When Jesus Isn’t Enough

These days I’m having a rough time with the concept of “enough”. What is enough? Who is enough? Is anything ever enough? I have this ongoing battle in my head, so overwhelming that it threatens to spill out into everyday conversations that should be, in fact, rather simple and lighthearted. Then again, I’ve always been the serious type. In my dilemma with the idea of “enough”, I find that this question puzzles me the most:

Is Jesus enough?

For being a Christian who incidentally is studying at a seminary and is mostly surrounded by other Christians, that is quite the terrifying question. Is Jesus enough? Is he truly all I need? I should probably clear up any misconceptions before I continue. I do believe that he is the source of every good thing. I believe that he is hope and joy, restoration and life. I believe that it is only in him that we live and move and have our being. Without him, none of the grandeur around us or within us would be.

But you know how sometimes you get an awful headache, and while Jesus is certainly the Healer, sometimes you still just need some aspirin? Or you trust God for good health and vitality, but you also still buy some running shoes and make friends with endorphins on a regular basis? What about when you lock your house or your car at night? Is it because you don’t believe Jesus is the protector he claims to be? Not at all; it’s just common sense.

We might all agree on the above situations, because they don’t necessarily deal with the issue of contentment. Well, what about the career of your dreams? What if you couldn’t pursue your dreams to be a doctor, or professor, or designer, or author, or – in my case –  a therapist? Wouldn’t there be an ache left within you for a life you don’t have but believe you were made for? Why do we desire career fulfillment even as Jesus-lovin’ folks? Shouldn’t loving him and making him known be the only career fulfillment we need? And why on earth do we desire relationships, romantic or otherwise, when we’re in a relationship with Love himself? Christiandom tells us that if we have these desires raging within us, we’re not sanctified enough. There’s something wrong with us. May I propose another theory?

“Jesus is enough” is a myth propagated by the Christian circle to shame us into abandoning our desires and living safe and boring lives.

I think we’re too afraid to truly want because we might not get what we deeply desire. And so to keep ourselves insulated from the pain of disappointment, we’ve come up with this clever, super-spiritual-sounding myth that claims that Jesus is all we should ever desire. I’ve sat through sermons where the explicit message was, “the source of your unhappiness is the fact that you’re searching for Jesus AND something else.”

Maybe I’m a heretic. Maybe I’m not Christian enough. But I’m starting to believe that this isn’t what he truly wants for us and from us. We’re so obsessed with this idea of sacrificial living that we offer unsolicited sacrifices to a God who only wants a broken and contrite spirit. Not our renouncement of our [healthy] desires, not our clever shaming of each other when we admit that we want something other than him. I think he might just want us to sit with him and say, “You are the love of my life, and apart from you I have no good thing. But I’m still lonely. And I’m not fulfilled. And I want you but I also want the job of my dreams and the man of my dreams.”

I don’t think he would be offended. In fact, I think it is in the honesty and rawness of our desire that he meets us most fully. Why else would Adam, living in the very presence of the living God and communing with him directly, still feel lonely enough that God created an exquisite creature to satisfy that ache? How else can you explain Jesus asking people who were clearly disabled what they wanted him to do for them? Duh, Jesus. I’m blind – what do you think I want you to do? But he still asked. He wanted them to articulate that desire, to let it envelope them until they weren’t ashamed to ask for it out loud. Did any of those blind men, cripples, or paraplegics say, “Well, I don’t desire anything else but you. Sure, I’m blind and lame, but I don’t need my eyesight and legs when I’ve got you, Jesus.”

Yet, that’s what we’re told today is the good Christian response. I don’t buy it anymore. I love Jesus with every fiber of my being. Sometimes his love for me makes me cry unexpectedly in public places, because it’s so big and beautiful and overwhelming and freeing. His love for me frees me to admit that there are many other things I want with equal fervor. I want Jesus AND a life that’s full of music and art and beauty. I want Jesus AND a career of helping people find wholeness and healing. I want Jesus AND a cabin that houses the man of my dreams, the kitchen of my dreams, and the children of my dreams. And there isn’t a single thing wrong with that.

Therapy Tuesdays

I went into our group counseling session on Tuesday expecting another mediocre class exercise that was supposed to teach me the foundations of effective counseling. We would take turns counseling and being counseled about real issues, and then we would leave and analyze our performance in a paper. The assignment this week was to simply reflect the client’s feelings without asking questions or leading the conversation in any direction. Pretty straightforward. Except the fact that this Tuesday wrecked me irrevocably.

It started when I didn’t give my usual surface-level response to the, “So, what would you like to talk about today?” question. Instead of talking about how I want to graduate with straights As, I took a risk and brought up my tumultuous emotional state regarding romantic relationships. He listened, nodded, and effectively reflected the explicit emotions in my responses. We were doing pretty well. Until he took a step past the explicit emotions and told me that the underlying emotion he was hearing was that my frustrations with relationships [or a lack thereof] stemmed from my desire to maintain control and my aversion to being dependent on others.

Well, damn. My immediate response was the nervous laughter characteristic of discomfort, and eventually, I curled up into a ball on the couch and said, “I’m ready to not talk about this anymore.” I certainly wasn’t expecting my classmate, who has received the same seemingly inconsequential amount of training that I have, to be able to look into my soul and deconstruct my frustrations in one sentence. I’m still reeling.

So, I started asking my absolute favorite question. Why? (Side note: The best part about this profession is that it allows me to ask this question all the time, and even encourages it – as long as it’s phrased creatively. I’m fascinated by stories and uncovering why it is people act and think the way they do. If you aren’t excited about conversations about why serial killers exist, or why women tend to feel entitled to a man’s heroism, then we probably won’t end up being really great friends.)

Back to the topic, I sat down with my journal and asked myself why I was desperate for control in this area of my life. Why am I compulsively self-reliant when it comes to relationships? At first, the answer was because I didn’t trust that someone would actually show up. When the responsibility lies on me to show up and play my part, I trust myself to do it. I show up. I make things happen. I set goals and I work towards their achievement. Not so with other people.

And then I asked myself why I believed people were inherently unreliable. This answer was much easier to get to: there is no precedent for reliability. No man has ever shown up with intentionality, determined to make things happen. This dates back to an absent father and a severely troubled brother. How can I possibly believe in the dependability of the male species when my life’s experiences have taught me otherwise? Well, we’re getting close.

Next, I asked why I could relinquish control in other areas of my life that show no precedence for good yet struggle so terribly with this one. The answer to this question stole the breath from my chest and I collapsed on the table, unable to keep writing. I don’t trust that God is reliable with the protection of my heart. I don’t trust that God is reliable. I don’t trust God.

Me – the supposedly healthy, fresh-out-of-therapy girl who knows who she is and what she wants; the pastor’s kid who can speak Christianese like it’s her native tongue; the former-ministry leader at her old church. Apparently, amidst all that, I don’t trust God. It’s easy to psychoanalyze myself and come up with reasons for my distrust. I grew up around failed relationships – from divorced parents, to relationally incompetent family members, to watching abusive husbands wreck their wives. And in the midst of the mass chaos that is my dysfunctional family, it never seemed like God showed up. Or like he even cared that so many people were hurting, broken, desperate for redemption and healing. He never showed up in the way I expected the all-mighty, all-powerful God of the universe to. So why should I believe he’ll show up now that it’s my turn? Why should I depend on him? Why should I trust in his goodness when I’ve never experienced it in this particular area?

I didn’t know how to process it all, so my favorite ladies and I took to the foosball table and let out our frustrations on the innocent inanimate object. And after that didn’t seem sufficient, we sat around my coffee table for hours talking about expectations and relationships and gender roles. The blessing of being friends with other future therapists is that we’re all terrible at small talk, so our conversations always cut straight to the heart of the matter. It feels like we’re constantly in therapy even in our non-school-related conversations. Yet, even after all the words and laughter and encouragement and conviction of our appropriately dubbed “Therapy Tuesday”, I still feel overwhelmed.

I’m a goal-oriented person. I want to set “Trust God about relationships” as a goal, and then create five steps to get there. But while my head wants to race ahead to practicalities, my heart is stuck and sinking. I’m heartbroken because I know how much my distrust must break his heart. I’m heartbroken because I keep discovering that my brokenness is entrenched so deeply it sometimes feels like I will never be mended. I’m heartbroken because my beliefs about God are so influenced by my experiences in this messy world. If only my trust in God were separate from my development. But it isn’t. And I must wrestle with reconciling what I feel and what I know, what I’ve experienced and what I am promised. I don’t know how to do that yet. Who knows if I ever will. But I have learned to never underestimate the power of a silly class exercise when God is involved. He wrecks you in the most devastatingly beautiful way.

Seminary is Killing My Soul

There were a lot of things I was expecting when I moved here for school. I expected everyone to be uppity, gliding around piously on their high horses and looking down on me because I have a potty mouth, I drink whiskey, and I wear pretty tight jeggings. I expected everyone to be insincere and inauthentic, spouting off Christianese lingo and being completely unapproachable. I expected God to feel closer. After all, I’m at a seminary.

Contrary to my expectations, everyone seems normal, aware of their incompetence and brokenness, and openly seeking growth. Maybe it’s unique to the Counseling department, since we’re all drawn to broken people anyways, but I haven’t met a single person yet who fits my expected stereotype. And in like fashion, contrary to my expectations, God seems farther than he’s been in a long while.

I’m surrounded by Christians all the time – a culture shock, to say the least. And other than the family I work for, I don’t get to have conversations with people who don’t share the same faith I do. You’d think this would be spiritual growth heaven, instead, to borrow the words of a friend, I feel like seminary is slowly killing my soul. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been to church in about a month thanks to unavoidable circumstances. Or maybe it’s that I’m so focused on being productive each day that I write off my formerly habitual morning coffee, Bible, and journal time. I think it’s really because I have an aversion to living in this holy huddle, and the only way I know how to get some air is to avoid the one Being who controls my breath.

This time, I’m not running from him and he’s not hiding from me. I know without a doubt that he’s only one step away – all I need to do is move. But I’m not ready. I don’t want to move. I fear that taking that step would mean that I become that person who only listens to Christian radio, only watches Fox News, and hands out tracts to strangers. And I desperately do not want to be that person.

Maybe it’s completely selfish and sinful, my desire to remain separate from the holy huddle. But maybe it’s because I believe I’m called to bring light to dark places and right now I feel like a candle in the middle of a sunroom at noon. Where I was expecting to feel alive and free, I feel restless, caged, and numb. In the two months that I’ve lived here, the closest I’ve felt to God was in the middle of wandering around in the most beautiful blizzard of last week. Something about the complete quiet and minimal visibility spoke words to my soul that my morning quiet times hadn’t been able to speak in a long time.

But the blizzard is now in the past and once again my heart feels distant, restless, and caged. I need to somehow simultaneously take two steps in two directions, one toward God and one toward people who are not like me. Or maybe only one step is necessary, and I’ll find him in the faces and eyes of those people, contrary to my expectations. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.

 

A Single White Tree

I want to write because it’s been so long since my last post. I want to write consistently because it’s what good bloggers do. I want to be honest and raw, authentic and vulnerable. But I also want you to think of me in a particular way, to put me in the box where your other smart, strong, capable friends and bloggers go.

Except I feel weary. Silly. Needy. And that, other than the incessant demands of grad school, is why it’s taken weeks for me to compose a post. Because I don’t want to be honest about where my head has been or the places my heart has traveled. I don’t want you to think any less of me. I’m clearly doing an excellent job giving up perfectionism.

It only took four weeks of classes for me to arrive at the nervous breakdown station. It will be the first of many, I’m sure. But while I walked around my apartment crying so hysterically that I stopped to laugh at myself a few times, (for a good laugh, picture me softly banging my head against the window and wailing at the falling snow), I wasn’t thinking about how I’d pushed myself too hard or held myself to unattainable standards. The thoughts playing in my head were I’m not smart enough for this and I just want to be held by a man who isn’t a stranger.

It’s the tension that ruins me. I love having my own space to retreat and rejuvenate, but I ache to share it and care for someone within it. So I end up feeding my [very gracious] neighbor roasted pears with goat cheese and zucchini pasta and tiramisu cupcakes because the person I want to share my kitchen and my groceries with isn’t here. I love being independent and autonomous, but sometimes I just want to breathe and break and let someone else take care of me. I’m embarrassingly selfish, yet a part of my soul aches to be given the chance to love sacrificially. I’m still nowhere near ready for the mere idea of marriage, let alone the real thing, but I’m wholeheartedly ready for someone to be sure of me. I’m ready for the ambiguity and indecisiveness and noncommittal behavior that has characterized most of my opposite-sex interactions to be eradicated from my life once and for all. And I’m altogether irritated by the fact that even though the knowledge I’m acquiring here is intoxicating, it is not enough. I hate the wanting, the desiring, the needing; not because it is uncomfortable, but because I fear it will never be satisfied.

And that’s the part I didn’t want you to see – that I’m not as perfectly content as I thought I’d be with the acquisition of knowledge and pursuit of my dreams. And that I sometimes have nervous breakdowns that begin with the stressful demands of school and end in wanting love to find me. I’m learning and growing a little more each day, but no matter how busy I make myself and no matter how excited I am to become a therapist, I can’t escape the desire to be seen and to be intentionally chosen. At least it makes for great songwriting sessions.

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I want to be seen
With a fresh pair of eyes
A single white tree
In a black hood of disguise
– Brooke Waggoner, Fresh Pair of Eyes

Giving Up

I’m not gonna lie, I used to live in the “Lent is stupid” camp for a really long time. I believed it was laughable – like New Year’s Resolutions – and just a silly excuse to give up sugar/tv/cursing. Like everything else in our church calendar, it had become commercialized, and was no longer about the man that hung on the cross. I just couldn’t understand why people needed Lent as an excuse to give up things like sugar or television. Shouldn’t the point of whatever you give up be about closing the distance between you and God? Just give up sugar if you want to, you know?

Honestly, I wish I still lived in that camp. It’s easier to be cynical and judgmental in the name of religion. It’s easy and it feels so damn good. But last year, I gave up something for Lent. No one forced me; I wasn’t dragged to the altar kicking and screaming. In a quiet moment alone in my room, I heard that soft voice I often overlook asking me to give something up. For him. So I obliged – I gave up complaining. For forty days, I wasn’t going to allow myself to complain about anything. And every time I was tempted to grumble, I had to write on a piece of paper something I was thankful for and place it in my “Gratitude Box”.

Man, those first few weeks were every kind of rough you can imagine. In fact, the very next day, I remember having the worst fight with a good friend that made me want to shatter beautiful things left and right. And all I wanted to do was complain about how he was the worst and I couldn’t believe he said that and blah blah blah. Instead, I grunted like a cave man, went into my room and wrote down something I was thankful for. I found that box recently, and in it the sheet of paper from that day. It read, “I’m thankful for growth even when I hate it. I’m thankful for people I care enough about to fight with. I’m thankful that I can feel mad and hurt and sad because it means I’m alive and not numb.”

Those forty days changed my life. It’s now a part of who I am to pause in the middle of my rants about how the world doesn’t work the way I want it to, and say, “But I’m thankful for _____.” My glass is no longer half empty, and I’ve found that it’s much harder to lose your joy when you live in an attitude of gratitude. If you were to read my journal from last year, you’d find the words “thankful” and “thank You” scattered on every page. Every little thing is a gift that I try not to take for granted.

So this year, I thought, Should I give something else up? What needs to change? While my experience last year was awesome, I haven’t at all become an advocate for Lent. In fact, if you asked me if you should participate in it, I’d have a hard time saying yes. Yet, again, in a quiet moment in my apartment this afternoon, another seed was planted in my heart. It’s time to give up your desire to be perfect.

I’m absolutely loving graduate school so far. The professors are all incredible, and every day I am surprised at their frankness and wisdom. I mean, who knew we’d be having an open discussion about masturbation as a part of human development at a Seminary? I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor, and simultaneously applauding. I love it here. But it also scares the air right out of my lungs.

Every time we’re given more information about the requirements for completing this journey successfully, I have a mini panic attack. Yes, it’s incredible that I’ll have a team of mentors who will be monitoring my personal and professional growth for the next two years. It’s incredible that they don’t just care about my grades, but also about the state of my heart. They want to make sure that I’m healthy before I’m given the title of professional helper, and that I’m truly learning the skills essential to be a therapist – empathy, listening well, asking good questions. It’s incredible, really, that so much attention is being paid to me.

But honestly, it makes me want to wet my pants. I want to be the perfect student who graduates with honors, and completes every single requirement in two years instead of the usual 2.5 – 3 years. I want to be the one who can balance a full load every semester while working part-time, being involved at my church, maintaining all my friendships, and flirting with attractive, bearded men. I want to be the one who’s got all the answers, the one who permanently fixes every client she meets with in practicum and internship. I want to graduate at 25 so that if I have the insane urge to pursue a PhD, I can attain that goal by 30. I want to always be ahead in every single class at any given time.

And then I contracted the plague last week and fell behind in all my classes as my brain turned to mush and my lungs worked overtime to keep up with my sickness. Oh, I still dragged myself to every class half-alive, but I couldn’t find the energy to go beyond that. And today, while I freaked out about the two tests I have this week and how I wouldn’t be this behind if I hadn’t gotten sick, I realized that I’d been trying so hard to be perfect that I’d forgotten how to just be.

More than all the things I listed above, I want to be a woman at rest in who she is and where she is. I want to be a woman who can ensure that her laudable desire for excellence doesn’t turn into perfectionism. I want to be okay with screwing this whole therapist thing up, and having to learn from that. I want to be okay with messing up and being a mess. And I don’t want to lose sight of the things I hold most dear in light of living up to these expectations. I love, more than many other things, long, organic, heartfelt conversations. A woman far too concerned with graduating in two years with a 4.0 has no time for people and long conversations. And I have no time for that woman.

So this year, I’m unclenching my fists for Lent. I’m giving up my desire for control and perfection, and I’m reminding myself that my identity doesn’t lie among the many hats I wear, or the title that will eventually be behind my name. My identity is first and foremost found in the Love that set me free, and if I let him, he’ll quiet my frenzied attempts at perfection with that love.

Today, instead of studying for a test, I baked tiramisu cupcakes with my neighbor and laughed at her “That’s what she said” jokes hysterically. It felt good to laugh. It felt good to be. And it felt heavenly to eat those cupcakes.
tiramisu cupcakes

Little Dresses

I used to claim to be a city girl at heart. Having grown up in a city of 13 million people, it really wasn’t far from the truth. Chicago is one of my favorite cities, New York a close second. And now, I live just a few miles south of the thriving metropolis of Denver. Of the many things I expected to encounter after moving down here, I didn’t expect the subtle uneasiness that has crept into my days.

I don’t feel safe here.

In my favorite little comfortable town of Fort Collins, I never thought twice about my safety. I wasn’t oblivious to my surroundings, and if anything were amiss, I tried to get myself out of the area as soon as possible. But my safety didn’t dictate when I went out, what I wore, and how much I had to drink. In fact, I was frequently out riding bikes at eleven p.m., I lived in little dresses all summer long, and I smiled at strangers.

Not here.

It’s winter now, so my attire consists mainly of jeans, boots, and coats. I don’t look any different from the next girl, and on really cold days, you can barely even see my face underneath my hood. Yet even though we have many months to go before the summer nights roll in, I’ve already started worrying about my safety here. I see the looks I get on the light rail when all they can see is my face. I’ve already gotten approached by a few men on my various adventures around town. And there’s this ball of dread growing in the pit of stomach, making it difficult for me to be comfortable anywhere that isn’t my apartment.

In the summer, I live in dresses, wear red lipstick, and drink a good amount of beer. I worry that I can’t be that person and ride the light rail home; that someone will inevitably accost me; that I can’t be pretty and safe. I’m thinking about taking a self-defense class. I rarely venture out after sunset without giving myself a pep talk about how God is my safety and I have nothing to be scared of. But I do have things to be scared of.

And I hate that with every fiber of my being.

I hate that I constantly have to be on guard, ready to defend myself, ready to run. I hate the fact that my gender makes me a target for attack. I hate that I feel like I have to change who I am to to be safe, that I can’t be seen and secure. I hate, above all, this societal mind frame that makes it my responsibility to not get assaulted, making the men the victims of my “innately seductive ways”.

The thing that saddens me the most is that most of the “good guys” tend to distance themselves from the situation. They don’t fight for us. They retrospectively discuss the general ideas of chivalry and the unfairness of society, but when faced with a situation that desperately begs for a hero, they shrink back.

A long time ago, there was a story being spread around my group of friends like wildfire. It was about a guy we all knew, who pushed another guy up against a wall at a bar and threatened him because he grabbed one of the girls’ butts. I wish our friend knew how much we talked about that story, and how much we cheered and applauded and felt validated. We probably should have told him. And then there’s my little brother from another mother, who intentionally places himself between you and traffic/threatening people, and is constantly on the lookout for your safety.

These men exist. They do. But it makes me incredibly sad that they are the minority, because for as many of them that I know, there are just as many who would look away in situations that call for a hero. It irks me that society (and the Church) spends more time teaching the ladies how to protect the men and keep them from “stumbling”, telling us what’s too short and too tight, yet no one is teaching the guys how to protect us. How to help us feel safe. How to be able to appreciate a woman’s beauty without objectifying her. Who is teaching them that? Why isn’t that part of the conversation? Who is telling them that if they ever feel like a woman is “asking for it”, the problem lies 100% within them? Instead they’re validated for being inherently unable to control their sexual urges, while we sign up for self-defense classes and buy bottles of mace.

It is exhausting to constantly be on guard. But more than that, it is disheartening to know that this has become a part of our cultural expectations of women and men. When I’m a mother, I plan to spend more time teaching my sons how to respect and honor women rather than teaching my daughters to fear men. And I pray, for the sake of the young souls coming behind us, that I’m not the only one.

Stinky Poop & True Love: A Different Kind of Fairytale

Is it just me or has the process of getting older and wiser become synonymous with a slight aversion to marriage and kids? When I was at the incredibly mature age of fifteen, I made a life map for myself that included me being married and pregnant at twenty-four. I mean, I understand that twenty-four seems like a lifetime away to a fifteen-year-old, but dear heavens, no. That life map also included me becoming a self-made millionaire by thirty and retiring by forty. I’m failing my fifteen-year-old self hardcore.

I’ll be twenty-four in less than two months, and while everywhere I look there’s a newly engaged or newly married couple, I don’t find myself wanting what they have right now. I’m not the bitter friend who has to pretend she’s happy for her friends who are finding the loves of their lives. I really am genuinely happy for the people I love, and I feel lucky to have a front row seat to witness selfless, sometimes messy, mostly beautiful, love. I love the sanctity of the marriage covenant, and all it symbolizes. Marriage is beautiful, weddings are beautiful, and I – like many other women – have daydreamed about my own special day.

But do I want to be planning a wedding anytime soon? Listen, I like my space. I like sprawling out in my bed without concern for someone else’s sleep cycle. I like eating when I’m hungry (which is all day, most days), and not at some appointed hour that works for two people. I thoroughly enjoy talking to myself alone in my apartment. I like the fact that my apartment has a “Clothing is optional” policy, and I’d love to keep it that way. I like making decisions on my own. I also really like knowing that when I feel like I’m triple my size and begin to wonder if there’s a karate club renting a meeting space inside my uterus, it’ll all be over in a mere five days – instead of a consistent, gradual, explosion fondly referred to as pregnancy. And those cute little buggers who are just so stinkin’ adorable even as they suck all the nutrients and sleep and normalcy from your life? Man, I just really like the fact that they don’t exist in my world quite yet. So no, I don’t want to be planning a wedding anytime soon.

The problem is that I feel weird admitting that, like I’m committing a sin against the twenty-somethings of my generation. Most of us want to be romanced and we want it now. Although, I’ve noticed that the numerous conversations about wanting to find the right guy and settle down are no longer as frequent or as earnest as they used to be a few years ago. Maybe I’m not the only one feeling this way? I’m all for finding the right guy, and then dating him for a good, loooong while.

Maybe it’s because I’m less of an idealist than I used to be. Wanting a husband and kids was easy when the picture in my head was of marrying the epitome of perfection complete with a year-round beard, and sassy little geniuses who came out of the womb potty trained and already hard at work on their next children’s book series. Who wouldn’t want to be married and pregnant given that scenario?

But the thing I’ve come to realize is this: I’m going to spend the rest of my life living with just a regular guy. He’ll have stinky poop, and will leave traces of toothpaste in the sink, and will get mad at me for very good reasons, and won’t always say the right thing, and won’t always let me warm my cold feet with his body heat, and won’t always be gracious or patient, and may forget my birthday, and won’t always think my body’s the most beautiful he’s ever seen (especially after what those future babies will do to it), and won’t always know when to hold me and when to give me space. His love won’t fix me – I’ll still be me in all my annoying quirks and flaws. Except all my flaws will be right there in the center of our living room, up for debate. I won’t suddenly become perfect as soon as I say, “I do”. In fact, I’ve heard it said that marriage doesn’t exist to make you happy as much as it exists to help you grow. And growth is a beautifully difficult process.

I grew up dreaming about a guy who would always know what I was thinking, and would know just what to say and how to say it. But in reality, I’ll probably have to tell him what I’m thinking. And sometimes, I’ll have to ask him to hold me. And that’s okay, because he’s just a regular guy. Besides, that takes more courage than living in la-la-land where everything is handed to you and you never have to find the guts to ask for what you really want.

Picture two messy people who love each other like their lives depended on it, but who are also unequivocally human. It’s like being regular roommates on crack – the crack being sex (and hopefully lots of it), and making every.single.decision together, and eventually, little tots in diapers. Forgive me, but I’d like to spend a few more years reveling in the beauty of my autonomy, the glory of first dates, and my clean bathroom sink.

How Sweet the Sound

I’m thinking about stories a lot these days. I’ve had copious amounts of time since I moved, and I typically spend at least half of my days getting lost in a book. Yesterday, in one sitting, I re-read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. If you haven’t read that book, you might want to put all else on hold till you do. It just catapults you from wanting an ordinary life to wanting to live a great story. Every time I read it I cry, and fist pump, and make declarations about how my life is going to be a fantastic story.

I’m also trying to read through the bible chronologically this year. I say trying because I’m not as much concerned with making it through the reading plan as I am in being transformed by the grand story. Some sections require a couple days to digest, some others tempt me to skip a few chapters. I just finished the story of Joseph a few days ago (and now we’re in the alarming/depressing tale of Job). It made me think about stories again. The redemption of stories. Did you know it took thirteen years from the time God showed Joseph his destiny until it was fulfilled? And in that middle space, he was sold as a slave by his brothers, wrongfully accused of sexual assault, imprisoned, and forgotten? Thirteen years of a life nowhere close to what he’d been promised.

A beautiful thing happened this past week. In a very brief phone conversation, an old friend told me she had a friend whose struggles and brokenness reminded her of my story. She asked if I’d be willing to talk to her about how I found healing. Seeming to have no control over my tongue, I heard myself say, “Sure! Yeah, I’ll talk with her.”

And the very next day, I got a message from someone whose heartache takes me back to who I was only a few years ago. Suddenly, I was playing therapist with two weeks still between me and my first Counseling class. I immediately felt terrified, overwhelmed, out of my depth. What do I say? How do I help her? Where do we even begin? How did I begin when the roles were reversed? Why do I have any credibility to talk to this stranger about her issues?

But then the idea of story came back to me. In a moment of clarity, I saw the most breathtaking picture of redemption. I once was living in a story of brokenness, anger, unforgiveness, and emotional imprisonment, but now I’m embracing healing, unconditional love, forgiveness, and freedom. I once hid the hard parts of my story because I didn’t want to be that girl everyone stared at because they couldn’t believe she was that messed up. Hell, I didn’t even want to admit my own brokenness to myself. But now, people know who I am and who I used to be, and believe that my story can help others. I once was lost, but now I’m found.

I think that those thirteen years were years of preparation for Joseph. Years of pruning his dead branches, and strengthening his naive shoulders to carry the weight of the honor that would one day be bestowed on him. Seventeen-year-old Joseph couldn’t have handled being lord over all Egypt, you know? And twenty-year-old Joseph wouldn’t yet have acquired the perspective necessary to readily forgive his brothers. He didn’t know all that at the time, but God did.

And when his dream of authority and honor was finally fulfilled, when the awful brothers who sold him into slavery realized their idiot kid brother was now essentially the king of the known world, when they begged for forgiveness and cowered at his feet, you know what he said? Thirteen years and countless tears later? “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Oh, sweet redemption. I wished for a normal childhood for most of my life – one like my friends had, with two parents who loved them and siblings who would fight for them. I hated my story and the characters in it. Not anymore. My daddy issues and my assault issues and my boundary issues have found their redemption. I get to say, “You feel numb right now, but once you start mending, it’ll hurt like hell. And you’ll want to hide under a rock and just die in peace. But it gets better. I know because I got better. Here, I’ll light a match and show you the way out of this hole.”

What the enemy of my soul intended for harm, God intended for good to accomplish what is now being done, the redemption of one wounded heart. And hopefully many more. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

 

On Aesthetics & Attraction

There are certain people who make the world better just by being in it. My bestest lady, G, is such a one. She’s the best combination of hilarious and down-to-earth, an observant listener and an excellent participant. She’s understatedly brilliant, and just all around my favorite person. Which makes it easy to spend two hours on the phone with her, chatting about everything from the absurdity of Colorado weather to love and relationships.

Which brings me to the topic at hand (sorry G, this isn’t actually an ode to you). Relationships. More specifically, attraction. Even more specifically, a guy’s wardrobe. I don’t do the Top 50 Qualities My Future Husband Needs To Possess lists – at least not in the way most girls do. I have very few nonnegotiables, which makes me feel a little more well-rounded than most. But when I mention that the way a man dresses is one of those nonnegotiables, people look at me like I’m crazy.

G and I talked about this at length today. I said that a well-clothed man was most definitely in my top three. She said it was more of a bonus for her and less of a necessity. [The nice thing about G and I’s relationship is how different yet compatible we are.] I mean, can I help the fact that when a well-dressed man walks into the room, I’m unable to focus on the proper formation of thoughts or words? I can’t, in fact.

It’s less about body type or fitting into a stereotypical look, like the hipster, or the working guy, or the mountain man. (I find all three attractive, in case you were wondering). For me, putting together an outfit is just as enjoyable as writing music – it’s a creative outlet, one that let’s me express who I am through what I put on my body. That’s how I observe people too. I like to think that I can almost accurately decipher a person’s personality based on what they’re wearing, most especially their shoes. If you wear chacos, I immediately think, “Here’s another outdoorsy acquaintance to add to the list.” If you’re wearing a pair of these, I immediately have a crush on you. I fall asleep thinking about what I’ll wear the next day (and what I’ll eat for breakfast). Sometimes, I stand in my new walk-in closet and giggle with joy, because all my clothes are hanging neatly, and are color coordinated. Seriously, that makes me happy.

So is it so incredibly shallow to want a man who values his aesthetic enough to put effort into it? And maybe even enjoy it? Shouldn’t you want to spend the rest of your life with someone you’re attracted to in more ways than just their amazing heart? People always say in response, “Well, you can always change him once you’re in a relationship!” That, I think, is pure madness. If you don’t like who a person is before you start dating them, then you shouldn’t date them. Period. Otherwise, you’re dating your imagination and not the real person in front of you.

Lest you think me completely superficial, my other nonnegotiables include things like being a man who values quiet and space, and being a man with vision and ambitions not just to better himself but the world around him as well. These are the things I’m the most drawn to, but in equal amounts I’m drawn to the guy who can look crazy good without my help much more than I’ll ever be attracted to the total sweetheart over there in chacos. I just want us to look good while we change the world together.

My mom thinks I’m shallow. My friends think I’m just being funny. What do you think? Shallow or legitimate?

P.S. The one exception is being a reader. If you look amazing and don’t like to read, I want nothing to do with you.

There’s Room For You Here

I moved into my new apartment earlier this week with the help of a few good people, and four days later, I’m still marveling at the place I’ve been given. It is the answer to many whispered prayers long forgotten. I halfheartedly stated a year ago that I didn’t want to live with another roommate until I got married, and that I never wanted to live in a garden-level or underneath anyone else in an apartment again.

And here I am, sitting in my apartment on the third floor, watching the snow fall while I drink a cup of tea and write this post. I wouldn’t have complained about having another roommate or living on the ground floor. I wouldn’t have complained about a room the size of a closet. I didn’t even know He was listening when I said those things. But I am again convinced that He is more concerned with the littlest desires of our hearts than we let ourselves be. If there’s anything the last few months taught me, it is that.

I spent the week between my old lease and my new lease at an old friend’s house. There are six people who live there, four of whom are married couples. For the introvert who has fantasized about living alone her entire life, that just sounded like the worst situation. Yet where I expected chaos, I was met with peace. Where I expected clutter, I found a comfortable orderliness. Where I expected to feel caged and overwhelmed, I found myself breathing easy. I found room to breathe, to replenish what was depleted, to rest, to be.

I fell in love with the Remington Family House.
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When I envision myself as a woman well advanced in years, I see myself as that house. Spacious, welcoming, light. I see a woman at peace at her very core, one in whose presence you find yourself breathing deeply and resting easy. There’s no comparison or striving; no derision or judgment. You’re given permission to be who you are, and you’re loved where you are. You’re free to break and mend, to laugh and mourn, to feel all your feelings and think all your thoughts.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have this space of my own – to stretch out, to breathe, to be me in every single room. It is a gift of which I feel undeserving, and so I’m giving it away in the same measure. I want this place – already lovingly dubbed “The Breathing Space” – to mirror the Remington Family House, and the woman I’m becoming. I want it to be a place of light and joy, of intentional relationships and unrestrained love, of hope and peace. I am a steward of the gift; I refuse to hoard it. So if you’re ever in need of a place to stay around the Denver area, my home is yours (within the boundaries of good sense and safety, of course).

Come breathe a while – there’s room for you here.