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.

because bravery.

A brief introduction to this blog post…I wrote this a year ago when I was starting to see the cracks in my relationship with my ex. It’s bittersweet to read now – knowing what I know – that my wishes and dreams and hopes have turned to ash and dust. But in spite of that, I am so very proud of how brave I was. Brave enough to love and to risk my heart. My good friend Isa Garcia said it best (in her book Found: Letters on Life, Love, and God)…”only the vulnerable heart can love rightly”.

One of the best compliments you’ve given me is to tell me you see an inner core of strength in me. I wish you could always see that. Sometimes it hurts when I hear you voice your concerns. Concerns about me being fearful, loving routine, not taking risks. I wonder if you see my desire for stability and security and safety as a noose around your neck. The truth is you probably don’t feel that way. But sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder if you do. The fact that it concerns you must mean something. Maybe it isn’t a big deal at all but it must mean something. Otherwise it would not be a concern.

I wish you could see me being brave every time I open up to you. Every time I let you in. Every time I open up a wound or a scar and expose myself so you can have a bit more of my heart. These are all moments of bravery. Because I do not know the ending to this story. I do not know if it will be worth the sacrifice and the risk I am taking with my heart. I do not know if I will give you pieces of me only to have to watch you walk away with them. Yes, I am fearful. I am human, and risking your heart is one of the scariest things you can do. But I wish you could see the bravery in every fear I face with you. I wish you could see how valuable that is – to find someone who will face their fears with you, instead of someone who has no fears at all.

Maybe you do see that.

“Don't worry about a thing,every little thing is gonna be alright”.png

 

these many little deaths.

A lot has happened in not-quite-a-year. The long and short of it is I found myself in a relationship, I fell in love, he broke my heart. A sad but familiar tale…and I am still reeling from it.

The first part of my year-long relationship was filled with highs. I felt loved, cherished, wanted and cared for. I resolutely ignored the red flags because there was just so much good. And there truly was…The Guy was so thoughtful and considerate most of the time that I overlooked his reticence to define the relationship, his habit of being triggered by my teasing jokes, and his reluctance to get to know my friends. The second half of our relationship was an emotional rollercoaster filled with really high highs and really low lows. I found myself in a relationship where the physical intimacy had escalated considerably (we fell short of going all the way). I take full responsibility for my part in letting that happen…but…I was in love. And that aspect of our relationship seemed to be the only way we could truly connect (Red flag). Unbeknownst to me, The Guy was having doubts the entire duration of the relationship. Ultimately, he broke up with me (3 days before his birthday and 4 days before our anniversary) because he felt we were too different. He thought my passions in life were shallow. We were vastly different on what we found important in life – he wanted to serve in a grand way and I wanted to affect my inner circle. Something that I had brought up several times and he had reassured me was “no reason to break up”. Oh the irony.

I cried for the whole day when we broke up, and a week later I cried through a more rational conversation on why we were breaking up. I shared my grievances and thanked him for the good times and thought – at least we’ll have ended gracefully.

A month later, he emailed me. He had been thinking about our relationship and wanted to talk. When I emailed back to ask what he wanted to talk about I got a cavalier “just want to see what’s new in your world” reply. This was more painful than the actual breakup. The fact that it seemed he had moved on so quickly tore at my insides. I politely worded an email thanking him for the breakup and for having the courage to do what I couldn’t and that I would be willing to speak to him if he had something he wanted to discuss but that I didn’t think it was healthy to “just say hi” to the man who broke my heart. He succinctly responded with “this was a mistake, I won’t contact you again”. I cried another million tears.

4 months later the scars are still fresh – although I can stare at them without crying all the time. I miss him still. You don’t stop loving someone just because they’ve hurt your or behaved badly. Your heart needs to heal and to patch itself up slowly. I miss his gravelly voice, being able to reach out and feel his scruff. I miss starting and ending my day talking to him and Skype sessions over the weekends. I miss the security I had knowing he found me utterly beautiful even without a stitch of makeup on.

Now I feel like an insecure shell of the person I was in that relationship. I struggle to hold on to that belief and security that who I am matters. He broke something in me by breaking up with me. I feel like perhaps I have nothing worthwhile to offer a man. That I am not interesting or intelligent because I didn’t have a grand vision for my life like he did. I feel stupid for having loved him (and at times, loving him still) even though it was clear he was holding back. I struggle all the more with sexual sin because I am trying to recapture that feeling of being cherished and wanted. Even though he and I “messed up” it was still less than how I feel I am “messing up” now! I feel so far from God – it is a struggle daily to read my Bible and it is even more of a struggle to remain pure of heart and mind. Its as if I am stuck in quicksand and the harder I struggle the more entrenched in the bog I become.

I hold on to the hope that I have in Christ – that he will ultimately be the one to drag me out of this. That there is grace upon grace available to me. I have never felt more undeserving of it. Maybe one day I will wake up and the fog will have cleared.

image-1

Disclaimer: at his heart, my ex is a good person. he has some faults (as do I) and there is blame to share for how this relationship progressed. this post is only detailing my side of the story and my own feelings and interpretations of our breakup

different needs.

As I continue getting to know the man I’m dating I’m finding it trickier to navigate our relationship. We both believe in really taking the time to get to know the other person and building a safe space while we do that. But I’m starting to feel like I’ve hit a wall as far as growing this safe space. We are dating exclusively – somewhere in between casually getting to know each other and being in a committed relationship. And I find myself liking him more and more and sharing my vulnerabilities and secret parts of myself. I am beginning to wonder – if this doesn’t work out, will I regret having shared so much of myself with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend?

When I talk to him I get the sense that he needs to feel that he has really gotten to know me before he decides whether he wants to take it to the next level. He needs time. But, when I search my heart, I’m starting to realize that I need that commitment to feel safe before I continue to share even more parts of myself with him. I don’t think either one of us is right or wrong. I think we just need different things.

And it’s not only the internal things. It’s also the physical side of the relationship. I was never the girl that wanted to save her first kiss for the altar. But at the same time I had never imagined feeling so connected, physically, with someone who wasn’t my boyfriend. I don’t regret experiencing those things with him but at the same time, a part of me questions whether I would regret it if we don’t ever get to a relationship.

It’s not an issue I can force. I can’t twist someone’s arm into giving me what I need at the expense of his own needs. I can, however, make decisions as to how much I do share or how much I am willing to do physically. I just worry that the boundaries I place on myself, particularly about sharing parts of my internal world, will make it harder for him to get what he needs – which is a deep sense of knowing a person.

It feels like a catch 22 sometimes. And I don’t have the right answers. At some point, I think someone has to bend. But how do you bend in such a way where you both feel you are still standing firm on your convictions? Or where you feel like a conviction has genuinely changed because you see the other person’s viewpoint and understand it, as opposed to changing because you want to give the other person what they want?

Tough questions to ask myself. And tough questions I’ll have to ask him eventually. In the meantime, I’m praying that God works in both of our hearts and minds to reveal the next steps He wants us to take.

This is hard y’all.

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

growing up.

 

I’m not good at romantic relationships. Maybe it’s because, at 30, I haven’t ever been in a real relationship. And I only really started dating at 28. I’m sure it’s because I fed myself a steady diet of romance novels since I was 7. Or maybe it comes from my mom constantly telling me that men were deceitful and to never settle. Maybe it’s because my old church hyped the fact that women are “princesses” and men should jump through hoops to get to them. I don’t know. Whatever the reason – I suck at this romance thing.

My MO has always been to fall for someone who I know will never actually commit to a relationship. It’s usually the fun, charismatic, carefree guy who will ask to “hang out” late at night and well into early morning. We’ll talk about our deepest darkest fears and hopes and dreams. He’ll tell me I’m beautiful and amazing and a wonderful catch. I’ll wonder why he doesn’t attempt to catch me. We’re just friends. Who hang out. All the time. Deep down I know this isn’t going to work out. And because I know that – I’m free to be emotionally vulnerable. I will give it my all, because in a roundabout unhealthy way – this feels safe.

When a decent guy does come along and shows interest I have the opposite reaction. I will freak out. I may have started out liking them but as soon as they start to show interest in me I bolt. I suddenly find myself repulsed by them. I nitpick and find things to dislike and I focus on those things until I convince myself that they are completely wrong for me. Decent men liking me does not feel safe. Because deep down I know, this could go somewhere and I will have to actually commit to a relationship. I will have to be in uncharted territory. I will not be able to control whether I get hurt or heartbroken. In a way falling for the douche is better because even if I know I will end up hurt – well, I control that choice and decision.

But that can’t go on forever.

So I met a guy. Someone totally different than the fun-loving, life of the party, center of attention guy I go for. He’s serious and intense and introspective. The second time we talked he told me he liked me. I freaked out (internally of course). Old habits kicked in and I started to try to find things to dislike about him. But something held me back. I never regretted pushing all the other “decent” guys away. I could have handled things better but I was happy with the end result. With this guy – I had this strong sense that I would regret not giving it a fair shot. This was one “relationship” I did not want to sabotage.

When-you-sabotage-yourself

I started talking to my best friend about my feelings. Her advice was simple – “everytime you start to panic and pull away – DON’T. Just tell yourself to stay. Be open and vulnerable.” So I did. It’s only been a month. But for the first time I’m actually powering through my baggage and dysfunction. And I’m getting to know a really good man. Who I happen to like quite a bit. And when he cleared things up for me by telling me he was “pursuing” me – I didn’t panic. I have no idea if this will go anywhere and I know this doesn’t mean my bad habits have disappeared for good. But it feels like I’m finally getting over this. Like maybe I’m finally growing up.

ps – I’m really hoping it goes somewhere.

of milestones and men.

2014 was a year of EPIC realizations. As I recall everything that happened over that year it feels like a veil has been lifted. In hindsight I see the fingerprints of God over all the good and bad experiences I went through. I see how God has been hemming me in to a place of surrender, to a place of brokenness, and a place of submission. So today I wanted to take some time to write down exactly how my life has changed and list the milestones I had in 2014.

The year started with me being fed a different view of Christianity. I read a book by Mike Erre titled “The Jesus of Suburbia”. It rocked me to my core. I realized that I had missed the whole point of Christ – of his movement. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about being a better person, or the 5 steps to being happy as a single, or how to be a better employee. I was ministering to the healthy and completely ignoring the sick. I was treating my fellow image-bearers as “less than”. It was mortifying to be faced with the ugliness in my heart. And it was also humbling and freeing to accept it and allow God to change me.

I started to explore this “radical” view of Christianity more. I was started reading books about Christians who had given up everything for the sake of the gospel. For the sake of being able to serve God and His kingdom by loving the “least of these”. I grew dissatisfied with the church I was attending. I looked around and saw the focus on small groups and ministering to other Christians override the mandate to reach a poor and broken world. I grew angry when I heard fellow Christians talk about isolating and separating themselves from less than desirable people – y’know, those people who curse, smoke, drink, have sex, lie, cheat, and steal. I grew frustrated when I heard my guy friends talk about women’s bodies and whether or not they “looked good” standing next to each other. I hurt for women when I heard men say that because they were “damaged” in some way, they would not be considered as prospective life partners. I grew confused when I realized that no one wanted to rock the boat. People didn’t want to confront or convict. Rebuke was nonexistent. It was all mildness and meekness and no change. I looked around me and thought…is this Christ? Is this Christianity?

I grew angry with myself. Because I am that person. Who will choose to ignore the less than desirable human in favor of the one that readily receives my love. I am that person who will judge another based on appearance or past circumstances. I am that person who will not speak up in favor of keeping the peace. I am that person who will try to sugarcoat a friend’s sin so I don’t run the risk of losing them. Plank, meet splinter.

I moved to a new church. I heard a lot of things that made me uncomfortable. I learned about being passionate but being compassionate. I learned that I was not too much because I felt strongly about certain things. I learned I could be mad at God. I learned I could have different convictions and not worry about being condemned or secretly judged. I am learning to do all those things for others.

I started to become dissatisfied with my job. Prestige, power, travel opportunities, a huge paycheck…I had it all. And it left me hollow and empty. It did not satisfy. It did not ease the ache of emptiness in my heart. I started to take personality tests. I learned that I was an ESFJ – a caregiver. As an ESFJ I am a people person. I derive great joy and satisfaction from being able to help and serve others. I am also extremely organized and love to create order. This was a shock to me – I knew that my job did not fit my design as a person.  I started contemplating other options. Perhaps I could go back to school and start a new degree. Perhaps I could study to become a counselor or psychologist. I applied to several schools in other countries. I received acceptance letters from most of them but have yet to hear back regarding financial aid.

I felt compelled to get my 2nd tattoo. I realized I was in the throes of major life realignment and needed something to remind me to be brave. I thought about it for a month and got a line from an encouraging worship song tattooed on my back. I felt God was clearly speaking to me that He was going to be taking me “deeper than my feet could ever wander”.

I began to feel overwhelmed with everything God was revealing to me. I felt like my life and everything I had known was spinning out of control. I fell into a deep depression (which I am still struggling with today). For the first time in 5 years, since my last bout with depression, I contemplated suicide. I trusted only a few close friends with this knowledge. My oldest friend was a rock of support for me. I saw Jesus over and over again in her. I also trusted other close friends. Some really came through for me. Others let me down. They seemed to give up on me and stopped investing their time in me, all the while promising to pray for me. I opened myself up to new people. Unexpectedly they were there for me. I learned a thing or two about making new relationships, deepening friendships, pruning relationships, letting go of friendships, and forgiving people. 

I opened up to my parents about my depression. I told them of my fear of losing control over my life. Of the idols I had put in my life to replace God. How my identity was so rooted in my career, my position, my apartment, my paycheck. I was so tired of feeling fearful and striving for control all the time. I wanted to give everything up so I wouldn’t be afraid of losing everything anymore. I worried I would not make sense to them. My parents gave me their full support. My mom told me that if I had to spend everything to find myself and be happy, then I should do it. I knew it was a miracle.

An opportunity to become certified as a counselor came up. I felt a strong pull on my heart to pursue it. I didn’t have the money. My counselor committed to praying with me for financial aid. She also is trying her best to help me obtain a work/study agreement with the program director. While I was thinking about this opportunity I also started to wrestle with the idea of leaving my job permanently, taking a hiatus to take the counseling program and then work and serve at churches and charities/nonprofit organizations for a couple of months. Again, the issue of finances reared its ugly head. God began opening doors. My friend and her husband offered to pay for a pair of tickets. They offered me a place to stay. Another friend offered me another place to stay for a time.

I took a trip out of the country to get my head straight. I was able to remove myself from worry and anxiety for a couple of days and just enjoy myself. On this trip I even managed to develop a deeper relationship with my brother and see my sister in another, more positive light. I met with a dear friend who encouraged me saying “I know this is going to hurt, but I’ve never seen you so close to where you should be before.”

Slowly but surely God was opening doors. And I grew more terrified. I wrestled with God in the mornings while I would sip milk tea, eat a chocolate bar, and do my devotions. He kept bringing me verse after verse on the importance of losing my life for the things that mattered, how important it was to be humble and vulnerable before Him, to give Him control, to not worry about the obstacles in my path. I kept insisting for a grander and bigger sign. One day I felt a peace and a confirmation that I had to do it. I had to leave my job, trim down my life, and seek Him. I had to pursue a different dream – one that is in no way fleshed out but requires inordinate levels of faith and trust in Him.

For now, this is where my story ends. Me standing on the edge of something bigger and greater and unimaginable. Petrified that I am doing something incredibly foolish and irresponsible. Terrified of being homeless, hungry, and most of all…useless. Trying to push back the doubts and trust God.

January 2015.

Honeycomb