the pains of humility.

Note: The past two days have been a study in humility. In choking down my pride and in accepting correction.

Valentine’s Day. The last Valentine’s I had I was in a relationship and I received a plethora of jewelry from my now ex-boyfriend. It was not expensive – but it was a thoughtful gift. He had made sure that each piece would fit my personality. Two months later it was over.

This Valentine’s Day I was emotionally raw. I had tried to share my feelings with a close friend. I was hoping for some comfort. And, like the true extrovert I am, I was hoping for some company. Only to learn that my friend had been invited to another Valentine’s event by a mutual acquaintance – one I was not invited to. It was hard not to feel somewhat betrayed. Logically I know my friend had nothing to do with my not being included. She has no say over who attends this event. She did not even plan it. It was not the lack of invitation that I felt hurt over. I could not explain why I was feeling so hurt until it hit me. I was hoping for some expression of sorrow – and of comfort. I wanted so badly to hear “I’m sorry you weren’t invited, I would have liked for you to be there.” Even if it was not up to her. But my friend is an introvert. And to an introvert, silences are most comforting when one does not know what to say. To an extrovert however, silences are understood as a lack of care or feeling. So here I am, struggling to be logical while my heart and emotions pester me to continue to be hurt. But, I had made another discovery as I sat alone on my unmade, stripped down bed. I discovered that at times, I can be a spoiled, indulgent, entitled child. I am someone who expects every day to go perfectly. And when a day somehow veers out of my control or goes awry I swell up in (what I believe to be) righteous fury or I wallow in despair. Certainly I am not the first woman who has had to spend a Valentine’s alone. Certainly this does not mean that I am not well-loved. My friend has spent the last four Sundays with me, patiently being a quiet comfort while I cry and rage at God. She sends me encouraging texts every morning and night. She invites me in even though I know I often invade her precious time and space. I know our friendship has forced her out of her comfort zone and yet she plods through, putting my needs above her own on many occasions. If that is not an assurance of love I do not know what is. I must remember that a painting is the sum of it’s brush strokes – and not simply as good as it’s last one. A book is formed by all of it’s chapters – not merely a paragraph at the end. Humility Lesson #1.

Then today, my dearest friend in the world – the person I consider as a sister of my heart and soul – informed me that a mutual friend of ours had sought her out for a project. This friend of ours had introduced her to a person she would be working with. That person (as our mutual friend well knows) is someone who has hurt me considerably. She has hurt me so badly that we have not spoken in years. And here she was, daring to communicate with a member of my family. I again felt the sting of betrayal. This time directed to the friend who had acted as a bridge between who I consider most precious to me and who I would rather forget exists. Why did she not inform me? Was this the only project she could offer my friend? Again, I had to swallow my pride. This is a wonderful opportunity for my friend. I think the hurt stems from being kept in the dark – not being consulted or forewarned. But then again why do I feel entitled to being forewarned? No one owes me any explanations. Though I still admit to feeling a lack of care in the handling of the situation that pokes at my insecure heart, I can also admit that this is not about me. This is about my wonderfully talented friend – and another friend who saw fit to provide her with an opportunity. Humility Lesson #2.

I also need to admit I felt a certain sting that my dear friend was still willing to work with this person. That she did not immediately say “well now I will never work with her because she hurt you!”. Even as I logically told her (and myself) that she would be remiss to pass up this opportunity. I am a flawed emotional human being. And I badly wanted to hear some assurance that she was hurt on my behalf. But why should it always be about me? Can I not simply revel in the fact that someone who has supported me and loved me through my darkest hours is getting a wonderful opportunity to shine? Oh, it is not fun to be an adult and learn that you have the capacity to be as petty and immature as a child. Humility Lesson #3.

It is so hard for me to accept that my feelings might be out of place. Because, I have had a lifetime of learning to marshal my feelings – always trying to be perfect and proper and above all else, logical. Because of this, I resent any suggestion that my feelings might be pointing me to believing untruths. I have an insatiable need to be in control of my feelings and I do not like when my emotions get the better of me. I do not like that I feel hurt. I keep telling myself I do not have the right.

But perhaps – having the right to feel hurt – is not at all the same as being right because of your hurt. In other words, they can be mutually exclusive. I am hurt – and that is not wrong. But it does not mean that I am correct in my assumptions that I have been wronged. Perhaps I can acknowledge the feelings, then move on without attempting to control the world around me or have it suffer for (in my eyes) failing me.

Learning humility is a tricky business.

1 am.

What am I doing at 1 am? I am recovering. I am saddened and burdened by the weight of my sins. I did not notice the slippery slope of sin until I was at the bottom – surprised I had fallen so far.

1:10 am: I am searching for a way out. For a lifeline. For God to say He still loves me and I am forgiven and one day I will come to myself. This is not who I am. This body, these feelings, this utter lack of control. This is not what is truest about me.

1:20 am: I am uncomfortably reminded of God’s grace. “Uncomfortably” because I have not earned it. I am undeserving. A worm. The lowest of the low. That He chooses to forgive – more so – to love. It is inconceivable. And yet it is so. I twitch in my seat. How can I accept this gift?

1:30 am: I am saddened. I know my response to His great gift of love and mercy will be to ignore it. Not today – but some other day in the distant future. I will be careless with His bleeding heart. I will look at His precious gift and say “hmm. I will choose to do what I want to.” And oh how I will hurt Him.

Some days I lack the hope. But His mercies are new. Nothing can separate me from His love. Not my hopelessness, not my sin, not demons nor angels, not His hurt, not my callousness, not my own will. I cannot escape Him. And how glad I am for that. That He is relentless for me. Where no one will chase me He will follow. He will pursue. My God is not a watcher. He is not an observer while I drift farther and farther away from Him. He will hem me in, behind and before, side to side. He is power and love all at once. He is the good shepherd. He will seek out the 1 unworthy lost sheep. I hold these truths to my heart. This is real. This is true.

notwearied

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

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.

the space between.

Well. It went somewhere. The last 2 weeks have been a bit of a blur. Meeting the guy in person for the first time. Feeling all kinds of awkward. Panicking (again, internally) about what I should feel and how I really feel. Traveling together. Becoming more relaxed with each other. Being playful and flirty and affectionate. Developing real feelings. Dealing with uncertainty and insecurities. Having to say goodbye. Missing him. It’s crazy how life changes for a person in a handful of days.

I don’t want to get into the details of getting to know him. Those are private and special and I’d like to keep it that way. But we are now exclusively dating. I’m still not completely sure what that means. Isn’t that the same thing as being in a relationship? Or is that a step before you really dive in?

This is the space between. And I am terrified. I am terrified of being abandoned. Of possibly liking someone more than they like me. My past experiences always seem to have included men who pursued me and once I made the decision to like them back…they left. And I am so afraid that will happen again. But I got some really great advice from a guy friend who isn’t usually known for giving great advice…

You have to let his actions speak for him. You can’t put the actions of others on him.

Wise words.

What do I know about the guy? He’s honest. And open. And if he’s struggling with something he will let me know. He won’t intentionally hurt people. He loves Jesus. This is enough for me to take the baby steps of trusting him.

What do I know about God? He is with me. He is guiding this. He’s speaking to the both of us. He will work everything out for His glory. I can trust Him.

It is hard navigating the space between friendship and relationship. This could go either way. You don’t have an assurance that things will work out. You don’t always know what the other person is feeling. You worry about being out of sight = out of mind. You panic for no reason sometimes. You have to be patient and let the other person process at their own pace. And all while continuing to be vulnerable and open. I still have to invite him into my life and continue to take the risk of getting to know him. I still need to step out in faith. But faith in what?

Faith in God. He’s got this. He knows what is best. He knows what will grow us both. Faith in the guy. He’s a good person. He can lead and navigate this situation. I can take these small steps of trust. Faith in myself. I am worth being pursued. I am worth the difficulty of getting to know someone long distance. Because I am loved by the God who assigns me immeasurable worth.

Now it becomes a season of patience, and of “wait and see”. And maybe someday this space between us will be filled with something more.

the space between

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.