned to help other people and not just keep it for myself as a “useful skill to have”. Now, I will be obligated to do something with this knowledge. I find it funny how I can talk about serving others all day long but when it comes to actually recognizing a responsibility to do so…I balk. I want to say “this isn’t my responsibility…this is just a choice I make because I’m a good Christian.” I wanted to be able to serve God – now that I am handed the opportunity on a silver platter I suddenly feel like buckling under the weight of it. Perhaps it is because I have been so used to living for myself or for my family or for my friends. But never for God. Never for the world at large as a person embodying Christ’s love. But how exciting and overwhelming to know that in a couple of weeks God will be shaking me, breaking me, and renewing me. I will be a person more capable of helping others. I pray that He would not only give me the skills to do so, but the heart to do so as well.

I have a lot of fears…but it helps to see how God has orchestrated things so absolutely perfectly. In some ways, it gives me faith that I’m meant to go on this trip and explore what God wants me to do. Perhaps God has some clarity waiting for me when I get there. Or perhaps He’ll lead me to more questions. All I know for sure is He will “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.”

Scared. Overwhelmed. Excited. Ready.

take me deeper

ps

If you pray…then please pray for me. Some things I am still praying for:

  1. Funding – I still need a lot of $$$ for my plane ticket
  2. Apartment – I need to find someone who can rent my apartment for April
  3. Lodging – I need to find someone who can host me in DC for April 1-7.